East Germany fact of the day

Evidence of a widening gulf has become too copious to ignore. Last month, for example, a poll by the Allensbach Institute asked eastern Germans whether they saw democracy as practised in Germany as the best form of government. Only 31 per cent agreed. Two years ago, the figure was 53 per cent.

In western Germany, meanwhile, 72 per cent described democracy as the best form of government, broadly unchanged from two decades ago.

The same divergence shows up when Germans in both parts of the country are asked about their identity: 47 per cent of eastern Germans say they identify above all as eastern Germans, compared with only 44 per cent who feel simply German. This, too, is a sharp reversal from only a few years ago.

Also striking is the sheer persistence of specifically eastern German views and stereotypes: even 30 years after the fall of the wall (and with an east German chancellor, Angela Merkel, holding office since 2005), more than a third of eastern Germans describe themselves as “second-class citizens”.

That is from Tobias Buck in the FT.


I’d be curious to know how they identified/defined East Germans. I understand that parts of East Germany have experienced population loss abs younger East Germans moved to Munich and Frankfurt areas for work, are they included?

'are they included?'

According to a Dresden Dynamo fan I know, the simple answer is no. He remained a valued member of the fan scene (who was also interviewed several times by the police after a certain incident in Karlsuhe's soccer stadium), but he said that after living in West Germany for a while, he was no longer seen as a 'pure' East German. He said this was also due to the fact that he simply dressed and acted differently enough that he was clearly no longer one of them, though nobody in western Germany considered him anything but a Dresdener. So yes, the roughly 10% of East Germans who 'emigrated' are not considered to be really East German.

The sadly amusing thing is that since the western German polling numbers remained basically unchanged, that means those 1.6 million leavers represent a typical German perspective, while those remaining in East Germany clearly remain quite apart.

Almost as if the only way to make democracy function is to actually live with people who have different beliefs and perspectives. Pegida arose in the German city that had an Ausländer population of something under 2% (1.6% from memory, but no link seeking to support it) , by far the lowest total of any German city. This same effect was seen in the Swiss EU free movement referendum - the places voting against had the lowest total of EU citizens actually living there.

There’s a decent article on the local experience of life in an East German town here:

The exodus of the young helps drive the phenomenon.

An academic originally for East Berlin but working for the last twenty years in western Germany told me that when the wall came down, university positions in eastern Germany became open to both Ossies and Wessies, but that Wessies were paid significantly more for the same position. On the one hand, this would seem to create an incentive to hire Ossies, but on the other hand, Wessies were apparently of higher status and therefore desirable.

To state what should be obvious, maybe the Ossies were poorly trained compared to the Wessies. (Heidelberg and Goettingen are in the west.)

There is where a certain commenter would have a valid point about credentials. Basically, the western Germans simply said that the vast majority of eastern German certifications would not be recognized after reunification. And without proper certification, you either go back to school (I have known people who did this, by the way, repeating years of college) or you do not get a job requiring that certification.

In other words, no, East Germans were about as competent as West Germans, but that did not matter.

Yes, there is a further complication when looking at how political reliability also played a role in the DDR in terms of who and who did not get credentials, and making such credentials harder to judge. A teacher with a degree in something like advanced Marxism was not what was desired in the classroom after reunification.

There’s “advanced” Marxism? Is that Zizek, or what Maduro is currently inflicting on Venezuela?

As I understand it, "advanced Marxism" is what was practiced in the Soviet Union between 1937 and 1953: millions in Gulags, quotas for arrests, rooting out class enemies

Your second paragraph does not follow from your first paragraph.

In other words, your use of "in other words" is a lie.

I don't know how generally true or false this was, but at least in some of the harder sciences, the DDR had close connections with their Soviet counterparts, who were by no means inferior to their Western counterparts. And in fact, at least in my field, Ossies are over-represented among senior scientists working in western Germany.

I was talking with a person who grew up in East Germany about our first computers. Mine was a typical early microcomputer (think Apple II). He said he was shipped to Moscow with several other German students and they build their first computer from scratch...Anyway, he has been the CTO of a major US company, so apparently that was a good education.

Now that I think of it, the pay differential that I described above, in addition to causing resentment among Ossies, must have created some convection effect, with Ossies incentivized to move west and Wessies east. But I don't know how much mixing there has really been.

'in addition to causing resentment among Ossies, must have created some convection effect'

Not really, as the example of the Berlin transit system illiustrates (again, from memory, so no link) - those people who had been previously been employed by the West Berlin transit system were paid more than the former East Berlin employees. Even though, for example, they now drove throughout Berlin, doing precisely the same work, and that pay differential remained unchanged for years and years (15?).

There are plenty of reasons for eastern German resentment, and yes, western Germans took, arrogantly, as much advantage as possible from reunification.

And one should point out that one reason East Germans find the current form of democracy in Germany insufficient is that they long to return to the days when socialism was the ideal, and where every citizen knew their proper place in a society that took care of its citizens from cradle to crave. To put it differently, not a single Eastern German AfD voter would ever think of writing a love letter to capitalism.

Which is what makes eastern German politics so hard to place within an American framework - the typical eastern German right wing AfD voter is likely to be fully on board with nationalizing private businesses, and just as likely to vote for the Left Party in the next election if the Left Party appears as if it would be more likely to succeed in that goal.

Sometime ago, I read about Sahra Wagenknecht publicly speaking about immigration being bad for the proles. One can also make a "green" argument against immigration. It might not hold up to careful scrutiny, but that's hardly necessary in electioneering. Is Die Linke as a whole willing to take an anti-immigration stance, either principled or purely cynical, in order to attract some AfD voters?

'Is Die Linke as a whole willing to take an anti-immigration stance'

This is where the fun starts. Of course those members of Die Linke that have a nostalgic regard for the DDR are all for international brotherhood, just as the DDR was a worker's paradise that guaranteed its citizens a voice in their democratic republic. In contrast to today's Germany cruel sham of democracy, where capital rules everything.

In other words, nobody really believes an eastern German Left Party member cares about the principles that the SED spent generations ignoring.

If it helps as an example in a broader sense, think about the cognitive efforts it takes for Christians who espouse traditional family values and honesty to support Trump. Die Linke are more than capable of trying to capture that same sort of self-delusion for their own benefit. Basically, Die Linke have no principles but getting into power, and not many people trust that their words will ever match their actions, unless it is to gain power.

looks like they want 70% less democracy

This would be a great topic for a podcast Tyler. Also, is the deteriorating sentiment toward democracy in eastern Germany any different from that in east European countries?

'This would be a great topic for a podcast Tyler.'

He wouldn't want to touch this with a 10 foot pole. The treatment of Brexit here is laughable enough, and that is with all the advantages of actually sharing a language and broader cultural framework. Western Germans don't have much of grasp on eastern Germans, but whether the eastern Germans are voting for the AfD or Die Linke, they are supporting statist ideas and concepts to the problems they feel they face. And those are the moderates among the eastern Germans - the more extreme would want to replace modern Germany with something where capitalism and democracy are both seen as perverse ideas, finally thrown into the dustbin of history.

Yes, both the Die Linke and AfD do have significant western German elements - in both cases, generally those western Germans whose extremist views were not acceptable to any other party. As represented by both LaFontaine (though naked power lust was also a major motivation) and Gauland, a man who appears to be yearning to return to the glory years of das Reich of his early childhood.

Es ist ein Sumpf. (It's a swamp.)

Ah, the moderates among the eastern Germans voters for those parties. Basically, 2/3 of East German voters in Brandenburg and Sachsen reject both parties.

There's your gauntlet, Tyler. Prepare your 10 foot pole?

The youthful and ambitious leave the East for the West. The jobs just aren't there. The population and employment numbers back this. The people that remain thus feel less optimistic. This is not so different from the rural/urban divide that exists in most industrialized countries.


saw democracy as practised in Germany as the best form of government

If that's the precise wording, seems more like a reasonable degree of cultural humility and a fair criticism of German democracy specifically than antidemocratic sentiment as such. It would be rather culturally arrogant for 70% of Germans to proclaim that their approach to democracy was best, you could say.

What has been happening in East Germany in those two years? Any mass votes made by the people of East Germany rejected by social elites?

'It would be rather culturally arrogant for 70% of Germans to proclaim that their approach to democracy was best, you could say.'

Why? I'm sure that at least until recently more than 70% of British citizens would say their approach to democracy was best, and I would expect considerably higher totals for Americans or Canadians.

'Any mass votes made by the people of East Germany rejected by social elites?'

What a bizarre framing.

"I would expect considerably higher totals for Americans or Canadians."

I recently encountered an eminent American academic who is now at the top of the French academic hierarchy. After a few glasses of wine, he began arguing that the American form of democracy was the most perfect known in history and should be exported to the rest of the world, including to France. I was nonplussed.

There are two meanings to nonplussed, and both could fit.

I would say the percentage of Americans who believe their approach to democracy was best would be in the high 90s. And yes, in the case of many Americans, that is because they are culturally arrogant.

After Brexit, the UK will be able to experience that first hand, without having the ability to laugh at an American president suggesting the UK should just sue the EU, while that president is also making American demands for a trade agreement.

(The standard definition of nonplussed - 'so surprised and confused that one is unsure how to react.' The North American meaning is pretty much the exact opposite. In the case of the American professor, either reaction is possible, depending on how well one knows Americans.)

"I would say the percentage of Americans who believe their approach to democracy was best would be in the high 90s. "

Nah, large numbers of Americans want to make major changes-particularly abolishing the electoral college and switching to a national popular vote, This is not consistent with virtually everyone believing we already have the best of all possible Democratic systems.

'large numbers of Americans want to make major changes'

We could argue endlessly about that 'large,' and whether changing a system is the same as not considering it the best. After all, the Constitution explicitly allows for changes in the form and practice of American democracy. Which many Americans consider a plus of their system, obviously. Allowing women to vote, for example, was not the same as saying that American democracy was worse after that change (someone like Thiel excepted, obviously).

'This is not consistent with virtually everyone believing we already have the best of all possible Democratic systems.'

As noted, an advantage of American democracy is the ability to change to meet new circumstances, something explicitly designed into the American system of democracy. When it changes - such as changing a century ago how senators were elected - that is simply a sign that nothing is ever perfect, even if it is the best available.

If it is not too much to ask, in what field is this academic working ?

But anyway, the American form of democracy has many advantages, and it had proved its stability over time more than almost any other. One may not like the electoral college (I don't, for one), but I see this rather as a survivance of the fact that the US was founded as a union of distinct states rather than as an essential feature of American democracy.

As for exporting the American system to other countries, for France it is in a large part already done. Since the beginning of the third republic (in the 1870's), France has two separate houses (the house of deputies and the senate) representing the same constituency (the people), one renewed frequently and one much more slowly, in a direct copy of the American way. Since the fifth republic (1958, with a reform in 1962), the executive power belongs to a president elected independently of the houses, as in the US. Of course, many details are different, but the general picture is the same.

I love the idea that the bicameral system is American. The American legislature is obviously based on the House of Lords (Senate, representing The Land) and the House of Commons (House of Reps, representing The People). Naturally the House of Reps controlled financial bills because the House of Commons did.

The key American novelties were to have an elected monarch rather than a hereditary one, and to formalise the independence of the judiciary.

And where do the two Houses of Parliament come from? I don't know but I doubt that they were unique to England.

'The American legislature is obviously based on the House of Lords'

Well, apart from that whole lords thing - you know, being a member through inheritance of a title. An Encyclopedia Britannica entry makes this fairly clear - 'The English Parliament became bicameral in recognition of the distinction between the nobility and clergy and the common people. When the British colonies were established in America, the colonial assemblies were likewise bicameral because there were two interests to be represented: the mother country, by the governor in council, and the colonists, by their chosen deputies.' https://www.britannica.com/topic/bicameral-system

A culturally arrogant American would likely argue that the American implementation took the best part of the idea - splitting powers between chambers, and balancing shorter term and longer term interest - while eliminating the idea that nobles and clergy deserve their own separate legislative house.

(And this is simply wrong - 'to have an elected monarch.' Regardless of what Trump seems to believe.)

Most other countries split the chief executive role into two offices -- the head of government and the head of state. Not a bad idea. I bet George Bush would make a great head of state but am not so sure
about him as head of government.

I'm not so sure about that. It all depends on the precise wording of the question, and how people interpret it. It could mean something as minor as simply disliking the results of the last election.

I would simply add a nice twist- do doubt the American and Canadian (I can speak for them) would think their Democracy to be the best - just quiz them on all sorts of aspects of their voting scheme, but even more 'abstractly' their social system, legal system (ie jury trial) and they will all agree it’s the best (but this is largely because they are utterly unexposed and unaware that other systems exist). The jury trial example is very fun to try with Germans (who think it’s incredibly idiotic), and Americans (who literally think it’s the only way to do court cases).

The twist is that Germans ARE well exposed to other systems via their general culture awareness (especially of America via media, school exchanges if they are educated). And they STILL think their system is better. So we can actually pro-rate that 70% as perhaps more meaningful because it actually incorporates knowledge and reflection about the other systems.
But in the end it seems both Germans and Americans (I lump in Canadians) basically think their system is the best.

Cheers, a Canadian in Germany working with a bunch of Americans

'and Americans (who literally think it’s the only way to do court cases)'

They must be remarkably poorly educated Americans, or possibly the fact that Americans have a right to trial in front of their peers means that Americans can always have such a trial, even if they are fully aware that it is possible to be tried without a jury.

Perhaps I am even one of those , but my understanding is that severe crimes are automatically judged by trial (murder, attempted murder, rape, etc) in the US (and Canada). In Germany, it is exactly reversed, where any crime calling for over 1 year (roughly) must be decided by judge. It is those more severe crimes (not, ie not paying your parking tickets) to which I was referring.
For Germans, its the expert culture of the highly trained judge which is important - versus the idiotic prejudiced fellow citizen with no legal training (paraphrasing the viewpoint).

'but my understanding is that severe crimes are automatically judged by trial '

Yes, but the accused can choose whether that trial occurs in front of a jury of their peers.

A parking ticket would not count, as the right comes into play when facing an offense involving at least 6 months of imprisonment.

Thanks good info -

Being more precise (and now incorporating what you have said) I mean that most Americans/Canadian wouldn't be aware that many other 'highly developed Western countries' do not have the right to jury (and in fact view it as idiotic). I have yet to interact with anyone from those 2 countries who would have guessed that Germans don't have jury trial for major crimes.

Here is a fun quiz for you as a culturally-interested person (answer your first instinctual answer). A German and a Frenchman are hiking through a beautiful pristine valley somewhere in the Alps and come across a brand new bridge cutting accross the view. Which one says "what a work of human engineering" and which one is immediately angered by the spoiling of the view and nature?

Yes, most Americans would find it strange that trial by jury is not really common in Europe.

And since I know that Germans tend to favor 'Natur' (though there is no wilderness in Germany), and that the French favor something that is clearly done through planning and human endeavour, the answer is not hard.

Of course, I have lived in Germans for more than a quarter century, and was taught about the French perspective back in school. With a bit of light mockery concerning Rousseau thrown in.

All Canadians I have tested this with get it wrong.

I'd have been one of those Canadians...

Thanks for the insight into national characters.

Given the generally mediocre quality of restaurant food there, why haven't the Germans been exposed to that?

prior: I'm sure that at least until recently more than 70% of British citizens would say their approach to democracy was best

Perhaps they would, but that has not too much to do with whether that's culturally chauvinistic and arrogant.

(And I wouldn't guess you'd stint on trying to labour that point, if a survey of Brits did come to that result comparing British to say, Irish democracy, with a particular sort of obnoxious glee. Though I also expect you'll fervently deny such a thing.)

What a bizarre framing.

It's a strange framing to suggest sudden loss of faith in democracy is frequently related to failure to actually implement pre-agreed democratic process when it conflicts with the norms and desires of a minority who hold a relatively high degree of political and social power?

'but that has not too much to do with whether that's culturally chauvinistic and arrogant'

Well, everyone is free to judge that for themselves, but the British model has commanded respect through centuries, and not simply in the UK. It would seem to be a reasonable judgment, one shared by many people in countries which have no common history (in the sense of Canada or New Zealand) with the UK.

'if a survey of Brits did come to that result comparing British to say, Irish democracy'

I intentionally left out talking about the monarchy, but it is a point that many non-British admirers of the UK system feel is a weak point, as they have no desire to be any monarch's subject.

'Though I also expect you'll fervently deny such a thing.'

I have to be honest - what am I supposed to be fervently denying?

'It's a strange framing to suggest sudden loss of faith in democracy'

And yet participation in the Sunday elections in Sachsen and Brandenburg apparently attracted massive participation rates compared to the past, with hundreds of thousands of people voting who do not regularly vote. That sounds like faith in democracy, actually. Maybe the point 'best form' of democracy is distinct from a faith in democracy. After all, East Germans managed to bring down a non-democratic state.

'with the norms and desires of a minority who hold a relatively high degree of political and social power'

Again, what bizarre framing. The Greens arose in the 1980s as a way to change politics, the Left Party (in the sense its origins in the East German PDS - the Party of Democratic Socialism, and they meant socialism, not social democracy) arose because no West German political party represented a significant block of East German voters, and the rise of the AfD in the last few years again shows a group of people taking advantage of the opportunities provided through German democracy for trying to change political and social power.

It is fully conceivable that a number of, eastern Germans are disapproving of the fact that Merkel remains Chancellor after the formation of anpother grand coalition, reminding many of them of the past, where a party boss held on to power until death, essentially. Of course, since she is East German, it is not all that likely that she is seen as a 'minority' in their eyes, though if one wishes to say she sold out, that is understandable enough.

When proportional representation schemes have been put to a vote in Canada they typically get close to half. There was one vote in BC that got 60%. It was a system that was designed to take power from the parties. A later one who was designed to give more power to the radicals didn't get 50%.

The bone of contention with a first past the post system in a multiparty system is elections are won with 38% of the popular vote giving unassailable power within a parliamentary majority.

If government does a pretty good job, good economy and not much corruption, the level of contentment is higher.

What i would be interested in reading in every one of these situations is the level of youth unemployment. It is a good indication of economic vitality.

Ah, it seems you think I'm alluding to some specific event in recent history. I'm not. The question that begun your responses here was purely an open question, one to which I didn't know enough recent East German history to answer.

Old people worries. They should have been 35-45 YO during reunification.

“You walk through cities in eastern Germany and everything looks great. We spent all this time painting our façades. But now we realise what is going on behind those façades,” says Frank Richter, a writer and activist in the Saxon city of Meissen. “The great hopes and illusions that people had, the idea that we would now live in paradise, those hopes were disappointed. Now people look back and they realise: my children are gone [to the west] and they won’t come back. My grandchildren have gone and they won’t come back.”

More like young people worries too:

"Within the group of people aged 30 or younger the AfD won in Saxony"


"a study from 2017 found that eastern Germans held just 1.7 per cent of top jobs in politics, the federal courts, the military and business, even though the east accounted for 17 per cent of the population. For eastern Germans, this whole leadership structure comes across as a humiliation,” says Petra Köpping, a Social Democrat leader from Saxony. “They say: ‘evidently people in the west don’t think we are capable of being in charge.’”

Even East Germans want to see affirmative action against those West Germans.

Well, there is another element to this situation, which could be called affirmative discrimination.

In post-WWII western Germany, a certain group of educated and talented people were excluded from leading positions in government and industry based on their previous political affiliation.

The same happened to those members of the DDR that held positions of power or authority. Many of them - particularly members of all those state organs that have no place in free market democracy - were basically banned from retaining their positions.

There are many other elements, but essentially, all of the people involved in running or involved in the state that built the Berlin Wall and killed hundreds trying to flee the DDR were removed from public life. Some people tend to call this Siegerjustiz, by the way.

However, that is one place that the Die Linke and the AfD have a real difference - the AfD is referring to the victory of the Allies, while Die Linke are referring to the aftermath of reunification.

It's carpetbagging straight out of the US Reconstruction era. Slick GOP northerners come in to teach these southerners their 'superior' ways while helping themselves to the levers of society.

'It's carpetbagging straight out of the US Reconstruction era.'

Not quite, but there are a large number of similarities.

But here is a concrete example of a difference. In the early 1990s, a West German needed to put at least 33% of the cost of a car to get financing (and paying for a car using cash was considered normal). East Germans, by contrast, were offered (to put it mildly - the ads seemed like propaganda in many ways) the opportunity to buy a car with no money down, which really helped western German car sales and those making such cars in western Germany, while also ensuring that many eastern Germans ended up in a debt that they could not really afford. It is hard to overstate just how clueless normal eastern Germans were about capitalism, particularly how capitalism has no interest in anything except profit, without caring about an individual's best interests (though some love letter writers seem to be able to handle that reality with aplomb - to their own profit).

'their 'superior' ways while helping themselves to the levers of society'

Not a single one of those West Germans shot anyone crossing the Antifaschistischer Schutzwall, even as they replaced the people involved in constructing that wall and then shooting hundreds of people trying to leave the DDR without permission. One should further note that degrees in advanced Marxism became valueless after reunification.

Unless you are trying to argue that the DDR was a superior, or even merely equal, political system to any Western democracy. This is the MR comments section, so who knows?

But in reality, the vast majority of East Germans fully supported reunification when it occurred, and did not spend years fighting to retain their own system beforehand.

"without caring about an individual's best interests"

Because the old system did?

From comment on FT:

"I have known east germans, who claimed that they were 'pure' germans with a 'pure' german way of life. they had resisted their russian conquerors all along. Whereas, in west germany, they adopted everything American, from coca cola and levis to the western pop music. they derisively called the wessies as lapdogs of american culture."

This is oddly familiar to what I hear about North and South Korea. The Kim Dynasty froze all of North Korea into a time capsule so they get to claim they kept their traditions while the more industrialized South has modernized in just about every sense of that word. Something to think about if the Koreas move to unification.

Both North and South Koreans consider themselves Korean. East Germans as noted above see themselves as East Germans, not simply as Germans. The Berlin Wall is now a psychological barrier even though it is no longer a physical one.

'East Germans as noted above see themselves as East Germans'

Not the ones I have met over the past decade or so - saying 'East Germany' rapidly brings the response that Germany is one nation, or that East Germany is the past.

Then comes my explanation that it is completely normal in Karlsruhe to talk about southern or northern Germany as being different, without any further implications.

However, it is a strikingly touchy subject, at least when talking to eastern Germans in western Germany.

(And complicated by the fact that people from Brandenburg and Sachsen see themselves in much way that people in Hesse see themselves compared to the Saarland - definitely distinct.)

"I have known east germans, who claimed that they were 'pure' germans with a 'pure' german way of life. they had resisted their russian conquerors all along.

I have heard this sentiment quite often, and it strikes me as utter nonsense. East Germans seem unaware of how Sovietized they became in 40 years, but it is obvious to anyone who spent time time in the Soviet Union. In many ways East Germany seemed far more Russian to me than Czechoslovakia or Poland (where people really did try to resist Russification). West Germany had Coca-Cola, rock music and Star Trek/Dallas/Dynasty, while East Germany had solyanka soup, collective agriculture and a Soviet-style surveillance state. And on a regional level, which in Germany is what really counts, Bavaria preserved its native traditions far better than Saxony did.

In any case, the German nation that has the most cultural continuity with pre-war Germany is neither the Federal Republic or the German Democratic Republic, it is the Republic of Austria.

You're overlooking the Principality of Liechtenstein.

Good point!

The most popular political parties there are far right and far left parties. Communism has thoroughly destroyed their brains.

Nope - the most popular parties, as revealed by an election yesterday in Sachsen and Brandenburg are neither far right or far left.

Thuringia is coming up in September, so we will see how things work out then.

Sour krauts be salty krauts.

The real divide is not between the Ossies and the Wessies but between those who think great thoughts and those who don't.

That would certainly explain the tyrannical Mrs. Merkel.

When your neighbor to the west, West Germany, is the most industrialised region in the EU and your neighbor to the east, Poland, is a fast up and comer, you might feel you got the sharp end of the stick. To be honest though, having the worst house in the best neighborhood is better than the other way around (as they were under the USSR). East Germans should be more grateful.

When the neighborhood was smaller, that "worst house" was the best house in the neighborhood.

It gets even worse when the worst house is a wurst haus.

East Germany ex Berlin is 12 out of 80 million so 15% of the German population. 5 million former East Germans moved out and became successful in their chosen societies, mostly West Germany. Those who stayed behind are mostly older pensioners who prefer a more static world so there's not many economic opportunities and little in the way of immigration. This is basically the Appalachia of Germany.

"This is basically the Appalachia of Germany." This is basically the Academia of Germany speaking there. It's this derogatory view of the German Juste-Milieu, that is reflected in those election results.

"Those who stayed behind are mostly older pensioners who prefer a more static world so there's not many economic opportunities"

The AfD scored best amongst all parties with 30-year-olds and younger in Saxony.

Saxony and Brandenburg are in the mid-tier of every economic ranking amongst Germany's federal states. In there they continuously top states such as Bremen, Saarland or North Rhine-Westphalia, not particular hotbeds of neonazism. GDP growth since re-unification Saxony/Brandenburg vs. Bremen/Saarland/NRW: 246%/276% vs. 82%/69%/85%

Here is an over-simplification of East German society from someone living in Berlin very strongly across the East/West societal divide – via marriage, work and fussball over the past 7 years. Forgive the over-generalizations; I am just painting a picture for those with no idea about the east/west German divide. Ossis are nothing like what non-Germans think of Germans (which is obviously something many of the commenters on here are missing).
There are various strands of Ossis – 1) the urban hard-left variety (young and old) in ie Berlin, Leipzig who were (if they were old enough) anti-the DDR regime in the late 80's but nonetheless 'socialists' and remain very anti-US, anti-commercialism, etc. They likely vote for Die Linke and hate AFD and even CDU. Mostly completely pro-immigration (but still critical of unintegrated ie Turks maybe). May resent West German arrogance and having taken jobs and gentrified the urban centers they grew up in.
2) Smaller town or suburban working class types: marry at 22, play on their local football club along with all of their friends, work 7-15 or an ausbildung (3 year traineeship) level office job 9-5. Vacation on the Ost-See (or Mallorca or even Asia these days). Fake tanned, eyebrows done on the men as well under 45. Rule-abiding, enjoying their lives, prioritize family and their local area (where they grew up), much more than the typical West German (excluding certain regions like Bavaria etc). Have zero West German friends / contacts except maybe at work in Berlin. They probably vote mixed, Die Linke / CDU and some for AFD. Not really anti-immigrant, just unexposed to many foreigners except if they live in proximity to urban centers (ie Berlin); in which case typical jokes etc about Turks.
My guess is this huge group (probably the majority of Ossis) is the swing voter between AFD and CDU/SPD/Green-
3) The further East, right-wing AFD type voter (with the typical stereotype description). Shaved head, ringed earrings, they pump a lot of iron, pink haired women with face piercings (cheek, lip), tons of tattoos.
Key point: They are mainly employed! These people are not unemployed Hartz IV recipients (who probably are voting Die Linke). They work 7-15 jobs, often manual labour, along with their entire social network. Probably strongly anti-immigrant (especially Muslim and black), and strongly resent paying anything for them. Merkel scared them all off taking in 1 million Syrians.

Also one finds an intermixing of types 2 and 3 all over the former East outside or really urban big centers where type 1 lives alongside West Germans (here I am talking Berlin, Leipzig) who have arrived and gentrified.
ALL of these groups will identify as Ossis. And it is completely true, most West Germans (including those living in Berlin!!) will have had 0 exposure or interaction with Ossis, and in fact have no awareness of them at all – while in the reverse direction the Ossi has a strong identity positioning vis a vis the West.

What is a 7-15 job?

7am-3pm - Europe uses a 24 hour clock.

Am I the only one whose initial thought was "Stakhanovites!"

Wow. As someone who has been living in various east German cities for years, this is the best English language description of Ossi culture I have ever seen - by far. These 3 archetypes are the ones that stand out the most, although I would add that not all the descriptions of groups 2 and 3 fit for Ossis 50+, who have their own archetypes. Only an outsider who has spent real time in east Germany - beyond Berlin and Leipzig - could have written this.

Thanks for your confirmation of my descriptions. And yes, indeed in the age 50+ group there are different descriptions and dynamics.

I have in fact only lived in Berlin, for the last 7 years. However, I have undertaken a very unique and revealing anthropological journey - playing semi-pro / amateur level football in the German scene.

That means hundreds of visits to every possible corner of "greater Berlin" (which would have made an very unique coffee table book if I had taken pictures) – and every possible combination of immigrant group, class, etc. And of course playing myself for 3 distinct clubs with their own social-ethnic mixes (incl Hertha's amateur team). Two teams made up of west Berlin working class types (an unique group in and of themselves ) mixed with Turks, Arabs, Bosnians, etc. And the past 4 years with a reasonably high level Ossi team made up of a mix of the left-leaning student types, but the club itself made up of 'DDR party-member' ish older club members.

My observations are of course informed by general curiosity and awareness of such categories having growing up in Toronto (with its extreme multiculturalism). I also did a Heterodox economics masters at a former DDR university and then working in both Berlin's startup scene and currently in economic / social science research at government think tank in Potsdam (another very unique East-meets-West world).

So even from just within Berlin I have had a good ‘blick’…

Ah the Berlin influence makes sense. I have met members of group 1 to T in Berlin, but yet to meet many people fitting that description in Sachsen Anhalt or Sachsen.
I assumed you are a Wessi. But that you are a foreigner makes more sense: My experience is that such a breakdown of east Germans would make Germans uncomfortable. Also, I suspect type 2 may be more prevalent across west Germany than most west Germans like to admit.

I would be very keen to chat with another North American in east Germany with an econ degree. Shoot this account an email if you like: [email protected]

You missed the group that is probably more influential than all of them - middle aged managerial types. I ran into a lot of these people in Thuringen when I was in the health care business. Generally started their careers in some state enterprise in the DDR, got work in a Western firm, washed out of the Western firm eventually and then spent years hustling in various ventures back home, sometimes even somewhat succesfully. Ages 50-65 today. Often have American names, in that odd way that East Germans of that generation do - like "Steve" or "Justin". Affable, salesmen types, very friendly and will screw you in a heartbeat. After a few drinks happy to talk about how Putin is a real leader, but will also tell jokes about Hitler with a wink and a nod. They are 100% AfD voters, even the ones who spent years abroad.

Thanks for the new category :)
I am not sure if you are aware but it is a social class indicator (and Ost indicator) to have short form English/French sounding names: Mike, Kevin Chantel, Rene all classics.

Sorry, but all of your categorizations are incomplete at best without simplifying about Eastern-German people that have italian-themed names (Ronny, Silvio, Sandro...).

I appreciate this brutal but honest talk from FT:

"I am German, West German, I am old enough to have fully experienced reunification first hand. But I have to say that I am sick and tired of the nagging by East Germans. I know there are many examples that succeeded, but as polls and voting behaviors show there is a big divide still between the two sides. From the start of reunification there was barely a let’s get this done mind set on the East. Things had to be handed on a silver platter, and to this day this seems to be the case. I will admit i rather take in another million refugees than support another 20 million East Germans."

So that is it. Cosmopolitanism red in tooth and claw. No matter how much auffering it may cause to one's countrymen.

But of course the writer's point is that East Germans are NOT his countrymen. It is not cosmopolitanism to reject people you feel no connection too. That is actually a West German nationalist point of view.

That "silver platter" is a common delusion of the West-German left, that till this day hasn't made it's peace with things like opposing opinions, free markets or constitutionalism. They still resent the reunification as it naggs them in multiple ways: America, underdogs resenting their ideology, America, their ideology's hypocrisy being laid bare, America. A German conservative party on a roll in the 1990s, while even the moderate social-dems openly discussed how to stop reunification. Oh, and did I mention America? It was a trauma to them.

The "silver platter" delusion commonly represses the role of West German politicians in bombarding the East with wealth-redistribution shemes as it wasn't the East that was begging for it. It were dumbfounded social dems who didn't understood how unelectable they'd became if they suddenly argued against their own hallmarks - wealth distribution schemes - just because the conservatives wanted them. And of course it was the conservative announcement of intending to do whatever it takes, that inside the freed GDR crushed all the other options of how to proceed after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The delusion of course goes further. E.g. it is repeatedly told how AfD voters (east and west) are all grunty right-wingers, yet somehow represses the fact the AfD gained more percentage than the CDU lost. Of course they do repress that because the left then would have to accept the fact that their "wards" (poor, middle-class, non-academics) are leaving them in droves.

But but "human biodiversity" is supposed to explain everything, including "culture."

So much so that "culture" has become a code word.

That strawman sure is unreasonable!

Except on the days when it underpins white nationalist xenophobia, yes.

My strawmen are always reasonable when you squint your eyes to the correct degree.

So how is Merkel viewed? East German, West German, Pole, or fanatical Lutheran?

She's STEM.

This could be seen as proof that re-unification was a dumb idea for not only the rest of Europe but for the Germans themselves. There's no real reason that Brandenburg, Saxony, et al. couldn't be independent entities just as they were prior to unification.

And to think the East Germany experiment only lasted 41 years. Can’t imagine the impact of one that lasts more than two hundred years.

Good thing they were prevented from trying that thousand year thing.

If you ask the people who said "no" why, they will very likely have specific answers, likely regional issues that the president CDU/CSU government is handling poorly. #1 being the huge flood of poorly behaved immigrants.

It would not surprise me if there was cheating in last week's vote count and AfD really won the election. Certainly there is so much suppression in Germany's media of news about misbehavior by migrants that they might as well have faked the election result.

An (east) German friend of mine showed me an article from the 25th anniversary of reunification which included many county-level maps looking at things like day care rates, average farm parcel size and many other social and economic measures. In each you could still make out the old dividing lines between east and west. He had no single theory of why things remained as they did, but agreed that it was still two identities in a single country.

Just tacking in here my FT comment against the widespread suggestion that DDR was a complete hell, and specifically a claim that all East Germans have it 1000x better today than before the wall fell (commenter Mariana) I try to offer a more nuanced view:

"Has Marianna ever met and interacted with East Germans or is this just a deductive claim based on the premise that no one would want to live under the DDR regime.

I know and have interacted with at least 80 East Germans (young and old) including many who lived through the DDR time. The idea that they were all miserable and attempting to escape is simply and incorrect utter falsehood. The DDR was not North Korea. Yes there was Stasi monitoring, and yes certainly many people left the East (not just over the wall people, but by applying and leaving or being forced out).

From my experience, the vast majority (or at least a huge majority) simply had normal lives: working, having children, drinking beer after work, playing sports, spending a lot of time with family, very little crime or poverty. This was the reality of East German life- yes you could not speak out against the regime and yes it was unbearable to many people, students and so on who eventually protested in the late 1980s. But even those students protesting in the 80s wanted to reform socialism from within, most didn't foresee a 'merger' with the West.

Lastly, the claim that life has improved tremendously is simply patently false. That statement is simply not based on seeing what the former East looks like (especially in rural areas) but also in suburban platbau areas around ie Berlin, and talking and interacting with people. Yes all of Western society now has smart phones, and yes the Ossis can now travel abroad maybe once a year. Those are undeniable improvements. But going beyong that to subjective evaluations of life chances, poverty, societal fairness, etc - it is simply false (and verging on idiotic) to assert "life is 1000x better than before."

This description is my best attempt at describing what I have learned and observed by talking and interacting with many East Germans."

Life was stable and simple but I believe this perspective is influenced by east Germans’ own nostalgia. People had little say over their own career choice or even what they studied in university. As westerners, it is hard to put a value on that kind of autonomy. Food was often of low quality and monotonous in variety. And housing was often decrepit. Watch documentation of east German cities and the apartments - cities outside the capital were run down and living conditions could be poor. Finally, local pollution was severe. One could not walk along the Elbe of Magdeburg as it released noxious fumes.
Sure, there were positive aspects to east German life, but it is a bit like comparing modern China to Hong Kong today. With the right preferences, life is good in China, but the intangible freedoms and living standards are objectively higher in Hong Kong, by a wide margin.

Good point that it is impossible to actually discount for or incorporate the nostalgia (Ostalgie in this case) into a reading of people's actual feelings back then. Without pushing the point, your comment about low quality food and housing was probably true for all of Germany (not to mentiont the UK) into the late 60s (and beyond). River quality was also apparently terrible in the West Germany as well until the 70s. So that must be counter-factored in somewhat.
But overall I agree with the tone of your assessment.
Lastly, I don't know enough about China, but at least I perceive that there is a degree of economic uncertainty for the masses which was not present in the small, stagnant and closed off GDR.

The following 3 sources are interesting: 1) Victor Grossman (New York Jew who defected to DDR in 1952) and is still there aged 90. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGuYOjYiMu4 Here's him speaking with Richard Wolff.
2) A wonderful book. Red Love: The Story of an East German Familyhttps://www.amazon.com/Red-Love-Story-German-Family/dp/1908968516
Written by a well-known German journalist about his family (Grandparents and parents' experience in the DDR). As was a 'reasonably' common phenomenon it seems, his Jewish grandparents (he's half Jewish I think) defected back to the DDR from the West in the post-WWII era (after being in France). This was part of their understanding of the DDR as a the better Germany vis a vis the former Nazi run and US funded West Germany. The book depicts his families experience over the entire DDR period.
3) Another very good book: Stasiland: Stories From Behind The Berlin Wall written by an Australian (I think) journalist who interviews a dozen of so DDR citizens in the late 90s: https://www.amazon.de/Stasiland-Stories-Behind-Berlin-Wall/dp/1847083358/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=ZP8MTWNYZCAXVGJDEB0J

1+2) I do actually know/knewed people who fled into the GDR (voluntarily I might add) and as much as I like them and respect their choice, they're usually not the ones with good authority on things like objectivity.

2) It is common knowledge that Western Germany was Nazi run, while the East wasn't. Yet it is totally untrue (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_ehemaliger_NSDAP-Mitglieder,_die_nach_Mai_1945_politisch_t%C3%A4tig_waren#Sowjetische_Besatzungszone_und_Deutsche_Demokratische_Republik)

It's IMO more indicative about the German contemporary culture how this lie straight out of the Politburo and its self-deceptionary counterpart within West-Germany's left became this today's "common knowledge" after all.

"east Germans’ own nostalgia"

It's an oversimplification IMO as many of the former GDR-citizens don't share this nostalgia at all. It often depends on your socio-political status before reunification. Sure, it might reflect on current election results that those nostalgia-less Eastern-Germans were more likely to move westward, but having more nostalgicans left in Eastern-Germany today, shouldn't reflect on how Eastern Germans in general viewed their bricked situation back then.

Knowing people on both sides of the East-German nostalgia-isle I can say there are things they usually agree upon of what worked better in the East: Primary education, less crimes (excluding govt. officials), immigration policies but most importantly: women's rights. I don't know a single East German woman aged 20 or older in 1990 that can relate to today's feminist movements. Even for younger generations of East German women this holds up.

Yes, a combination of getting carpetbagged and living in West Virginia or Newfoundland.

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