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The road to reunification

In the ideological struggle that was the Cold War, East Germans voted the only way they could: with their feet. By the thousands each month, they escaped communist rule by slipping into the West through Berlin. In 1961, the East German government built a wall to keep them in. The Berlin Wall became both a barrier and a symbol of the differences between West and East, between democracy and communism. On Nov. 9, 1989, after floods of East Germans had left via third countries, the Berlin Wall came down, paving the way to German reunification.

When a group of dissidents called New Forum began demanding change in East Germany in September 1989, they had no idea how far those changes would go. Four months after the Berlin Wall came down, the country is on the brink of an election that will inevitably lead to a united Germany. For people who have grown up behind the wall, it's daunting and demoralizing to know that West Germany, with its higher population and stronger economy, will decide their future.
  Two weeks before the election, CBC Radio's Sunday Morning talks to East Germans confronting a new political reality.

• On election day in East Germany, voter Ingeborg Milke described casting a ballot under the communist system. ''They always told you at work the day before how you should vote, not that there was any real choice,'' she told the New York Times. "'Then they sent you to vote during work. If you didn't go, then the director of the company called you in and asked why you didn't vote."
  • Election results showed that 48.1 per cent of East Germans cast ballots for Alliance for Germany, a coalition of conservative pro-reunification parties. Alliance for Germany was strongly backed by Helmut Kohl, chancellor of West Germany. Under the proportional-representation system, the Alliance won 193 seats in the 400-seat parliament.

• Finishing second were the Social Democrats with 21.8 per cent, followed by the Party for Democratic Socialism (successor to the Communists) at 16.3 per cent. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Morning
Broadcast Date: March 4, 1990
Guest(s): Michael Groetsch, Jens Reich, Siegfried Schiller, Wolfriede Schmidt
Host: Elizabeth Gray, Eric Malling
Reporter: Michael Findley
Duration: 14:11

Last updated: January 31, 2012

Page consulted on February 13, 2014

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