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Berlin Journal: Germans Quietly Pass an Equinox of Unity, but the Walls Remain

Teachers, judges and civil servants were shipped in from western states to replace a generation of easterners who had come of age in Communism and were considered unfit, Mr. Krüger said.

“Of course people were bitter about that,” he added. “They still are.”

The East, some point out, had a complete migration experience without crossing a border. People lost their jobs, their status and their country.

Many East German men were quite literally left behind.

Eastern women, who were part of the work force and with free child care, were more emancipated than their western sisters, and proved to be more mobile than their male counterparts. Some eastern villages now have two or three men for every woman — the kind of ratio one otherwise finds near the Arctic Circle, demographers say.

When Petra Köpping was named integration minister in the eastern state of Saxony, she thought she would mainly deal with migrants. But early on, she was heckled at a public event. “Why don’t you integrate us first?” a German man shouted.

Ms. Köpping ended up touring the East to understand the grievances of East German men. She is now touring the West to share her findings.

Mr. Garton Ash, the Oxford historian, who knows Germany intimately (he had his own Stasi file), talks about cultural inequality as a driver of populism.

“Inequality of attention shades into inequality of respect,” Mr. Garton Ash wrote last year.

Dorfchemnitz, the town where the AfD won 47.4 percent of the vote last year — has an unemployment rate of under 6 percent. But mainstream parties ignored it during the campaign. Only the AfD candidate showed up — twice.

Nationalism was taboo in West Germany. In East Germany it was positively encouraged. “We were the good Germans,” recalled Antje Weiss, a social worker in East Berlin.

Ms. Weiss, 54, grew up behind the Berlin Wall — although in the East it was called the “anti-fascist protection bulwark.”

“We were told we were the descendants of the anti-fascist resistance,” she said. Flag-waving, a no-no in the West, was ubiquitous in the Communist youth organizations of the German Democratic Republic, as East Germany was known.

Ms. Weiss has no time for the AfD. But she thinks it is important to listen deeply to those who do.

“We have to let people speak their mind,” she said. “Otherwise, we are just doing what the G.D.R. did.”

Source: NYT > World

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