Building the Future...
Student Text Page No. 1: "As a Nation"
The teenagers who thronged Berlin’s streets on the night
of October 3, 1990, are in their twenties now. Many have started families.
Most are working; some, studying at a Universität; others,
training for high-tech careers. But few will ever forget that moment in
die Wende (turning point), when the dream of German reunification
In 1949, shortly after World War II, a defeated Germany was divided into
two states: The German Democratic Republic (GDR) in the east was communist;
the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), democratic. To many, the split
seemed permanent. But by the late 1980s, people in the GDR were staging
freedom Demos. Then, in 1989, the GDR collapsed. And in 1990,
east and west Germans were reunited under the FRG — with Berlin
as their capital.
Past/present. During their separation, people in "both Germanys"
had preserved a strong sense of cultural ties to one another. Yet, despite
such bonds, the years following reunion were a shock for east Germans.
West Germans were turning out the world’s third largest gross domestic
product (GDP). But east Germans had never experienced free-enterprise
competition. The FRG was a parliamentary democracy with several major
political parties. But east Germans had not had political freedom under
the GDR. Clearly, reunion between east and west Germans would involve
High marks. To ease this adjustment, the FRG began pouring billions
of Deutsche Marks into eastern Germany. Targets for assistance included
transportation and communication networks, as well as job growth in small
businesses. Though east Germans still trail west Germans in output, wages,
and employment, the investment is paying off. By the year 2000, manufactures
in eastern Germany were growing at about 10 percent annually.
In fact, despite the recent recession, all
of Germany's economy keeps humming. In a space the size of Montana, 82
million Germans produce an annual GDP worth over $2 trillion! Germany
today is one of the chief producers of chemicals, steel, machinery, vehicles,
and electronics. It's a leader in global patents and is No. 2 in world
New agenda. Yet Germany has a 9.4-percent unemployment rate. And
the causes have been hotly debated: Are Germans losing jobs to lower-paid
workers in other nations? Germany has generous welfare policies: Do they
drain funds that might otherwise flow to new business start-ups? Or is
the "drain" more a result of the country's annual payments on
its heavy debt — a debt that includes the cost of rebuilding eastern
Since Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder first
took office in 1998, he has tackled unemployment on many fronts: At his
urging, labor leaders, employers, and the government formed an "Alliance"
to create new jobs. He trimmed government spending — and pushed
tax cuts to encourage business start-ups. And he's proposed reducing the
government's role in funding unemployment benefits (an idea that is hotly
Looking Ahead. What effect might such strategies have? How would
they influence relations between east and west Germans? What other priorities
should the government follow, as it helps to build Germany’s future?
After his 2002 re-election, Chancellor Schroeder addressed that last question.
Saying that today's generation has a "historic duty to achieve justice
in the age of globalization," he urged Germans to support a "strategic
investment in education," and a "structural reform of the labor
market, pensions, and healthcare." Keep your eyes on Germany! And
learn more about its reunification here:
Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia.
CD-ROM. (Look for "Germany," then scroll to "Reunified