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Ahead of German election, nostalgia for communist East grows

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Berlin – At a market in an east Berlin suburb, Barber Neubert sells health food – and talks about his family on the eve of German elections. His daughter still lives in the former East. But his grandson studies chemistry in Munich.

"The world is open for him. He has chances we never had," says Mr. Neubert.

When the Berlin Wall came down 20 years ago, everyone predicted it would take at least a generation for Germany to fully unify.

In the current elections, there's still talk of the need for another generation, among analysts and East Germans. One reason often cited is the "nostalgia factor," an often indescribable feeling among East Germans such as Mr. Neubert about the past – that is also manifest in other former Eastern bloc states, particularly among the older residents.

A fruit-seller next to Neubert, for example, remembers how her apples, tomatoes, grapes, and potatoes sold out in an hour in the old days. Now, with more abundance and competition she stays open all day.

In a recent report, Uwe Willmer, a political analyst at Berlin’s Free University, found that the nostalgia phenomenon exists even among younger east Germans. Many of them don’t want to study, and many who do study are reluctant to go west.


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