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GERMANY: The tenth anniversary of eunification

Ian Hilton, a Germanist with a special knowledge of East Germany, writes:

"Unification Anniversary. The official and sober gathering in Dresden was a far cry from the genuinely enthusiastic (and naive?) acclamation accorded Kohl when he addressed the East German people in Dresden shortly before Christmas back in 1989. Now, in 2000, Chirac led the foreign tributes to Kohl the architect of reunification. On the German side, Johannes Rau (Social Democratic head of state) paid tribute. The occasion also marked the complaint of Paul Spiegel, leader of Germany's Jewish community, to Chancellor Schroeder at a social gathering in Dresden on the subject of recent repeated attacks on synagogues, not least in Duesseldorf. Spiegel himself had received threatening letters.

Meanwhile, back in Leipzig, the heartland of those Monday evening demonstrations back in 1989, reputedly 39 per cent of flats lie empty. There seem few buyers as East Germans still head west. Now the German government looks set to demolish up to a million unwanted homes in the old DDR. What price Kohl's promise to create 'flourishing landscapes' in East Germany within five years of unification? "

Ronald Hilton - 10/06/00