Germanys Reunification Essay

This essay has a total of 2543 words and 14 pages.


Germanys Reunification





Germany?s Reunification

Was It Beneficial?

It was all so good in the beginning. In 1989, after

40 years of separation, the two Germanys finally

became one again. But as often, there were and

still are doubts about whether or not reunification

was the right move to do. The hope that two

different social, political as well as two different

economical and educational systems would grow

together neatly without major problems was Fig. 1.1 Source: German Reunification and the Present
nothing but wishful thinking. East Germany [German Democratic Government-GDR] was a
communist, state-controlled country, whereas West Germany [Federal Republic of Germany-
FRG] is a democratic, modern society.

The speed at which reunification happened, took everyone by surprise. In little more than a year,
East Germany disintegrated and its territory was absorbed into the FRG with no serious
opposition and amid widespread rejoicing, both at home and abroad [Mark Blacksell]. There
was no transition period to allow the East to raise its economy closer to that of the standards of
the West. This resulted in disaster. The people in the West are forced to absorb the enormous
reunification bill, while the people in the East are made to feel inferior and like ?second-class?
citizens.


East Germany

Before reunification, East Germany was a socialist state. The State ran every aspect of
the daily lives of the people in East Germany. They were not brought-up and educated to think
for themselves and were therefore, ill prepared for the challenges and opportunities of a free-
market economy. Within the old system many of them couldn?t afford Western luxuries, but at
least they were supported in every aspect from cradle to grave. East Germans had to face the
new challenges of dealing with a different political, economical and cultural situation.

Before reunification the East was a one party state, where the people never got to vote on
the political party they wanted to. They never got to express their views and ideas. Only the
views of the State was accepted. Almost everyone living in this system, had as much as 50 years
experience of living under this dictatorship and knew democracy only from the media [Christoph
Singelnstein]. After reunification, the people were finally able to experience what it was like to
vote for their country, and to express their own views. The people from the East had a choice in
their future and that of their country.
When the press was run by the State, there was no freedom of speech. Everything that was on the
radio, T.V., or in the newspapers had to be censored so not to contain any politically incorrect
material. Now, after reunification, there is freedom of speech, the people are allowed to express
their opinions without the danger of being arrested or even thrown into jail without any legal
help.

When East Germany was a socialist state, there was no concept of privatised enterprises.
All factories and businesses were state owned, therefore all profit made from the various
enterprises went directly back to the State in order for the State to invest in its economy. The
State used it to create free health care and subsidized housing. As well, they invested large
amounts of money in their military in order to defend themselves against the enemy in the
?West?. Not much money was put into the country?s infrastructure, which therefore, was getting
very out-of-date and in need of major repair. After reunification, never before in European
history had a region?s infrastructure undergone such a degree of modernization: roads all over
East Germany were in disrepair, the phone system was ancient, the railways were falling apart in
places, factories were using machines from the 50's and many houses were still showing the
effects of the war. The conversion of a very marginal economy into competitive business
structures and the modernization of societal infrastructures have required an enormous team
effort on the part of all involved -- industry, government and especially the citizens of East and
West Germany. These achievements have been possible because the people in Germanys Eastern
states have demonstrated in exemplary ways self-initiative and a willingness to adjust. They have
frequently had to learn new skills, move to other towns, or even accept the loss of their jobs
[10th anniversary of German unification -- A review of the progress made in bringing living
standards in the eastern section of the country into line with those in the west].
When the countries reunified, West Germany?s first task was to improve the East?s infrastructure
enormously. The West has helped to created more than half a million new companies with
approximately 3.2 million employees in the East. Since the East became part of the united
Germany, it became part of the European Union. That meant that the businesses were able to get
access to all of the European markets for importing and exporting their goods. The West have
also invested roughly $100 billion annually since reunification, to bring the East up to the same
standards as the West. Every working person from the West has to pay 2% of their monthly
income into a special fund which is used to rebuild the former East Germany.

During the communist regime the status of women was different than that it is now
because they were treated equally to men. They received a year?s paid maternity leave, free day-
care centres and free abortion on demand. [William Elliot, pg. 13]. The men and women were
both paid equally. They, furthermore, had their workers holidays, low rents, free dental care and
free medicare. Under the new government all of that is gone. This has been replaced by the
awareness of a completely different lifestyle that is so different from everything they knew.
These things have changed: Many women have lost their former jobs; those who do work cannot
find day-care for their kids and there is a gap between the salaries of men and women. Also, they
have to pay about 7-8% of their salaries into a health-care plan. Most of the people from the East
have lived their whole life being governed by the State, now that it?s gone, they don?t know what
to do. Three-fourths of Eastern?s feel that they have been ?overwhelmed and taken over? by the
Westerners and about half feel a great deal of resentment towards the people from the West.
East Germans feel that their own lives, everything they did, worked and stood for over a period
of 40 years had been devalued and denigrated. In their daily lives, they have to deal with the
apparent superiority of the Western system. It gives them a feeling of inferiority [John
Dornberg].

The reunification may have had negative effects on the way of living people experience
in the East, but it definitely benefited the economy and the political system. It will take a while
for them to appreciate the good that the reunification had done to their part of the country.
A graph comparing the two economies
The West The East
National Product $1.2363 trillion $ 108.3 billion
National Product per capita $19,660 $5,950
Agriculture Accounts for 1% of GDP,
principal crops and livestock
-potatoes, wheat, barley,
sugar beets, fruit, cabbage,
cattle, pigs, and poultry, Accounts of about 10% of
GDP, principal crops and
livestock- wheat, rye, barley,
potatoes, sugar beets, fruit,
pork, beef, chicken, and milk
Industries Among the world?s largest
and technologically advanced
producers of iron, steel, coal,
cement, chemicals,
machinery, vehicles,
electronics and machine tools Metal fabrication, chemicals,
brown coal, petroleum
refining, textiles, machine
and ship building
Unemployment Rate 7.4% 20%

Fig. 1.2 Source: German American Club




West Germany
The joining of East and West Germany has proven to be majorly painful for West
Germany, for both the nation and its taxpayers. Many former West Germans resent that their
taxes were raised. They are still worried that their relatively high standard of living will suffer as
a result of the reunification. The Westerners also partially blame the rise on crime, violence and
right-winged activities on ex-communist youths from the former East. Furthermore, the way of
life of the West Germans and that of their countrymen from the East are very different from each
other which doesn?t always provide understanding and harmony between them.

First, there was nothing but euphoria. Everyone, people from the West and people from
the East were celebrating the unthinkable. But after a cooling-down period, reality set in and the
West Germans felt cheated by the reunification process. They knew that there would be cost
involved, but were promised that their taxes would not be raised and that no major sacrifices
would have to be made. Well, they weren?t ready for reality. Therefore, it came as an unpleasant
surprise when the large bill for reunification, 150 billion Deutsch Marks a year, a third of the
federal budget, had to be paid for. The West Germans were burdened with the responsibility of
paying for this, where most of it came as a result of the crumbling East German economy. Its
industry was a worthless mess, a black hole into which a flood of money from the West German
Continues for 7 more pages >>




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