Video: The Treuhand (1991-94), and how newly reunited Germany put capitalism back together again in the former GDR.

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(Video at link below.)

November 9, 2019 will be the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s obsolescence. Communism’s collapse was followed by a period of intense politicking, resulting in the unification of the two German states on October 3, 1990.

It was said at the time that while the planet had numerous examples of how to turn an economy from capitalist to communist, no one yet knew how to flip it the other way around.

The video explains how Germany did it.

In many respects the process wasn’t pretty, although it bears recalling that for better or worse — maybe bits of both — East Germany was the only East Bloc nation to have a “West” half capable of absorbing it.

Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the others had their own privatization procedures, and controversies. When it came to figuring out how to return seized assets, these nations often had to extend the verification period into the 1930s to account for both Nazi and Communist expropriations.   

It’s the stuff of history geeks, but some readers will enjoy this video as much as I did.

East Germany and the difficult legacy of the Treuhand (Deutsche Welle)

The word ‘Treuhand’ still triggers stronger reactions in eastern Germany. For millions of former East Germans, the change from a planned to a market economy meant unemployment – and an affront that still rankles today.

As President of the Treuhandanstalt, the agency charged with privatizing the old East German economy from 1991 to 1994, Birgit Breuel pushed ahead with painful privatizations and the closure of thousands of companies – and became the hated symbol of the transition to a market economy. After decades of silence, she returns to this chapter of her life and talks in detail about a time when everything was running full speed ahead and rational decisions to completely rebuild a country needed to be taken. How did she make her decisions? How does she rate them in retrospect? And what motivated her to take on such a mammoth task at all? How much leeway did the Treuhand have? Were there any other ways to turn the former East German economy around? The filmmakers interview managers, politicians and experts about the work, goals and challenges of the Treuhand, diving back into the heady years from 1990 to 1994 and illuminating the backgrounds and consequences that still have an effect today.

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