Somber Tone Prevails as Germans Observe Anniversary of Unification
IN a sobering address Saturday marking the second anniversary of German reunification, President Richard von Weizsacker called for west Germans to be more willing to sacrifice to rebuild eastern Germany. He warned that the costs of reconstruction will mean essentially no increase in earnings, in real terms, over the next five years.
He also called for action on unemployment in eastern Germany, which is running about 40 percent, and condemned the racism and attacks on foreigners that have killed 10 and injured scores in Germany over the past several weeks.
He spoke in Schwerin, capital of the east German state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, where official Unity Day festivities were held under heavy security.
Labor unions and leftist organizations acknowledged poor turnouts at demonstrations aimed at showing mass disapproval of violence against foreigners, but the level of violent protests was less than expected. Some 300 neo-Nazis marched under police protection in Dresden.
This year's Unity Day has come at a troubled time for Germany. "The popular mood has reached a nadir," says Kurt Biedenkopf, leader of the east German state of Saxony.
The logo for this year's observance showed a torn heart being stitched back together.
One poll of east Germans found that 95 percent of respondents could identify good sides to the old Communist regime, including guaranteed employment. Positive attitudes toward a free market were found to be down to 44 percent from 75 percent before reunification. The poll found 25 percent even wanted the Berlin Wall restored.