Berlin Wall's fall: Four former East Germans assess changed lives
On 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, those who lived behind the Iron Curtain talk of both disappointments and unexpected opportunities.
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"The wall is gone, but there is still no unification, no equality between the two Germanies," argues Ms. Muehlmann, who is working on her doctoral dissertation. "A lot of the things that the GDR citizens built disappeared."
As the world marks two decades of German unification, four ex-Eastern Germany residents welcomed the day in a more subdued way, remembering what had represented home and thinking of forward step as well as all the hopes that haven't materialized.
Understanding the perspective of people like Muehlmann is a way for Germany to heal the "wounds of the unification process," says Johannes Moser, a professor of European ethnology at Munich's Ludwig Maximilian University.
"After the wall fell, a lot of people from the west came and told people in the East how bad everything had been there. Many residents of the GDR felt downgraded, as though their own lives, their own biographies had come under attack," says Professor Moser. "But there's been a rethinking process. Everybody's looking at the different facets of unification now."
Muehlmann: Didn't want to leave
At 16, Dana didn't want to go west. Her parents did – and had asked earlier for permission to leave. Because they were active in church and because she had just been confirmed Muehlmann was not allowed to go to high school. Despite being among the best pupils in her class she was sent at age 14 to a vocational school where she couldn't take her high school diploma and couldn't go on to university.
"My parents weren't party members. I was told my family tree wasn't right," she says.
But that wasn't enough to make her want to move.
"It was awful to leave home, to say goodbye to all my friends, thinking that I would never see them again," she says.
And life in western Germany was not easy.
'I never made it," says Muehlmann. "It's two different systems, it's like a foreign country. You speak the same language but you don't understand each other. It's like (an) asylum."
She came back east to Berlin's Prenzlauerberg neighborhood. At first she participated in the arts scene. Soon, things changed.
What came, she says, was unbridled capitalism. She says investors have tried to buy property after property in her Prenzlauerberg neighborhood, turning an affordable Berlin neighborhood into a high-rent area.
To her, unification means rows of empty buildings and abandoned factories. "This is not how capitalism should be," she says. "It's all about money. There is no taking care of people anymore."