The legacy of Frederick II. The state of Brandenburg encircles the German
capital. Just outside Berlin lies the state capital of Potsdam (140,000), venue
of the Potsdam Conference where, in the summer of 1945, the leaders of the United
States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union took decisions which greatly affected
the future of conquered Germany. Potsdam had been deliberately chosen for the
conference because of its close association with Prussian-German history, King
Frederick II (1712-1786) having made it his residence. Frederick's architectural
masterpieces in Potsdam, especially those in the beautiful park of Sanssouci,
outlived Prussia's existence as a state. It was there that the enlightened monarch
held philosophical discussions with his friends, who included Voltaire (1694-1778).
And there he also received other famous guests such as Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).
Dutchmen and Huguenots. For a long time thinly populated
Brandenburg remained economically underdeveloped. In order to rectify this situation
its rulers opened the borders to large numbers of foreigners in the 17th and 18th
Dutch immigrants as well as Protestants who had been expelled
from France and Bohemia brought their knowledge and skills and played a major
part in the region's advancement. We are still reminded of this by such names
as the 'Dutch Quarter' and the 'French Church' in Potsdam.
The countryside around Berlin has been impressively described
by Theodor Fontane (1819-1898), a descendant of French Huguenots, in his famous
'Walks in the March of Brandenburg'.
Brandenburg is the largest of the new German states. Agriculture
and forestry are important branches of the economy. Thirty-five per cent of the
total area is forest (mainly fir). This region grows rye and wheat, oilseed, potatoes
and sugarbeet and, in a belt around Berlin and in the Oderbruch near Frankfurt
on the Oder, fruit and vegetables. The industrial centres are around Eisenhuttenstadt
(steel) and Cottbus, where the lignite mines provide the raw materials for the
chemical industry and energy. 23.6 per cent of the workforce are employed in engineering
and the automotive industry. Mercedes Benz has a truck assembly works in Ludwigsfelde
to the south of Berlin. The company proposes to invest one billion marks there.
Frankfurt on the Oder is known for its electrical engineering and appliance construction
industries. Increasing numbers of tourists are attracted to Brandenburg's rugged
but none the less charming landscape of forests and lakes.
The old (1508-1811) and new (since 1991) university town
of Frankfurt on the Oder acquires a new significance as a distribution port for
eastern Europe now that visas are no longer required for travel between Germany
and Poland. Since 1991 a German-Polish intergovernmental commission for regional
and transborder cooper- ation has been promoting good-neighbourly contacts in
the Euro-regions of 'Viadrina' and 'Spree-Neisse-Bobr'.
Brandenburg sees good prospects of sharing in Berlin's economic
boom. There are plans for merging Brandenburg and Berlin into one federal state
with Potsdam as the capital. This is the task of an inter-state commission.
A city with a turbulent past. For decades
Berlin was the symbol of Germany's division and a flashpoint in the Cold War between
the victorious western powers and the Soviet Union. In 1948 only the unforgettable
airlift enabled the West Berliners to survive an 11-month Soviet blockade of the
city. Aircraft of the American Air Force, supported by the British and French
allies, kept the people of West Berlin supplied with vital necessities.
In the 50s the three western sectors and East Berlin grew
more and more apart. The city's partition seemed to be cemented for ever when
the East Germans began to build that infamous wall on 13 August 1961. With his
famous call 'Ich bin ein Berliner' in front of Schoneberg town-hall in 1963, US
President John F. Kennedy endorsed his support for the city and its people. Among
Berlin's governing mayors are such famous names as Ernst Reuter, Willy Brandt
and Richard von Weizsacker. And in 1987 President Ronald Reagan, in a speech near
the Brandenburg Gate, appealed to the Soviet Union to 'tear down this wall'. The
wall was indeed opened - on 9 November 1989 - in the wake of the peaceful revolution
in East Germany. That was the city's chance to make a new start.
Germany's capital and a European cultural centre. Prior
to its spiritual and cultural decline under the nazi dictatorship, and prior to
the destruction caused by the Second World War, Berlin was not only the hub of
German industry but, in the 'golden twenties', also one of Europe's cultural capitals.
With Germany's division now a thing of the past, cultural roots, severed for decades,
can grow together again and complement each other. Berlin boasts three opera houses
(Deutsche Oper, Deutsche Staatsoper, Komische Oper), several major orchestras
and dozens of theatres, and it continues to be one of the world's greatest museum
cities. The leading newspapers are 'Berliner Morgenpost', 'Berliner Zeitung' and
'Tagesspiegel'. The university in the eastern part of the city is named after
the von Humboldt brothers, Wilhelm (1767-1835), the scholar and politician, and
Alexander (1769-1859), a famous naturalist and traveller. In the western part
are the Free University and the Technical University, both founded in 1948. Berlin
also has many famous research establishments, such as the Hahn Meitner Institute
of Nuclear Physics, the Heinrich Hertz Institute of Communications Technology,
and the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.
The future seat of the Federal Government continues to grow
and it is estimated that the metropolitan area's present population of 3,5 million
will almost double by the year 2000. Great efforts are being made to modernize
the city's transport systems (roads, city and underground railways, ferries, airports)
without destroying its many parks, woods and lakes.
Berlin is still Germany's largest industrial centre, focusing
mainly on engineering, food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, textiles and especially
electrical goods. Two world famous companies were established there in the 19th
century: Siemens and AEG. With Berlin as their base they have successfully coped
with the transition to the information age.
The reunited city faces tremendous challenges. The people
in both parts of Berlin, having lived for decades under different political systems,
are now growing accustomed to one another again and the economic disparity is
being overcome. Hundreds of thousands of flats, especially in the eastern districts,
are being brought up to standard. Unification has sparked an economic boom but
the measures needed to link the two parts together, to develop and modernize the
future seat of government and to accommodate the rapidly growing population demand
creativity, investment and enterprise. German and foreign investors have meanwhile
acquired large plots of land at Potsdamer Platz, which had remained derelict since
the Second World War. Planning for the new government quarter in the Spreebogen
is well advanced. 835 architects from 44 countries took part in a competition
for the area's overall design and layout. The nearby cathedral, having been renovated
over the past 20 years, is now resplendent in its former glory.
The Free State of Saxony
'Little Paris' and
'Florence on the Elbe'. Saxony is the most densely populated and most industrialized
of the new German states. More than one fifth of the region's 4.9 million inhabitants
live in Leipzig (508,000) and Dresden (488,000). Leipzig, famous for its international
industrial fair and referred to by Goethe as 'little Paris', was one of the main
centres of peaceful resistance to the Communist regime in East Germany. The 'Monday
demonstrations' in the city culminated on 9 October 1989 in the chant: 'We are
the people!' And Dresden, that 'pearl of baroque architecture' which was reduced
almost to ashes in the inferno of the 1945 bombings, has been made capital of
the restored 'Free State of Saxony'.
The Meissen porcelain factory has been producing its famous
merchandise continuously since 1710. The year before, Johann Friedrich Bottger
(1682-1719) had produced his formula for this 'white gold'. Also world-famous
are the wood carvings and pillow lace from the Erzgebirge.
Chemnitz, with its Technical University and research institutes,
focuses on mechanical engineering and, of late, micro-electronics. Zwickau is
a car manufacturing centre, though instead of the legendary Trabant ('Trabi')
Volkswagen's 'Polo' is now produced there. Leipzig, once Germany's most important
commercial centre and hub of the publishing world, continues to stage its international
trade fair, which makes it a gateway to Eastern Europe.
Dresden, popularly known as 'Florence on the Elbe', hopes
to be able to live up to its reputation as one of Germany's cultural centres.
It is still a leading city in the world of music, with the Opera House, built
in the Italian Renaissance style by Gottfried Semper in 1870-78, restored to its
former glory, the Staatskapelle, and the famous choir, the Kreuzchor. It is an
El Dorado of the visual arts with its extensive collections of precious stones,
pearls and works of art in the Grunes Gewolbe and its paintings by European masters
in the Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister.
The Elbe Sandstone Mountains in the 'Switzerland of Saxony'
is a popular holiday region, but not only on account of the ideal climbing conditions
it has to offer. Great efforts are being made to expand the tourist trade. An
'Erzgebirge Silver Route' is being developed which will lead visitors to 150 places
Creative energy and enterprising spirit. Saxony features
in many chapters of German cultural history. The works of Johann Sebastian Bach
(born in Eisenach in 1685) are traditionally performed by the St. Thomas's Choir
in Leipzig where he was cantor from 1723 until his death in 1750. Gottfried Wilhelm
Leibniz (1646-1716), philosopher, mathematician and diplomat, discovered the binary
number system and - independently of Newton - infinitesimal calculus. Gotthold
Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) extolled in his drama 'Nathan the Wise' the virtues
of humanity and tolerance. Other sons of Saxony are the composers Robert Schumann
(1810-1856) and Richard Wagner (1813-1883).
Even when eastern Germany had a centrally planned economy
the Saxons retained their artistic and business sense. Now their characteristic
enterprise is beginning to reassert itself. Of the new federal states, this one
is considered to have the best economic prospects.