In East Germany, a Decline as Stark as a Wall

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In this, the 20th year since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is preparing for a host of celebrations and commemorations leading to the November anniversary. The official story of an eastern revival was reinforced by President Obama’s recent visit to Dresden in all its reconstructed glory.

But outside big cities like Dresden, Leipzig or Berlin, in places like this former industrial mining town, the story of decline and departure has changed little in the former East Germany.

Not far beyond the few thriving urban centers, traffic is often spare on the freshly paved highways, and at night in parts of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania in the northern part of the country, there is hardly a light to be seen to either side of the autobahns.

In a popular song a few years back, the performer Rainald Grebe described a feeling of solitude by singing, “I feel so empty today, I feel Brandenburg,” referring to the former East German state that surrounds Berlin.

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