Have the two formerly separate parts of Germany fully converged? Or are “new, deep cracks” appearing between East Germans and West Germans? Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, this report draws on a nationwide representative survey carried out as part of our project ‘Voices on Values’ to take stock of existing similarities and differences between East and West Germans.
The research shows that respondents who currently live in the east are on average more sceptical towards immigrants. These differences, however, are not necessarily signs of “new, deep cracks” between people in eastern and western Germany. The study shows that there are at least as many different ideas of a good society among people in eastern Germany as there are in the rest of the country. There is no such thing as a typical “Ossi” (short for East German), just as there is no typical “Wessi” (West German). Instead, differences in attitudes between people in eastern and western Germany are first and foremost associated with demographic factors and people’s different experiences of reunification.
These findings suggest that varying attitudes to migration and an open society are a sign of the remaining differences between people in eastern and western Germany rather than evidence for “new, deep cracks”. To acknowledge that people in eastern Germany have experienced reunification differently, and to recognise, in particular, the heterogeneity of these experiences, might well be the most important contribution to German unity 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.