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Germans split on unity 30 years after fall of Berlin Wall

Rebecca Staudenmaier
November 7, 2019

Fewer eastern Germans feel reunification has been beneficial than was the case ten years ago, a new survey has found. A majority of Germans agreed, however, that travel opportunities and freedom of speech are better now.

Two tourists shake hands through a hole in the remains of the Berlin Wall
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Schreiber

As celebrations continue in the run-up to the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, a survey published Thursday revealed significant differences in how Germans today view the legacy of reunification.

According to the latest Deutschlandtrend report by political research firm Infratest Dimap, a majority of respondents in both western and eastern Germany said that reunification has brought personal advantages, although the results also indicate a negative shift in the east.

Some 60% of eastern Germans said there has been a positive change — a figure that dropped by 7% compared to responses ten years ago when the country was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall.

Positive responses from western Germans, on the other hand rose by five points up to 56% compared to answers from 2009.

Read more: Angela Merkel's American dream — if the Berlin Wall hadn't fallen

Education and social cohesion 'worse'

A map showing Germany before reunification in 1990

The DeutschlandTrend survey participants were also asked whether life was better or worse today compared to the conditions in former East Germany, also known as the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Both western and eastern Germans overwhelmingly agreed that travel possibilities are much better now.

In terms of freedom of speech, 69% of survey participants in the east and 83% of respondents in the west said the situation had improved. Career opportunities and the economic situation were also ranked as better when compared to the GDR.

Opinions differed, however, when it came to comparing the education systems and early childhood care, with eastern Germans saying the situation today was worse. Some 76% of respondents in the east said that social cohesion was worse today, while only 46% of western Germans agreed.

Read moreIn Germany, a post-communist generation searches for identity

Merkel's CDU continues slump

In the aftermath of recent state elections in eastern Germany, the DeutschlandTrend survey also found that support for Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives (CDU/CSU) has continued to drop, falling two points to 26%.

Support also dropped for the Greens, although they currently remain the second-strongest party at 22%.

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which scored major gains in state elections in Thuringia, Saxony and Brandenburg, remained constant at 14%, tied for third with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD).

Click here for our extensive coverage on the fall of the Berlin Wall

DeutschlandTrend national party popularity survey

Germany's too strong, says Spain and Turkey

A separate survey published on Thursday by pollster Ipsos looked at the international impact of German reunification, polling over 12,000 adults in 16 countries.

When asked if "Germany has become too powerful in Europe," 60% of survey respondents in Turkey and Spain agreed with the statement.

Besides Germany, the most disagreement came from participants in the Netherlands, Poland and the UK. 

Some 55% of Polish respondents also said that life in their country "has changed for the better" as a result of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism, while 52% of respondents in Romania said their lives had gotten worse.

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