Easterners unhappy with reunification

Easterners unhappy with reunification
Photo: DPA
Almost a quarter of Germans from what was communist East Germany feel they are the losers of reunification, according to a new study for social welfare group Volkssolidarität released on Tuesday.

The survey, looking at the views of easterners some 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, found that while 25 percent felt like a proper German citizen, some 10 percent of Ossis said they would prefer to have back the communist dictatorship of the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

Conducted by the Social Studies Research Institute of Berlin-Brandenburg, the study asked 1,900 people from eastern German states to assess their current social situation compared to before reunification.

The president of the eastern social welfare organisation Volkssolidarität, Dr. Gunnar Winkler, noted that the expectations of eastern Germans have mostly been met two decades on. Many enjoy a higher standard of living and most appreciate greater freedom. However, one indicator shows there is still much to be done to integrate the two halves of Germany.

“Only 32 percent of eastern Germans evaluated their economic situation in 2009 as good. In 1990, approximately 47 percent said the same,” Winkler said, adding that more than half of those asked believed they will be worse off in five years.

“Many pointed to the continued reforms of social policy – with cuts deeply affecting the lives of citizens – as responsible for the fact that contentment, hopes and expectations have ebbed since 2000,” he said.

Half of those surveyed said they still see differences between the east and west that were so drastically cut off from each other in 1961 as the Wall was built. Only 19 percent saw little to no difference from one part of the country to the other.

People who were younger, college educated or had higher incomes were most likely to be happy with the changes the former GDR territories have seen in the last 20 years. But more than half of those who were unemployed were unhappy with the reforms.

The survey also found that attitudes towards immigrants remain shockingly negative among former East Germans. Only two percent of the population of the former eastern states is made up by non-Germans, yet 40 percent of those asked don’t want immigrants as neighbours. This attitude persists, despite many Ossis themselves still feeling like outsiders, added Winkler.

However, those feelings might be unfounded. Another survey done by the Forsa Institute found that more Germans from the former West Germany are shedding old prejudices and want to learn social values from the easterners. Half of western Germans hold particularly eastern German values such as a sense of community, promoting a child-friendly society and willingness to help others as exemplary.

Overall, the survey found that those under age 35 were much more open to their Ossi counterparts, while those over 55 weren’t. More than 35 percent of western Germans under the age of 35 thought there was more to be learned from their eastern neighbours, while only 19 percent of those over the age of 55 felt the same way.

Forsa surveyed 1,000 people across the country on behalf of the Berlin strategic institute Diffferent.

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