There are a lot of people in Germany who didn’t experience the Berlin Wall, Merkel said in Hamburg during an official ceremony to commemorate 18 years of German unification.
The history of the country’s division by the Berlin Wall and life in former Communist East Germany needs to be dealt with more intensively in schools, the chancellor said, adding: “The reunification of Germany is slowing becoming more mature.”
Recent surveys have shown that many students, especially in eastern Germany, know very little of the region’s Communist past and often take a benign view of the GDR’s totalitarian regime.
The chancellor said the country still faced challenges resulting from the fall of the Berlin Wall and the huge social and economic changes the event had wrought.
Referring to her own roots in Communist East Germany, Merkel said a lot had changed for her personally through the fall of the Iron Curtain. “I think it’s a good sign that I, as someone who comes from eastern Germany, am a chancellor for the whole of Germany,” she said.
The chancellor was among 1,200 prominent guests gathered in the port city of Hamburg to celebrate Unity Day.
German President Horst Köhler said that though the unification process had sometimes been a painful one, Germany had achieved a great deal in bringing together its once divided halves.
“We’ve achieved a lot. We’ve grown together through this shared experience,” the president said, adding that the structural transition resulting from the fall of the Berlin Wall had led to problems and demoralized people in both eastern and western Germany. He praised people in both regions for overcoming hurdles and working to rebuild regional economies.