Court to Decide if East Germans are Ethnic Group

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A woman born in the former East Germany claims she was discriminated against on the basis of her ethnic identity when a company wrote "Ossi" on her rejected application. A labor court in Stuttgart will rule on this thorny issue of German identity on Thursday.

Twenty years may have passed since German reunification, but a certain amount of prejudice and suspicion persists between those who lived on either side of the Berlin Wall. But does being an eastern or western German constitute having a different ethnic identity?

That is what a woman born in the former East Germany is claiming. She says she was discriminated against on the basis of that identity when she sought a job in western Germany. A labor court in the western city of Stuttgart is set to rule on Thursday whether being an Ossi -- as Easterners are frequently called in Germany, often disparagingly -- indeed constitutes belonging to a separate ethnic group.

Born in East Berlin, Gabriele S. secured an exit visa for West Germany in 1988 and has since lived in Stuttgart. In the summer of 2009, the 49-year-old applied for a job at a window manufacturer in the city. She failed to get the job and when her application was returned to her, as is customary in Germany, she found that someone had scribbled "Ossi" and a minus sign across her resume....

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