Sunday, November 8, 2009

Irgendwann fällt jede Mauer

"Every wall falls sometime."

Der Spiegel has a special section on the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago:
20 Years After the Wall
Es war der Anfang vom Ende der DDR: Am 9. November vor 20 Jahren hielt Günter Schabowski seine legendäre Pressekonferenz. Und plötzlich war die Mauer weg.
(It was the beginning of the end of the GDR: on November 9 20 years ago, Günter Schabowski held his legendary press conference. And suddenly the wall was gone.)

Video-Spezial zum Mauerfall: Der Untergang der DDR
Particularly moving are the last few videos- "9. November: Die Mauer fällt" and "Der Arbeiter- und Bauernstaat zerfällt".

Certainly, even 20 years later, there still remain many challenges for unified Germany:
In East Germany, a Decline as Stark as a Wall
“Thanks to positive economic development, the east is on the best track to converge with the west,” said Wolfgang Tiefensee, the minister responsible for the development of the former East German states. “The gap is closing.”

It is closing partly because the export leaders taking the hardest hits in the economic downturn are in the west, a leveling down rather than up.

Unemployment in the former East Germany remains double what it is in the west, and in some regions the number of women between the ages of 20 and 30 has dropped by more than 30 percent. In all, roughly 1.7 million people have left the former East Germany since the fall of the Berlin Wall, around 12 percent of the population, a continuing process even in the few years before the economic crisis began to bite.

And the population decline is about to get much worse, as a result of a demographic time bomb known by the innocuous-sounding name “the kink,” which followed the end of Communism. The birth rate collapsed in the former East Germany in those early, uncertain years so completely that the drop is comparable only to times of war, according to Reiner Klingholz, director of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development. “For a number of years East Germans just stopped having children,” Dr. Klingholz said.

Emptiness is the reigning feeling when walking through the city [of Hoyerswerda], which has lost more than 40 percent of its residents since the fall of the wall, with the population dropping below 40,000 people from more than 70,000.

“The people of the east have turned into nomads,” the elder Ms. Zirzow said.

Ostalgie: nostalgia for life in former East Germany (portmanteau of German ost: east + Nostalgie: nostalgia)