Unification of Germany: a joyful event for the Germans and its sad consequences
Indeed, a significant part of the population of the GDR perceived the coming union with the Federal Republic of Germany with great optimism. It seemed that life would become better, economic well-being would increase, and most importantly, the German people would reunite almost half a century after the war. But almost immediately after the reunion that had begun, it became clear that it would not lead to such joyous consequences as its ardent supporters had imagined.
First of all, it should be borne in mind that it was not the reunion that took place, but the absorption of the GDR. Officials from the Federal Republic of Germany arrived in East Germany, who were to head all the local authorities and administrations. Former citizens of the GDR, who worked in government bodies, were former party activists, law enforcement officers, were actually left out of public life, deprived of the opportunity to pursue a career in a united Germany. The authorities of the united Germany considered them potentially unreliable citizens, and the West Germans were not going to allow new competitors to the areas of governance, security, the armed forces, law and order.
The former soldier of the National People’s Army of the GDR was also unlucky. By the way, it was considered the second most efficient army of countries of the socialist camp after the Soviet Army. But the authorities of the FRG did not pay attention to this factor - they were afraid that the commanding staff of the NNA retained communist views and could be dangerous for the existing system in the FRG. Therefore, the idea of integrating the National People’s Army of the GDR into the Bundeswehr was not even seriously considered. The composition of the Bundeswehr included only private and non-commissioned officers of military service, who had to serve in the armed forces of Germany. As for generals, admirals, officers, Fenriks (ensigns) and non-commissioned officers, all of them were dismissed from military service. 23 155 officers and 22 549 non-commissioned officers were on the street. With rare exceptions, almost none of them managed to enlist in the Bundeswehr. Only 2,7% officers and non-commissioned officers nevertheless were accepted into the Bundeswehr - these were technical specialists, simply necessary for the Federal Republic of Germany to service the equipment that remained from the National People’s Army of the GDR. The rest went "to the citizen," and without offsetting their military service. Since they did not even consider serving in the NNA as a civilian experience, they could not qualify for normal vacancies and for the most part were forced to engage in low-paid and low-skilled labor.
The system of education that remained in East Germany from the GDR has undergone a serious purge. Arriving from West Germany, officials had to establish the degree of reliability of the faculty, school teachers, and other employees of the institute of education. In violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany, questionnaires that were proposed to be filled in asked questions about political views and political activity. Naturally, people who were not afraid to recognize themselves as communists or socialists were either not admitted to the university or school system of united Germany, or were allowed in exceptional cases. By the way, there were not only purely ideological reasons, but also considerations for improving the socio-economic situation in western Germany. Dismissing the old teachers and teachers who worked in the GDR, because of alleged unsuitability to educational activities, the authorities pursued the goal of providing jobs for unemployed teachers and teachers from West Germany who were offered to move east. In addition, the West Germans were supposed to carry the Eastern foundations of the new outlook, the “new cultural values”.
Approximately in the same way as in the army and the field of education, the situation was also in the field of justice. East German lawyers lost their jobs because the laws of the Federal Republic of Germany differed significantly from the laws of the GDR. This was successfully used by their West German competitors, who opened legal practice in the east of the country or entered the service in state legal institutions and law enforcement agencies.
Thus, despite the fact that officially the leadership of the Federal Republic of Germany announced that democracy was being established in East Germany, in practice the rights and freedoms of citizens were violated in every way. East Germans were deprived of the right to work in their specialty, left without pensions, did not deduct seniority, and made humiliating lists of former party activists and state employees. And this was done, including in the interests of reducing unemployment in West Germany.
If the destruction of the army and the expulsion of officers, the purges in the education system were dictated by ideological motives, then the economic problems that followed the unification of Germany for the East were caused by differences in the economies of Germany and the GDR, as well as the corresponding role of West German corporations. In addition, a tremendous money exchange scam was held. At first, the German authorities promised that they would change the brands of the GDR at the rate of 1: 1, which was very encouraging to the residents of East Germany. But, as it turned out, at this rate only savings of thousands of marks changed in 4. Larger funds have already changed at the rate of 2 brand GDR for 1 mark of Germany. That is, all the savings and savings of former GDR citizens have been halved. The government simply robbed them.
Naturally, this inevitably affected both the living standards of the East Germans and their ability to settle in a capitalist economy, for example, to start their own business. There was a rapid impoverishment and marginalization of the population of East Germany. Until now, the standard of living of most East Germans is different from the standard of living of their Western tribesmen, which is also reflected in the political preferences of East Germans. After the unification of Germany began a catastrophic decline in production at enterprises in the eastern part of the country. Products that were produced by the enterprises of the former GDR, were recognized as not meeting the standards of Germany. Many enterprises were unable to restructure their structure and operating principles in accordance with the changing requirements and ceased to exist. Others went bankrupt, unable to compete with more dynamic West German enterprises.
Employees of East German enterprises and institutions joined the army of the unemployed. By July 1991, unemployment reached more than 12% of able-bodied citizens of the former German Democratic Republic. At the same time, a significant part of workers was transferred to part-time work in order to reduce wages. According to the 1991 year, out of 8,5 million of able-bodied people in Germany, approximately 2,5 million people were actually unemployed - despite the fact that the official unemployment figures were, of course, much lower. For the inhabitants of the former GDR, unemployment itself was a great shock, since before the unification of Germany this problem simply did not exist in the country. Yes, maybe the citizens of the GDR lived modestly, but there was no such colossal social stratification as in the Federal Republic of Germany, there were no oligarchs and poor, unemployed or homeless people.
In the east of Germany, West German prices were almost immediately established, despite the fact that the incomes of the East Germans in 1991 were only 37% of the incomes of the West Germans. The standard of living of the population in East Germany has plummeted, many families could not afford even the most necessary. This led to the fact that the most active, qualified and young East Germans went to West Germany to work. In East Germany, an older, less qualified and less active population remained, which also did not contribute to the economic development of the eastern lands. Until now, in East Germany receive lower salaries than in the west of the country. According to the research, the youngest working East Germans complain about this - people born after the reunification of Germany, at the beginning of the 1990s.
The psychological comfort of East Germans has also deteriorated. If during the years of the existence of the GDR, many of them thought that they were living worse than in the west, were unhappy with the policies of the party and the government, then after the unification it turned out that they still did not become equal to the West Germans. Moreover, in Germany, in the speeches of politicians and in the press, accusations against residents of the former GDR that they supported the totalitarian regime of the Communists, who allegedly inherited the traditions of the Third Reich, slipped for a long time. Naturally, this attitude very much offended East Germans, especially the older generation. The latter turned out to be about the same situation as the older Soviet citizens after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The entire system of values and ideological attitudes, which was formed almost half a century after the end of the Second World War, suddenly turned out to be the subject of fierce criticism and attacks by the media and popular culture. The citizens themselves felt it was useless that their life in the GDR was lived in vain. This influenced the overall psychological well-being of East Germans. Even twenty-six years after the unification of Germany, many East Germans admit to sociologists and journalists that they still do not feel equal to West Germans, feel their second-class status in their own, like, state.
This is manifested, in particular, in a fairly widespread nostalgia for the times of the GDR. This nostalgia also manifests itself at a primitive, everyday level - in collecting items related to the past era, in creating institutions whose interior returns during the GDR, and at a more conscious level - in the form of extensive criticism of the consequences of German unification in the economic, political, cultural and social relations. In particular, today in Germany there are societies of former servicemen and veterans of the National People’s Army of the GDR, who are trying to preserve the memory of the past socialist era in stories East Germany, and periodically accept and statements criticizing the policies of the current German leadership.
Finally, it should not be forgotten that after the unification of Germany, the territories that were part of the GDR faced practically unknown unfavorable trends inherent in capitalist societies. Youth unemployment, social deprivation contributed to a significant increase in crime. Prostitution has risen sharply, and practically unknown drug addiction has spread widely. The psychological dissonance between the imposed consumption patterns and the inability to implement consumer needs cultivated by mass propaganda was aggravated. All these factors also significantly worsened the social situation in East Germany.
East Germany was also confronted with such an unknown phenomenon in the GDR as labor migration. By the time of the unification of Germany, in Germany already there lived an impressive diaspora of immigrants from Asian and African countries, which in the 1990-e - 2000-s only gained more and more people. East Germans, to the neighborhood with people with such a different culture and mentality, were completely unprepared - after all, the GDR for all forty years of its existence remained virtually a mono-ethnic state. In addition, given the high level of unemployment, East Germans were worried that immigrants would compete with them in the labor market, taking only a few jobs. This, like the other factors mentioned above, explains where there is much greater sympathy for nationalist forces in the federal states located in the east of Germany. East Germany became the stronghold of the nationalist forces, which criticized the migration policy of modern Germany and particularly zealously criticized the current German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Of course, the majority of Germans, both in the west and in the east, consider that the unification of Germany was the right step. They are quite understandable. One people, one of the most significant not only in European, but also in world history, the Germans deserve to live in a single state. But the joy of unification does not always cover the hardships and problems faced by the East Germans in the new reality. Now they and their children are wholly clearing up the consequences of the completely ill-conceived policy of the leadership of Germany in the first years after the unification. In some aspects, this policy in relation to the population of the former GDR can be called criminal.
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