Real effects of Berlin Wall’s fall
Real effects of Berlin Wall’s fall
In reply to George Gregory’s recent letter to the editor under the heading “Good Advice About Walls” in which he stated that the destruction of the Berlin Wall caused Germany to become an economic powerhouse, I can categorically state he is wrong.
Germany’s economic miracle (Wirtschaftswunder) had nothing to do with the fall of the wall. The miracle occurred in postwar Germany under the direction of one of the few professors who had refused to join Nazi affiliated professorial institutions, Ludwig Erhard. For a succinct rundown see: http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/GermanEconomicMiracle.html.
The fall of the wall actually caused The Federal Republic of Germany’s economic machine to falter, because of a number of factors including the cost of integrating Germans from the former Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR), and bringing their despoiled lands and ailing, inefficient infrastructure under the West German economic and political umbrella (I use the correct term for the former client state of the Soviet Union because I find far too many people are unaware that the real “Ost Deutschland” (actually the old eastern Prussian lands-where the author Thomas Mann had a cottage) no longer exists. After World War I much of “Ost Deutschland” (along with the port of Danzig and the Saarland) was placed under the League of Nations until such time as a referendum could be held which would give the populace the right of self-determination (which would have meant reintegration with Germany as most of the population was then ethnically German). Hitler declined to wait and simply seized them back.
The Russians, as is their wont, having swept through the old Prussian lands on their way to Berlin, refused to give them up after World War II and parceled parts out to Warsaw Pact countries in reparation, so to speak, for parts of those countries they took and wished to retain. They did keep the old Prussian Baltic port city of Konigsberg, expelling by force any remaining Germans who had not fled, and renamed it Kaliningrad in 1946, and it remains the capital of the Russian Kaliningrad Oblast (approximately one-third of old East Prussia) to this day. Few ethnic East Germans remain in the original “Ost Deutschland,” replaced mainly by Poles, Lithuanians and Russians.
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Anyway, to attribute Germany’s economic strength to the fall of the wall is simply incorrect and in fact, dangerously misleading. A common, somewhat rueful, joke amongst the former countries of the Warsaw Pact went along the lines of “Of course the DDR is successful. The Germans invented Socialism and only they can make it work.” The idea that the DDR had been able to establish businesses which operated moderately successfully under a directed economy was fairly common and it came as quite a shock to many West Germans when they discovered that the DDR in reality was no more successful than any other of the socialist regimes imposed after World War II. The extent of the “featherbedding” to establish claims of full employment actually was stunning and meant that most economic concerns were simply inefficient and insolvent, whose liabilities had to be borne by the West Germans with the attendant costs and reductions in their own established social benefits. As a former DDR citizen, on his way to Bavaria, remarked to me shortly after the wall came down, “They pretended to pay us, and we pretended to work.”
The bottom line was that most, if not all, business concerns that had existed in the DDR simply were not sustainable under their own power. And the destruction of the wall (and I still have a few bits of that infamous wall that I knocked out with a borrowed sledgehammer) had nothing to do with Germany “becoming an economic powerhouse.” However, it was a good thing as it essentially emancipated a population which had been repressed in almost every way possible by an inhumane regime.