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Germany

Prejudices towards former East 'still exist', says German president

It may be 20 years since the Berlin Wall came down, but German President Christian Wulff thinks that the east - west divide still exists. He said western Germany should appreciate the achievements of the east.

Football shirt made up of West and East German colors

A mental divide still exisits in some heads, says the German president

German President, Christian Wulff, who has spent the last two days visiting the German state of Thuringia, has criticized an ongoing and perhaps growing mental division between the former East and West Germany.

"It's obvious that not everyone in the "old states" has understood that one really has to respect what has been achieved here (the former East Germany) in the last 20 years," Wulff told the Thueringer Zeitung newspaper.

After the euphoria of German reunification 20 years ago had calmed down, simple prejudices began to arise as the communist state of the German Democratic Republic started to be assimilated into the new Germany. People in the former East Germany were often mockingly referred to as "Ossies" or "Easterners."

Wulff took pains on Tuesday to emphasize that the people of the former West Germany could learn a lot from their fellow countrymen, pointing for example to the high standards in education which have been achieved in Thuringia.

Newly elected German President Christian Wullf takes his oath of office

Christian Wulff was sworn in as president in July

Travel broadens the mind

The President also hoped that in the future more people from the west of Germany would actually go and visit the eastern states of Thuringia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

Wulff, however, also defended the way in which the reunification has been achieved, emphasizing that the former West Germany had not simply "annexed the East."

"The economy of the GDR (the former East Germany) was in the gutter," he said, "it was not viable," although he admitted that it was understandable that this opinion was perhaps not shared by everyone in the former East.

Also, President Wulff found it upsetting that the anniversary of German Reunification on October 3 was often seen negatively.

"Why do problems always promote more attention than success?" he asked rhetorically, "We should also emphasise the positive things, the countless things the German people have in common."

Author: Tony Dunham (Reuters/AP)
Editor: Rob Turner

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