Full Citation

  • Title East Germans Making Progress
  • Author Dornberg, John
  • Publication Title New York Herald Tribune (European Edition)
  • Collection New York Herald Tribune (European Edition)
  • Date Saturday-Sunday,  March 13-14, 1965
  • Issue Number 25555
  • Page Number 10
  • Place of Publication Paris, France
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library The New York Times Company
Results After 18 Months? East Germans Making Progress By John Dornberg Special to the Herald Tribune LEIPZIG, East Germany, March 12.—Behind East Germany’s wall, significant changes—both in condi¬ tions and attitudes—have been tak¬ ing place. The German Democratic Repub¬ lic—in spite of itself and its lead¬ ers—has made tremendous progress in the last 18 months. The two-year period of stagna¬ tion that followed the building of the Berlin wall is over. What's more, the wall seems finally to be accomplishing what party leader Walter Ulbricht intended it for. Resigned to the knowledge that there is practically no escape, East Germans are now trying to make the best of their situation. Apathy and lethargy have largely given way to a determination to make do with the system available. The “new economic system” insti¬ tuted a year ago has given the econ¬ omy new impetus, and the results, in variety, quantity and quality of goods, are beginning to show. Yet, it is clear to all that the system, which relies on such tradi¬ tional capitalistic levers as supply, demand competition and profit in¬ centives, is a step backward from classical Communist doctrines. \ Pride in Achievement What is most striking is that a small flame of national pride and consciousness is flickering. Sub¬ jected for years to regime propa¬ ganda that told them theirs was a “workers’ paradise,” East Germans today are starting to feel that their country’s rise from the ashes of war is, indeed, an achievement of which to be proud. This was the feeling voiced, in one way or another, by many young East Germans and stated most clearly by a college girl who said, both ruefully and enviously, yet with a note of pride and defiance: “We all know life is better, eco¬ nomically, in the West. But what we have here we built with our own hands and from scratch. After all, while West Germany was get¬ ting extensive aid from the United States, we were being milked dry by the Russians.” This flicker of national pride and consciousness may never brighten the image of the regime and its leaders, most of whom are openly despised. And, as is only human, East Germans praise each other g when things are good but blame only the regime when mishaps occur. But it is interesting and signifi¬ cant to note that most young, and not a few older, East Germans, if faced with the opportunity of na¬ tional reunification now, would be reluctant to give up all aspects of their Communist economic and so¬ cial system. t y ¬ ¬ , f e ¬ , ¬ d ¬ ¬ s r f f n g t , t ¬ t r r ¬ d y d n s y , r Some Benefits “Make no mistake about it,” said a young salesman at a trade-fair exhibit, “this part of the country was always more leftist than West Germany and people here like the educational benefits and the social- security gains won under this re¬ gime. Also, I do not think they would be inclined to turn the fac¬ tories and big stores back over to their original owners.” Certainly, any assessment of what has transpired recently in the GDR must be qualified by one thing. East Germany will not stand the test of comparison with West Ger¬ many. A gray pallor hangs heavy over the country and its life—from the appearance of its cities to the clothes sold in its stores, the color of the household goods and furnish¬ ings on sale, the appearance of its magazines and newspapers, the gro¬ ceries in the stores, the appearance of even the most expensive and ex¬ clusive of its restaurant^ and even the food on the plates and the table¬ cloths on which they are served. By comparison, East Germany seems to have stood still for 30 years. Saxons and Thuringians seem to live in a physical world of yester¬ year, either because the objects of their daily lives have not been re¬ placed or because the replacements —with but rare exceptions—are de¬ signed in the style of yesterday. Copy West The rare exceptions—in furniture, appliances and clothing—are gen¬ erally copied from Western designs of a few years ago, and then slated largely for export, not domestic consumption. Export, clearly, is East Germany’s major goal these days, and the only way to fight the drastic balance-of- payments problem. Unlike West Germans, whose so¬ ciety and habits have been influ¬ enced greatly by the United States and the impetus of travel abroad, East Germans seem to have pre- g e s ¬ d f ¬ e f ¬ served the customs and habits of their provinces. The Russian influence is minimal, because it was never welcomed, and travel abroad has been a luxury de¬ nied them both by economic cir¬ cumstances and government restric¬ tions. Moreover, there is a tangible lack of freedom—not of speech or ex¬ pression, for East Germans are quite outspoken in their criticism these days—but of movement. Every¬ where one goes one needs a pass or identity card of some sort to enter. Any assessment of East Germany, however, can be made only on East German terms. Within that frame¬ work, a great deal has happened during the last year and a half. More Cars The number of automobiles has nearly doubled and is now nearing the one-million mark, which gives East Germans a per-capita motor¬ ization density one-third of West Germany’s. This is astounding in view of the fact that delivery periods are still four years and even the cheapest model costs more than a skilled worker earns in a year. And gaso¬ line costs about $1.40 per gallon. Clothing is plentiful and not too expensive, though a decade behind Western styles, colorless and poorly tailored, unless one has the money to buy clothing from France, Swit¬ zerland and West Germany and shoes from Italy at prices three times as high as in their countries of origin. In contrast to the meat and pota¬ to shortage of 18 months ago, shelves in grocery stores are laden with merchandise. Except for cer¬ tain items, food is plentiful and cheap. In fact, generally speaking, the cost of basic living is cheaper in East than West Germany, due primarily to ridiculously low rents and service costs. But for the low¬ er prices, standards are accordingly lower, too. d r y t e - e¬ y c¬ o t R e ¬ y m e r ¬ s ¬ e ¬ n ¬ y 0 m r¬ f ¬ s e¬ e, ¬ s d