Germany's New Struggle For Unity
Germany may be legally unified, people on both sides of the old border are miles apart when it comes to mutual understanding. In the last six weeks, thousands of angry east Germans have protested soaring joblessness as key political leaders, worried that social unrest might grow, urged patience and courage.Skip to next paragraph
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Chancellor Helmut Kohl bolstered efforts for calm this week when he appeared to launch a public relations campaign to foster teamwork and ``mutual trust'' between east and west Germans.
Partly to mend his own fences with east Germans, the chancellor broke off his Easter vacation last Sunday to visit local leaders in Erfurt, his first trip east since his election campaign last fall. On Wednesday, he joined east Germans again in a televised discussion of unification problems.
On both occasions, Mr. Kohl emphasized a new message: that the psychological union of east and west Germans concerns him more than the troubled east German economy, which he says will be blooming in three to five years.
There is, however, a deep-seated feeling among many east Germans that they have been stamped second-class citizens who must give way to competent besser Wessies (``better Westerners'').
West Germans ``think that over here everything is worthless. They make us feel like the black sheep,'' says Uwe Sch"onemann, an unemployed engineer.
The German news media have reported a lack of Western administrators willing to work in east Germany as a sign of a western rejection of east Germans.
``There is no pioneer spirit'' among western administrators, laments Matthais Wambach, a west German spokesman for the eastern city of Gera. People will not come without a big financial incentive, he says.
At the same time, west Germans often are baffled by what seems to them ingratitude and impatience in east Germany. They say that, in contrast to the Poles or Czechs, the east Germans are now much better off.
Individual east Germans interviewed here, however, do not fit such stereotypes. Many are grateful for new freedom, but long for past security. They praise Kohl's leadership, but are angry that everything is collapsing at once.
Protesters that prompted the national dialogue have quieted and seem resigned. Fewer demonstrators show up at the weekly protest on Mondays in Leipzig than in the past. Union leaders withdrew support for the rallies, calling them counterproductive.
``The mood here is sad. It's full of disappointment, but it's not aggressive,'' says Arno Gronau, an electrician who came to see Kohl in Erfurt. Mr. Gronau is slated to lose his job this summer.
A sobering factor appears to have been the murder last week of Detlev Rohwedder, head of the Treuhandanstalt, the agency charged with privatizing east Germany. The Treuhand bore the brunt of east German complaints that businesses were closed without considering the social impact.
At Rohwedder's funeral in Berlin this week, German President Richard von Weizs"acker renewed calls for national teamwork, including more cooperation between the ruling coalition and opposition Social Democrats.
Although the opposition proposes a grand coalition or round table to handle the national ``crisis,'' Kohl rejects these ideas. He will, however, meet regularly with the opposition, he says.