The Administrative Buildup in East Germany Succeeded /
Sponsorships as an Aid to Quick Self-Help
When decisions made during the year of German unification are critically assessed from the vantage point of 1994, the results of this assessment do not justify the conclusion that the decisions made back then were wrong. This also applies to the decision to give the new federal states massive help in rebuilding their administrations by sending Western personnel. Granted, there were cases like that of one department head on loan from a West German municipality whose most urgent aspiration seems to have been the purchase of a low-priced property; or that of one female expert flown in from Bonn who turned right around and went back after inspecting her modest East German office.
Fortunately, these were the exceptions, and they can’t cast doubt on the usefulness of Western help, even though today, at the end of the first rebuilding phase, one occasionally hears the call: “Wessis* go home.” Mind you, a – West German – department head did in fact note critically that one occasionally saw too few Ossis in leadership positions. In his mind, that also had negative consequences: “The Western civil servants’ quest for perfectionism occasionally slowed down the rebuilding; there were too many regulations, and they were too overly detailed. The East German civil servants who were retained didn’t make decisions that were as perfect in legal terms, but they got things done.”
Construction of a New Self-Government
Still, he doesn’t question the necessity and usefulness of the Western help, nor does his – East German – office chief, who notes: “Without help from West Germany, we wouldn’t have managed to do it so quickly.” Given the virtually unanimous decision made after the fall of the Wall in favor of the legal and administrative systems of the West, there was no other choice back then: in a state system based on the rule of law, there was no place for the top-ranking political and administrative functionaries of the collapsed GDR, those responsible for the failed Communist system.
The Volkskammer’s decision of May 17, 1990, to reintroduce municipal self-government, and its decision of July 22, 1990, to reestablish the Länder that had disappeared back in 1952, meant that the administrations of 7,753 East German cities and municipalities, and of 179 counties [Landkreise] had to be rebuilt, and that the administration on the state level – state governments, intermediate agencies [Mittelbehörden], and federal offices – had to be constructed from the ground up. If one wanted to connect East Germany to the German administrative tradition, then it was inconceivable to accomplish this without guidance from West German administrative officials, especially lawyers. Does this mean that East Germans were the losers in this business? No, that’s a prejudiced view and the numbers argue against it: in 1992, nearly 1.7 million people were working at all levels of administration in the new Länder. Of those, 35,000 had been dispatched or transferred from the West: 15,000 in the federal administration, and 10,000 each in state and local administrations.
* The term Wessi refers to West Germans and Ossi to East Germans – eds.