A reunified Germany Turns Eleven | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 07.11.2001
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A reunified Germany Turns Eleven

Eleven years ago, Germany finally reunited. Wednesday is an official holiday, but with the world on the brink of war, many Germans find it difficult to celebrate.


Berlin, 1989

The debate about fighting terrorism is taking on different tones in eastern and western Germany. In the West there is support for military intervention. In the East, where life has already changed dramatically, there is skepticism. But those differences are just the tip of the iceberg.

Offenburg in Baden Württemberg, and the city of Altenburg in the east near Leipzig are East-West partner cities. Even after 11 years of reunification the contrasts between the cities are still sharp.

Offenburg is a small city near the French border. Prosperous, almost conspicuously clean. In Offenburg people felt closer to the French, whose soldiers were stationed here after World War II - but in the last few weeks their thoughts have been with the US.

The people of Offenburg enjoy high living standards. Mid-sized buisnesses do well; the infrastructure is good, the jobless rate low. The area's biggest employer also occupies Offenburg's tallest building. Burda is a magazine publisher that prints mainly tabloid titles big on gossip about the rich and famous, popstars and royalty - 24,000 copies an hour.

It's a different story in Altenburg, in the new German state of Thuringia. On the streets, mention of September 11th's events is seldom heard. People have other worries- primarily the region's joblessness rate. Every fifth adult is unemployed. Not only a sad record for Thuringia, but sad because many people here have lost hope that things will ever improve.

There was never much industry in Altenburg. Situated in the countryside, it was, until the 19th century, a bishopric. The government provided most jobs; in communist East Germany, people mostly worked in the brown-coal or lignite industry or in Uranium mining. When the jobs were cut, a lot of the residents left too. Altenburg has shrunk by 10,000 residents since the wall fell.

There was never much economic interchange between the partner communities, but there was interchange of a different type that stretches back to before the fall of the Wall. That exchange has brought with it opportunities. Many from Altenburg have moved to sister city Offenburg in the pursuit of jobs and friendships.

Today, there are precious few opportunities in Altenburg. The maxim "no youth equals no future" is well-known to Altenburg authorities. But as long as the the economy continues to lag, the young generations will keep heading to more prosperous communities in western Germany like Offenburg.

The contrasts between Altenburg and Offenburg show how much progress has been made in the course of reunification and how much work remains on the road ahead.