Why Germany Is Downbeat on Berlin Wall Birthday

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It's not like they want to go back to being spied on by their neighbors and queuing for hours to buy sausage, but former East Germans aren't exactly the life of the party at the Berlin Wall anniversary. Of course, it would help if they were actually invited: Last week the German authorities suddenly realized they'd neglected to ask anyone from the former East to address the festivities planned for Tuesday's 10th-anniversary gala celebration with the likes of George Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl, and they hastily added an Eastern speaker to the program. But that oversight may be reflective of the underlying resentment on both sides at the fruits of reunification. "A lot of people in the East feel let down economically," says TIME Berlin bureau chief Charles Wallace. "After an initial outburst of enthusiasm over the end of totalitarianism, they began to confront the reality of their failed industries. They now face 16 percent unemployment, double the figure in the West, and many feel like second-class citizens in Germany."

A poll published Monday found 70 percent of eastern Germans believe the advantages of unification outweigh the disadvantages, although 67 percent believed it had worsened the next generation's prospects. More alarming, perhaps, only 45 percent believe capitalist democracy was better than communism. No wonder then that up to 40 percent of the electorate in parts of the East voted for the reformed Communist party in recent elections. That, in turn, has reinforced a backlash in the West. "Many citizens of the old West Germany are fed up with what they see as the Easterners' sense of entitlement," says Wallace. "These people view Easterners' voting for the old Communists as the ultimate ingratitude." Despite the resentments, however, commemorating the fall of the Wall may reaffirm Germans' commitment to their single nation. Anniversaries, after all, often highlight the strains in a marriage — but they also remind both parties of what it was that made them walk down the aisle in the first place.