Past securities to which East Germans were accustomed, such as housing and a range of socialist measures ranging from free child care to liberal abortion laws, were soon under reform. The extent of infrastructure investment required in East Germany can be see in one simple fact: even the thousands of cheap housing tenements thrown up during the last 30 years in fact needed major restructuring and modernisation to meet basic West German levels. We can glimpse the difficulty of absorbing East Germany through some of the difficulties the European Community and its Commission had on this issue: in early 1990 it had to create exemptions for 80% of its food laws in order to avoid wiping out the East German food processing industry (Paterson & Smith, in Smith 1992, p21). East German companies were given a 5 year period (until 1995) to come into line with wider European safety and quality standards. Likewise, large numbers of East German industries now found their products too expensive for export. This applied even to apparently successful foreign cash earners such as the camera company Pentacon, which was in fact supported by a wide range of government subsidies (Roskin 1992, p197). By the late 1990s, large segments of the older industrial and consumer production industries in the eastern areas had been effectively wiped out, and only partially replaced by new firms.
A more serious legacy was in the minds of East Germans - for more than 40 years they had been subject to a Stalinist regime in which the state security organs, the Stasi, relied on informers and the enforcement of censorship to try to limit and control their aspirations. Certain test cases have highlighted the difficulties of social unification: the issue of abortion-on-demand (which is not compatible with West German constitutional guarantees for the right to life), the desire for the prosecution of Honecker and of border guards who shot those escaping to the West. Likewise, attitudes towards World War II and the Nazi past have also been reviewed as East Germany opens its archives to world scrutiny. The East German State Security Police, the Stasi, had deeply penetrated ordinary society through the widespread use of informers, and some western political leaders were found to have some connection with this hated organisation, e.g. Lothar de Maiziere, a noted non-Communist East German, was forced to resign from Kohl's cabinet due to such allegations (Roskin 1992, p202). The whole issue of reviewing who had a ‘dirty past’ became a major problem both ethically and legally for Germans. Furthermore, the Stasi also built up major profiles on West German citizens. We can see this in a recent estimate of Stasi activity: -
In Russian-Controlled East Germany, the Stasi built up secret files on some 500,000 prominent people living in what was then West Germany. It is also reckoned that one in three of the former communist regime's 17m citizens were, at one time or another, spied on, and reports on them placed in the files. The Stasi had a full-time staff of 90,000, plus at least 174,000 paid informers, not to mention legions of occasional narks. (Economist 2000)
This data would turn out to be very embarrassing for Helmut Kohl when files created in the 1970s and 1980s revealed that he may have known more about an illegal slush fund created by his party, the Christian Democrats, than he had admitted. Although many of these files have been destroyed, those that remain have been used in 'vetting civil servants, for criminal proceedings', and individuals have been able to look at their own records (Economist 2000). Such factors would help lead to the eventual resignation of Kohl as chairman of the Christian Democrats in January 2000 (Hooper 2000) when he refused to name persons who had made secret donations