Former student Jakob Miethe received the incentive prize from de Volkskrant and the Duitsland Instituut of the University of Amsterdam last week. He was awarded 500 euros for his bachelor’s thesis on the economic developments in East Germany after 1991. An article on his thesis will also be published in the newspaper.
Jakob Miethe, 23 years old, born and raised in East Germany, completed his bachelor’s of European Studies and has left Maastricht. He is in France at the moment brushing up his French. The subject of his thesis, of course, has to do with his native soil and personal experiences. “I don’t like the way political leaders celebrate the reunification without qualification. Last year Helmut Kohl turned eighty and there was a lot of fuss about his achievements in unifying Germany. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that there’s one Germany now. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to study in Maastricht. My mother, for example, wasn’t allowed to study in the GDR. But all this doesn’t mean you may not criticize the way they organized the reunification and there are many mistakes and crimes one can criticize.”
A brief history: On 9 November 1989, the Berlin wall came down. West German Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl was on a state visit in Poland at the time. He returned and began to make preparations for the unification in the following year. On 3 October 1990, it became a reality: the DDR became part of the Federal Republic of Germany. Elections were held quite soon after. Helmut Kohl’s CDU party won.
Miethe: “In industry and manufacturing, East Germany still lags behind and I think that this is a natural development following the economic choices made at the time of the reunification. Huge amounts of money have been transferred, a great sacrifice by the West-German population one can only be grateful for, but it’s not being used to boost economic potential.”
What went wrong then? “The rapid monetary integration of two economies which could hardly have been more dissimilar is just one example." And what bothers him the most? “Today it seems as if Helmut Kohl’s CDU found more in winning the elections after the unification than in investing in the economic development of East Germany.”
He ends his thesis with a personal note, about the image that West Germans have of East Germans, about them being people who are unhappy with the unified Germany. “You must have noticed: economically the last 20 years were anything but a success story for East Germans. When a democratic transition is accompanied by increasing unemployment, industrial decline and a rise of insecurity, it is bound to be questioned. The absence of an industrial policy has created problems which exceed mere economic considerations by far.”