OZY Goes Behind Deutschland’s Walls in States of the Nation: Germany

A tourist looks at the triumphal arch in Munich, Germany.

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Why you should care

Over the next six weeks, OZY will report untold stories from each of Germany’s 16 states, as the country marks 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

Thirty years ago, Germans tore down the Berlin Wall, symbolically ending the Cold War and setting the stage for the reunification of East and West Germany. Those feverish days, captured in countless films, songs and other works of art, seemed to herald the victory of openness and the defeat of restrictions on the movement of people.

Yet today, Germany is grappling with myriad new barriers and disruptions in its politics, economy, culture and technology that are promising to shape its future, while also impacting its immediate neighbors, Europe and the rest of world. Some of these “walls” are being torn down while others are being built. With States of the Nation: Germany, OZY’s latest major global project, we’ll help you make sense of it all.

Over the next six weeks leading up to Nov. 9 — when the demolition of the wall began in 1989 — OZY will report untold and surprising stories from each of Germany’s 16 states, capturing the hopes and challenges of its diverse regions. Our reporters are crisscrossing the country to capture its changing landscape, spanning migration and music; politics and pubs (really unlikely ones); cars and casinos; tech and travel; food and forests. With stories on hidden trends, upcoming personalities, pathbreaking innovations, stunning stats, fascinating experiences and forgotten nuggets from history, we’ll take you on a ride through a Germany you never knew until now.

Unearthing diverse narratives about a country isn’t easy. But it’s in our DNA. 

It’s a journey you don’t want to ignore at a time the nation stares at a cocktail of challenges unlike any it has faced since reunification. The country is the world’s fourth-largest economy and one of the engines of global exports. But its economy has now contracted for two quarters in a row, its automobile sector is in trouble, and the threat of a recession is growing. How Germany’s industrial hubs respond could influence what the global slowdown will look like.

For several years now, Germany under Chancellor Angela Merkel has been Europe’s steadiest pillar, a force around which the Continent’s collective hopes have often revolved. Now, that role appears in doubt, with questions surrounding the health of Merkel — who has been in power since 2005 and plans to step aside in 2021.

 

The country is at the center of one of the great debates of our times: migration. Four years ago, Germany welcomed more than a million refugees fleeing wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, emerging as a model for a humane, modern nation-state. Then, under pressure from a rising right, it clamped down on new asylum claims and struck a deal with Turkey to keep fresh refugees away. Still, the ultraright Alternative for Germany (AfD) continues to rise in state after state while the traditional centrist parties lose ground.

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Frankfurt’s financial district skyline

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Some of those political tensions are also reflective of a deep economic divide not dissimilar from what many other major democracies are facing. Germany’s wealthiest province, Hamburg, has a per capita GDP higher than Singapore’s (the world’s seventh-wealthiest country), while its poorest state, Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania, would rank 33rd if it were a country — on par with Slovenia. The country’s approach toward migrants and its domestic political churn will both hold examples for other nations where populism is also growing.

At the same time, Germany remains a major hub of technology and entrepreneurship. The next generation of pathbreaking German innovations might soon find their way to your living room or on your phone. And Berlin’s status as Europe’s “capital of cool” remains unchanged.

Unearthing diverse narratives about a country isn’t easy. But it’s in our DNA. After the 2016 elections showed many Americans didn’t know their own neighbors and so were surprised by the outcome, we reported from each of the 50 U.S. states in our first States of the Nation edition. Then in 2018, we went a step further, reporting from more than 200 countries and “not-quite countries,” like Kurdistan and Kosovo, shattering stereotypes and introducing hidden cultures, trends and personalities to our global audience. And earlier this year, our reporters spread out across India’s 36 states and union territories to give our audience a glimpse of the choices the country and its diverse parts were making in the run-up to the world’s largest-ever democratic exercise

Join us again and let us be your guide to a fast-changing Germany.

OZYOpinion

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