All regime changes are accompanied by a high degree of uncertainty, since it is unclear who the winners and losers will be. Euphoria often turns quickly into disillusionment, and the willingness for political engagement declines accordingly. This was also true of the former GDR, even though unification with the democratically sound and economically superior Federal Republic was supposed to cushion GDR citizens from ensuing burdens and to minimize the load placed on those in the old Republic as much as possible. Nonetheless, unification shock, which had already begun to set in early in 1991, was more all-encompassing and drawn-out than many had expected.
How should one deal with both the victims and the leaders of the old regime? How should the bankrupt command economy be converted into a profitable market economy? And how should GDR institutions be dismantled and rebuilt according to West German models? All of these questions elicited clashing opinions, and the differences were often only superficially linked to East-West oppositions. Additionally, West German dominance determined all of the political, economic, and social questions pertaining to the unification process. Talk of a unification crisis began to circulate. Initially, there had been a general sense that unification would proceed without consequences for the old Federal Republic. Some hoped that this forecast would prove true, others were critical of it (14). It soon became evident, however, that all of Germany would be affected by unification. The political changes prompted by unification included the alteration of the party landscape and the coalition pressures associated with it. For example, within only a few years, the successor party to the Socialist Unity Party [Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands or SED], the Party of Democratic Socialism [Partei des Demokratischen Sozialismus or PDS] – which had been repeatedly declared dead – established itself as a regional party in the East, integrated the actual and purported losers of unification into the political system, and frustrated West German politicians. The party (which has since been integrated into The Left [Die Linke]) regularly receives the second highest percentage of votes in regions of the former East.
(14) Wolf Lepenies, Folgen einer unerhörten Begebenheit. Die Deutschen nach der Vereinigung (Berlin, 1992).