Dismantling the East German State

West German managers move in as thousands of soldiers, civil servants expect to lose posts

AT 12:01 a.m. today, West German Lt. Gen. J"org Sch"onbohm took command of Territorial Force East, the remnants of the East German armed forces. A few hours later, legions of West German civil servants took up key positions in the former East German political bureaucracy. Many East German government offices were simply shut down - made redundant or obsolete by the overnight merger of the two German states.

From Rostock to Dresden, German unity will bring dramatic, and often difficult adjustments.

West German experts will move quickly to dismantle the bureaucratic vestiges of more than four decades of communist rule. For the military, unity will mean trimming the number of East German troops dramatically and re-training those who remain in a newly integrated German Army.

A vast army of civil servants will also come to an end. Reunification will mean layoffs for 200,000 federal bureaucrats in East Berlin alone. Although a clearinghouse has been set up to review state jobs on an individual basis, officials estimate that between 650,000 and 1 million civil servants employed by the ousted communist regime will lose their jobs permanently.

The number also includes 1,700 East German judges who will be replaced, at least for a time, by West Germans. In a process resembling the rehabilitation of Nazi judges, past rulings and sentences will be scrutinized for human rights violations. Judges and other bureaucrats who emerge from the reviews untainted can expect to invest years in retraining to bring their professional competence up to western levels.

``Our judges are facing a complete overhaul of their pasts,'' says G"unter Waldmann, a court administrator in East Berlin.

Despite today's declaration of unity, what was once East Germany will essentially remain a frontier territory for a time.

The pace of German unity simply overtook political and legal restructuring in East Germany. Until East Germans elect the first governments of five new federal states on Oct. 14, much of eastern Germany will be ruled by inexperienced local governments, first seated in May, and a patchwork legislature far away in Bonn. East Germany's People's Chamber dissolves today, but 144 of its deputies will join the West German Parliament in Bonn until national elections in December.

Until the Dec. 2 national vote, Chancellor Helmut Kohl will serve as the first head of a reunified German state. Five ministers from East Germany will join Mr. Kohl's Cabinet until the elections.

Although Berlin has been designated as the capital of a united Germany, the new German parliament elected in December will decide whether Bonn is to remain the seat of government.

For some ministries, the administrative takeover goes far beyond occupying key offices in eastern Germany.

Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher today will inherit about 120 embassy and consulate buildings occupied by communist East Germany's foreign service in 80 countries. Many will be closed and sold. Other buildings may catch Mr. Genscher's attention - especially in Eastern Europe, where more lavish facilities were generally given East Germany than West Germany.

Genscher must also decide what to do with more than 2,000 employees of the now-defunct East German foreign service.

J"urgen Chrobog, Genscher's chief spokesman, says decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis. But he adds: ``We're not planning to expand the foreign service.''

Officials in Bonn say privately that former East German foreign service officers have little hope of staying on, because only the most loyal Communist Party followers were appointed to such posts.

The future appears far brighter for employees of East Germany's postal and telecommunications service. West German Postal Minister Christian Schwarz-Schilling has said nearly all of the 130,000 people employed by the postal system will likely keep their jobs.

Mr. Schwarz-Schilling said overhauling East Germany's obsolete mail delivery and telephone systems will make telecommunications ``a growth industry with a bright future.'' He said 55 billion marks ($35.4 billion) have been earmarked to bring the system up to West German standards.

Despite the far-reaching preparations, officials in Bonn admit there will be major hitches and hurdles to overcome as the merger process continues.

Says one senior official involved in the merger preparations: ``Inevitably, there are going to be some huge complications. A lot of lawyers are going to make a lot of money before it's all sorted out.''

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Dismantling the East German State
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today