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Germany

Germany in Brief

Chancellor Schröder to meet Italian Premier Berlusconi after nasty row, Dresden remembers devastating floods with art exhibit, mental barriers still divide West and East Germans.

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More than 13 years after its fall the Berlin Wall still exists in the heads of many Germans.

German-Italian ties on the mend

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will be meeting in the Italian city of Verona on August 23 for the first time since relations between the two countries nose-dived last month. Schröder will be visiting the famous Verona music festival on the invitation of EU Commission President Romano Prodi. Last month Berlusconi antagonized the Germans when he likened a German member of the EU parliament to a Nazi concentration camp guard. Relations soured further after a junior Italian minister made disparaging comments about German tourists, following which Schröder canceled his summer vacation to Italy. But in a sign that ties may be improving, Berlusconi recently told an Italian tabloid, "I almost feel like a German," while Schröder told Italian journalists at the Locarno film festival, "I love Italy, yes, it is love. I’m completely fascinated by your country."

Dresden remembers catastrophic floods

The eastern German city of Dresden has erected a so-called "flood wall" to remember the catastrophic floods that devastated the city last August. The 186-meter-long temporary aqueduct, which will snake along a street in downtown Dresden, is meant as a reminder of the disaster as well as of the solidarity displayed by residents and helpers. Water will flow over it till August 19. Designed by residents, artists and flood relief workers, the wall also has boards accompanying it containing photographs and written documentation of the tragedy penned by citizens, organizations and companies. Saxon Environment Minister Steffen Flath, who officially opened the art exhibit, said the first anniversary of the floods provided cause for reflection. "With all these concepts we should never forget that such a catastrophe can repeat itself," he warned.

"Mental wall" still divides West and East Germans

On the 42nd anniversary of the Berlin Wall on Wednesday, a survey has shown that about two-thirds of Germans are convinced that more than 13 years after the fall of the Cold War symbol, a "wall in the head" still exists between East and West Germans. The study carried out by the Forsa opinion research institute found that 62 percent of those surveyed spoke of a "mental wall," with East Germans representing that opinion more strongly at 73 percent. At the same time a working group set up to investigate the number of deaths on the former communist East German border has discovered that a total of 1,008 people were killed by border guards, 215 of them alone on the Berlin Wall. That raises the last statistic estimates by a further 23 persons. Politicians in Germany are using the anniversary to warn against the dangers of letting the cruelties of the GDR slip from memory. "We must learn from history and try to make it clear to the younger generation, why the totalitarian system in the GDR was allowed to last for so long," Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit said.

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