On the 30th anniversary of German unity, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier emphasized the “paradox” of reunification. “We are nowhere near as far as we should be. But at the same time, we are much further than we think, ”Steinmeier said Saturday at the central celebration of German Unity Day in Potsdam, in view of the failures of the past three decades and simultaneous economic successes in East Germany.
Steinmeier recalled that the unrest in East Germany hit “every family” 30 years ago. In the West, however, most people would have followed the turnaround “at a distance – and often at a distance”. “To actually share the history of division and unity – this task remains even 30 years after reunification,” the Federal President warned.
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Steinmeier pointed out that there is still a clear pay gap between East and West. “Too few large companies have settled east of the Elbe,” he criticized. And on the management floors of companies, universities, the judiciary, the media or the Bundeswehr you still have to look for East Germans “with a magnifying glass”.
“Today we live in the best Germany that has ever existed.”
At the same time, Leipzig or Rostock are now economically stronger than some cities in the Ruhr area, Steinmeier emphasized. “It now attracts more people from West to East than vice versa, and many East German universities and research institutes have long since become magnets for students and scientists from all over the world,” he said. “Today we live in the best Germany that has ever existed.”
Singing and waving young people on the Berlin Wall look forward to the opening of the border in 1989. Photo: picture-alliance / dpa / dpaweb
Steinmeier proposed to build a memorial to the peaceful revolution in the GDR. Even today, the courage and drive that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in East Germany and then demonstrated by 16 million people in overcoming the unrest, the Federal President said in justification.
Such a monument could be a place “that commemorates the many strangers and acquaintances who bravely opposed state power with candles in their hands,” Steinmeier said. “The peaceful revolution toppled a dictatorship. This is a great moment that will forever have a place in our German democratic history. ”
The Federal President recalled that reunification in 1990 was fundamentally different from the founding of the Reich in 1871. “National unity was brutally enforced in 1871, with iron and blood, after wars with our neighbors, based on Prussian dominance, on militarism and nationalism. ” In view of right-wing extremist protesters who had stormed the stairs to the Reichstag with Reich flags, Steinmeier said, “They want another state, an authoritarian and aggressively marginalized state.”
Woidke: Growing together is not a success
“The fusion of East and West was and is not a success,” said Brandenburg Prime Minister Dietmar Woidke (SPD) as the incumbent president of the Federal Council at the celebration in Potsdam. For many, the beginning of an all-German identity was “a long and sometimes difficult path.”
he said. In the meantime, German Unity Day is a reminder of “in which country of freedom we live in Germany today”. One should not allow this to be often forgotten and often intentionally ignored by some, Woidke said.