BERLIN -- "People from West Germany occupy the top of every sector now, but the fact that the situation has to change some time has become our solace," said Matthias Platzeck, 64, who while being from former East Germany, rose to be the leader of the national Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel also grew up in East Germany, but while 17 percent of the nation's citizens originally hail from the East, only 1.7 percent occupy high positions in the government or corporate executive posts nationwide, according to a 2016 Leipzig University survey. The number is shockingly low.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, but Germany is not in a celebratory mood. Platzeck, who is involved in working out anniversary events with the government, said, "I want to build a facility where those from East Germany can feel like their history is being respected."
Along with holding document exhibitions and other events to dispel the negative stereotypes surrounding East Germany, the "East German Center" will be a new place for those who called the now-defunct country home.
With floors covered in blemishes and worn-out seats, Berlin's subway shows financial difficulties the government has undergone since unification. Hans Modrow, 90, who served as the East's prime minister in German Democratic Republic (GDR)'s final days, still gets told by people he does not know on the train, "I am able to live where I do now because of you."
Legislation stipulating that citizens of East Germany would be able to continue to live in their houses after unification by making it possible to purchase their houses and land at a reduced price was nicknamed "Modrow's law."
"Superheated by investment, it was clear that the price of land would rise," Modrow explained. The law had aimed to avoid East German citizens from wandering the streets, put out by skyrocketing real estate prices. Under Modrow's law, some 300,000 people were able to buy their homes.
While Prime Minister Modrow lost in the final election to be held in East Germany and was unable to realize his dream of unifying with West Germany on equal footing, there are still people who have not forgotten his sincerity of purpose.
"Hello. Where are you going today?" Torsten Peter, 54, who daringly crossed the Berlin Wall in 1988 into West Germany, now works as a security guard at a building used for government press conferences, and he greets each visitor with a smile. Maintaining a professional attitude is his ideology, and he memorizes the face of each person who goes inside the building. If an unknown person tries to pass, he will certainly call out to them.
At the end of September 2018, Peter looked on with a smile when he saw a father and son kicking around a soccer ball at a park in the eastern part of Berlin. Perhaps he is remembering his 9-year-old son, who he had to leave behind in Indonesia when he divorced his first wife.
"I've failed plenty of times," he said. "I have paid a lot of 'tuition' to learn about freedom."
Peter then opened the Instagram app on his cellphone, and pulled up a picture of a girl of about 20, with a sharp nose and big eyes. "My daughter," he said. At only 4 years old, she had experienced her parents' divorce without truly understanding the situation. Now, she works as an actress in Indonesia. Lightly touching the screen, joy lingered in Peter's eyes, but it was soon extinguished. "We're not in touch," he said.
Climbing over the "wall" and grabbing his freedom, Peter started a family overseas. Now, he lives with his second wife and their two daughters. Recently, when he was begged for Christmas presents by his daughters, he admonished them, "You can't measure happiness with material things."
But their nagged father has one wish. "I want my daughters to go to university," he said, so they never have to pay the "tuition" for freedom that he did.
(Japanese original by Keisuke Nakanishi, Berlin Bureau)
This is the final part in a series.