Many Germans have begun to modify their eating habits to lower their calorie and cholesterol intake. Since the unification of East and West Germany in the 1990s, the government has faced the challenge of bringing the living conditions in the former East Germany up to the standard found in the former West Germany. Upgrading housing, schools, and utilities will continue after 2001. Despite unequal living conditions, Germans in all parts of the country are well nourished. In fact, most German children have enough to eat.
Excellent article, Kristian.
I haven’t studied this, so only have anecdotes from my own experience. My father was a German from the Sudetanland, who later was a prisoner of war in Britain and remained. Because of the ban on emigration from the East, he never saw his parents again after the war and they died in the 1960s. Technically, he could have visited them, but actually could not as he was very poor, mostly working on building sites and could never save the money for the trip. He was very bitter about the life his parents endured – he said that they lived on nettle soup for a while when they had their house in the Sudetanland confiscated by the state (building the house and paying for the materials with a bank loan was his father’s life’s work) and they were forcibly moved to East Germany along with my father’s sisters (for some reason all his brothers ended up in West Germany). He used to send them parcels but all the goodies were stolen by those controlling the postal system.
Later on, I met a few East Germans in my early 20s on a day trip into East Berlin and later visited them in East Berlin before the wall had come down. Their lives were grim – crammed into horrible, dark flats. When I visited the food prepared was pasta with tomato sauce – I think there wasn’t much variety of food available. My one friend was involved in the churchyard protests. She said she could away with it because her father was in the Communist party, so she had some protection against arrest.
Later still, I had an East German boyfriend. He did point out the disadvantages of reunification – notably that there was no longer full employment – also, his parents loved their new TV but it did breed discontent as they could now see how others in the West lived and had lived all these years (they were ignorant of this before) and they were still pretty poor. He, however, got a well-paid job in a brewery based in Hamburg, so he came out of it well. He used to say that when he was in University, four boys shared a dormitory and you knew that one of them was a Stasi informant, so you always had to be on your guard. For me, this is the most pernicious aspect of life under a totalitarian regime – no price can be put on freedom of thought and expression. He said that in any group of four, one was likely to be an informant.
Anyway, as you say, Seamus Milne doesn’t know what he’s talking about if he holds up East Germany as a country to aspire to in any shape or form.
Since reunification, the German government has spent vast amounts of money on reintegrating the two halves of the city and bringing services and infrastructure in the former East Berlin up to the standard established in West Berlin. After reunification, the East German economy suffered significantly. Many East German factories were shut down due to inability to comply with West German pollution and safety standards, as well as inability to compete with West German factories. Because of this, a massive amount of West German economic aid was poured into East Germany to revitalize it. This stimulus was part-funded through a % tax on income, which led to a great deal of resentment toward the East Germans.  Despite the large sums of economic aid poured into East Berlin, there still remain obvious differences between the former East and West Berlin. East Berlin has a distinct visual style; this is partly due to the greater survival of prewar façades and streetscapes, with some even still showing signs of wartime damage. The unique look of Stalinist architecture that was used in East Berlin (along with the rest of the former GDR) also contrasts markedly with the urban development styles employed in the former West Berlin. Additionally, the former East Berlin (along with the rest of the former GDR) retains a small number of its GDR-era street and place names commemorating German socialist heroes, such as Karl-Marx-Allee , Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz , and Karl-Liebknecht-Straße . Many such names, however, were deemed inappropriate (for various reasons) and changed after a long process of review. Another popular symbolic icon of the former East Berlin (and of East Germany as a whole) is the " Ampelmännchen " (tr. "little traffic light men"), a stylized version of a fedora-wearing man crossing the street, which is found on traffic lights at many pedestrian crosswalks throughout the former East. These days they are also visible in parts of the former West Berlin. Following a civic debate about whether the Ampelmännchen should be abolished or disseminated more widely (due to concerns of consistency), several crosswalks in some parts of the former West Berlin also employ the Ampelmännchen. Even to this day, 25 years after the two cities were reunified, the people of East and West Berlin have noticeable differences between each other, which become more apparent among the older generations. The two groups also have sometimes-derogatory slang terms to refer to each other. A former East Berliner (or East German) is known as an " Ossi " (from the German word for east, Ost ), and a former West Berliner (or West German) is known as a " Wessi " (from the German word for west, West ). Both sides also engage in stereotyping the other. A stereotypical Ossi has little ambition or poor work ethic and is chronically bitter, while a stereotypical Wessi is arrogant, selfish, impatient, and pushy.