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The Great Fall: Germany 25 years later

Updated Thursday, 6th November 2014

Do East and West Germans' views on the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin wall differ greatly?

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Stones on the streets of Berlin showing where the wall seperating East from West used to be Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Ine Beerten | A web search for impressions of what the ground-breaking event of the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago might mean to Germans today, brings up some surprising results.

In 2011, at the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Wall, a poll by YouGov Germany suggested that Germans are forgetting the concrete facts of the historical events of the Cold War, as only 63% of Germans remembered the name of the GDR president who instigated this. Only 26% of Germans overall remembered that the Wall was the name for the construction around West Berlin rather than the border between the two states of East- and West Germany.

Many opinion polls show that the significance of the Great Fall might not be as apparent as expected. In a poll carried out by Bavarian Television in October 2014, only 56% of the participants answered the question: Is the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall a reason to celebrate? with Yes, absolutely. whereas 40.2% opted for the answer No, it is all the same to me.

A poll commissioned by the East German media group MDR, indicates that there are still differences in the views of the events between people in the East and the West:

  • Just over half of the population (53% of Germans) claim that the fall of the Wall brought about positive changes, yet within this group there are 74% East Germans and only 48% West Germans.
  • In the East, 96% of the young people between 14 and 29 perceive developments after 1989 as positive, whereas people between 45 and 59 see these in a more negative light. This was the group of people who were most active in the political opposition in the GDR that brought about the fall of the Wall, a group which today is often disillusioned with the society they live in today in comparison with the society they had envisioned to create in 1989. In the West the trend is similar, yet with fewer people in favour of the Fall as a positive change.
  • Something East Germans see as the most positive outcome of the Fall is the opportunity to enjoy free travel world-wide along with their personal freedom, i.e. freedom of speech. In contrast, they feel less safe; and 78% think that the education system of the GDR was superior to the one they have today.

Yet overall, the views of Germans in the East and the West are converging… and the one thing they all agree on, is that their capital Berlin has become the Capital of Optimists!

Read more articles from Open University academics about their knowledge and experiences of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Discover more on German language and culture





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