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Germans still divided despite backing reunification

DDP/The Local · 5 Nov 2009, 13:51

Published: 05 Nov 2009 13:51 GMT+01:00

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According to the poll published by broadcaster ZDF, 86 percent of Germans describe the reunification of East and West Germany as having been successful.

Yet a majority also said there were more things that divided East and West than united them.

In the former East, 91 percent of people were happy with the way reunification had gone - slightly higher than in the former West, where satisfaction was 85 percent. Just 11 percent said reunification was the wrong decision – 12 percent in the West and 8 percent in the East.

Similar polls taken since the 1990s have generally shown about four out of five Germans were happy with reunification.

But there is considerable disagreement about who has profited from reunification. Six out of 10 people in the former West say reunification had favoured Easterners, compared with 18 percent who saw Westerners themselves as the winners.

Some 8 percent of Westerners thought the process had been equitable and 12 percent thought there had been no winner at all.

In the former East, 34 percent of people thought the West had profited most and 23 percent believed the East was the winner. Some 27 percent thought both sides had profited equally and 14 percent believed neither side had won.

Some 57 percent of respondents – 56 percent in the West and 61 percent in the East – believe differences outnumber similarities, compared with 40 percent who think the two sides have more in common – 40 percent in the West and 36 percent in the East.

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But putting this in perspective, 44 percent of respondents also said the north and south of the country were poles apart.

The poll was conducted by the Mannheim-based Polling Research Group from October 27 to 29 and surveyed 1,207 people across Germany by telephone.

DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

19:47 November 5, 2009 by wood artist
There are so many different ways to look at reunification that it's not surprising the numbers reflect different things. For those in the East who suddenly lost their jobs, or found themselves having to confront decisions and questions that the state had always answered before, the result was both negative and unsettling. The East provided a "known" and reunification created many "unknowns."

In the West the perspective that "we will need to be taxed to bring the East up to the modern day standard" is also not without some truth. Again, it was change itself, not the costs or other issues, that caused people pause.

While some of that would calm down over time, the revelations of the Stassi created a whole new set of problems, and the upheaval in society still hasn't healed. We can't expect people to simply accept that their best friend, dear neighbors, or even spouses are suddenly outed as spies.

Punishment might have been nice, but an open discussion would probably accomplish more, and be both cheaper and more healing in the process. How to have that discussion is a more problematic question.

In the end, however, I think on thing remains: As difficult as life can be with civil freedoms, it's still better than life under severe oppression.
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