Overall, the fall of the Berlin wall is seen positively by both East and West Germans to the same extent. What is missing, however, is a common narrative of what Germany is all about. The historical experiences of East and West Germany have not combined to form a foundation for a new, inclusive German identity, as opposed to the concept of “Germany plus the East,” writes Valdai Club expert Reinhard Krumm
Predictions about the outcome of German unification could not have been more diverse. Arthur Miller, the famous American playwright and essayist, titled his essay in the New York Times in May 1990 “Uneasy about the Germans”. He was wondering if the democratic system of the Federal Republic of Germany had been “simply a matter of historical convenience invented by foreigners”. And if that was a good enough foundation for unification with a non-democratic East Germany.
The active citizens of East Germany had a different perspective. They had begun a peaceful revolution without interference from abroad and were chanting “Wir sind ein Volk” (We are one people). For these demonstrators, the end of the falsely named German Democratic Republic was the only way to become free. Unification was thus clearly the logical consequence, even if some politicians in East and West were envisioning two Germanies, at least for a while. But history did not allow such a scenario.
And now, thirty years later, Wolfgang Schäuble, the president of the German parliament, has called the German unification a “historical stroke of luck”. He noticed that the Germans were the last to believe in coming together after having been divided after the Second World War. There were no plans in any ministerial drawer, “that was the last thing one could have imagined”. But it happened.
Since then every year on the occasion of the official unification day, the 3rd of October, the Germans and their neighbours wonder how successful this enormous endeavour has been and whether the gap between East and West has narrowed or completely vanished. Needless to say, the analyses have changed from year to year, but the final verdict is still out.