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After forty years of separation, neither the West Germans nor the East Germans were prepared for the impact of reunification. But had the peoples of the two countries developed separate cultural identities to such an extent that the dissolution of the border represented merely the illusion of a return to sociocultural community? Since the collapse of the East German state in 1989 and the subsequent suturing of divided Germany in 1990, scores of books and articles have been published on the economic and political conditions that led inexorably, or less so, to the demise of the GDR, as well as myriad personal accounts by East German citizens describing their ideological and critical distance to the state, their blinkered view of the world, or their cheerful memories of childhood guided by compliant citizenship and populated with the products of Ostalgie.4 Other accounts by East and West Germans offer perspectives on life after unification and the perceived, real or imagined, differences between Ossis and Wessis as well as speculation on how long such differences will persist.

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Copyright © 2016 Berghahn Books. This chapter first appeared in Migration, Memory, and Diversity: Germany from 1945 to the Present.

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