Germany And Now There Is One

Unification is a fact at last, but Europe's new power faces years of labor to make the merger work for Germans and non-Germans alike

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Where will all that money come from? The government intends to tap private investments, sell "unity bonds" and let the federal budget deficit grow (current annual shortfall: $44.5 billion) -- a scheme that is supposed to produce $64 billion annually for the next five years. With national elections scheduled for Dec. 2, the government is trying to avoid talking about potential tax increases, but Kohl concedes that "we will do what is required."

Nor can unification's cost be measured in deutsche marks alone. The politico-economic divide between East and West is paralleled by a psychological separation known as "die Mauer im Kopf," or the wall in the mind, a split that may not be overcome for a generation or more. West German politicians always talked as if the two Germanys were essentially one. But they were not: after a grinding period of intensive rebuilding, the West thrived, while the East lived under 57 years of uninterrupted totalitarian dictatorship, first under the Nazis, then under the communists.

East Germans increasingly complain about the all-pervasive influence of the Federal Republic. "Some elements of our constitution, like women's rights and social guarantees, could have been adopted in the new Germany," argues Angela Breitner, an East Berlin librarian. "But nothing from here is considered any good." There are complaints about prices too, high by old East German standards, though such items as clothing and household goods are cheaper than they used to be.

Griping in the West focuses on Eastern attitudes toward social benefits and work habits. Says Bavarian businessman Anton Enders, just back from Dresden: "There are a lot of false assumptions about those people. Just because they're German doesn't mean they are going to start working, not after 40 years. They expect to have it handed to them on a platter."

This cold war of perceptions -- Westerners as hard-boiled exploiters, Easterners as spoiled children of a socialist system that guaranteed lifetime employment and cradle-to-grave welfare benefits -- could last for years, even decades. The relationship will normalize, says novelist Monika Maron, who left the East for the West in 1988, only "when the G.D.R. is not considered a place, but rather a time, a very bad time."

Legally, the Federal Republic has been sovereign since 1955, but in terms of policy independence, unification marks a significant change. The postwar division of Europe is gone; the burdens it imposed on the two Germanys have been lifted. But full freedom to choose can be unnerving, and the idea of independent action is almost taboo.

Most Germans of late have been so preoccupied with the problems of unification that they have not paid much attention to foreign affairs. "We are just starting to think about our role in a future evolving Europe," says Karsten Voigt, a Social Democratic member of the Bundestag and foreign affairs spokesman for the parliamentary party. Yet the world, thanks mainly to the crisis in the gulf, is banging on the door. Voigt and many of his countrymen are struck by the irony. "The states that are urging the Germans to participate in the gulf," he says, "are the same ones that said a few weeks ago Germany should not become a new military power."

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