The restaurant industry has also experienced an upswing. The first two Italian restaurants in Magdeburg, the cause of much astonishment in 1990, have been joined over the years by Chinese and Greek restaurants. The large number of well-paid and poorly housed civil servants on loan from West Germany enabled the “upswing East” in the state capital’s gastronomic scene. Industry in Magdeburg is still waiting for the same thing to happen to it. Of the 30,000 workers employed at the time of the monetary union, only about 5,000 are still working in Magdeburg’s traditional machinery building and industrial equipment manufacturing sector today. After the Deutschmark had replaced the transferable ruble* and the Soviet Union had dissolved, Magdeburg machine manufacturers were barely able to sell a ship diesel motor or a rolling mill in their traditional markets in the East. So far, the service sector and the administration have been the sole source of almost all new jobs. Thanks to the large number of agencies and ministries, unemployment in Magdeburg, most recently at 14.8 percent, is still below the state average of 17.7 percent. The deplorable state of the economy makes it more difficult for East and West to coalesce in Magdeburg.
As long as West Germans in the federal Treuhandanstalt are making decisions about the welfare of thousands of workers, the image of the “bad Wessi” won’t disappear all that quickly. Because they, too, were unable to prevent a growing number of people from having to go on the dole, Western politicians stopped being seen as miracle workers long ago. If it was a plus for a politician to be from the West in 1990/91, then in 1993/94 it would appear to be a minus that has to be compensated for by other qualities. In many areas there was no unification: one can still see West German officials sitting at separate tables in pubs in the evening, because they prefer to be among themselves. Some government departments, like the State Chancellery,** are almost purely Western domains. Conversely, where East Germans are in the majority, as in the Ministry of the Environment, “Wessis” have no opportunities to get ahead. At least there are more and more West Germans in Magdeburg who are moving their residence to Saxony-Anhalt and aren’t commuting to Lower Saxony every weekend. Personally, I have carried out unification with the East: I will not be leaving Magdeburg alone as I head to Mexico City. My new wife, a true blue Magdeburgerin, is coming with me.
Klaus Blume, the bureau chief of dpa-Magdeburg, will be the correspondent in Mexico City beginning November 1 .
* The transferable ruble (1964-1991) was used as the accounting unit in foreign trade interactions between members of the Council for Economic Assistance (or COMECON) – eds.
** Office of the Minister President of a particular federal state; in this case, Saxony-Anhalt – eds.
Source: Klaus Blume, “Als Lenin-Büsten auf den Müll wanderten” [“When Busts of Lenin were tossed into the Trash”], Horizont, October 29, 1993, p. 84.
Translation: Thomas Dunlap