BERLIN: The walls of the Bornholmer Huette pub were last painted in 1973, a light beige that has gradually cracked and darkened into a caramel brown from decades of cigarette smoke.
The “Huette,” as regulars call it, has been in Matthias Gehrhus’ family since 1954 and he doesn’t plan on changing it any time soon.
Its Spartan styling recalls the days when it was a meeting place in communist East Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood, somewhere you’d go to catch up with an old friend over a cheap beer.
Gehrhus, 50, was born into that world and doesn’t want it back. But he also understands the feelings of many former East Germans that, 30 years after the Berlin Wall fell and communism collapsed, not everything has improved.
“It was a simple life then. Today, everything’s so complicated you collapse under the weight of it, and there’s always new regulations, new rules,” he said.
“There was never a problem with money,” Gehrhus added, noting that life’s necessities were taken care of, even if travel abroad was restricted.
“Sure you couldn’t check out the world, but in the last 30 years I still haven’t checked out the rest of the world,” he said.
A government report this year lauds the state of German reunification as “an impressive success story,” with per capita GDP in the former East Germany growing from 43 percent of that in West Germany in 1990 to 75pc in 2018, and its unemployment rate falling from a crest of 18.7pc in 2005 to 6.4pc in October, not far above Germany’s 5pc national unemployment figure.
But the report notes many former East Germans still perceive themselves as second-class citizens, something Chancellor Angela Merkel, who herself grew up in East Germany, had highlighted.
“Official German reunification is complete. But the unity of the Germans, their unity was not fully complete on Oct 3, 1990, and that is still the case today,” she said last month.
Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2019