Reminders of deep divide, signs of hope mix in Ulster

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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BELFAST — On the surface, it looks like any other cookie-cutter, working-class neighborhood in Europe.

Small, dull houses are pushed up against one another, with a few tiny patches of green grass poking through the gray tones.

But look a little closer at this two-block housing development in West Belfast, and you notice what’s missing: people.

“No one will live here,” says Carl Von Ohsen, a development officer for Making Belfast Work, an agency aimed at bringing peace to Northern Ireland. “This is the border between Catholic Belfast and Protestant Belfast. People know what can happen to people who live here – the beatings, the killings.”

At a time when Northern Ireland is supposed to be at peace, those long-empty homes are a reminder that all is not yet well here.

Last year, the world rejoiced when Catholic and Protestant leaders reached an agreement many thought impossible just a few years ago: a deal for the two sides to put down their guns and share power in a new government.

The date of the deal – Good Friday – brought overtones of hope and salvation. In the euphoria, the top leaders of both sides won last year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

And while yesterday brought another major political breakthrough, winning over the hearts and minds of everyday people, trained to hate one another for four centuries, will prove more difficult.

“Socially and economically, Catholics and Protestants are in the same situation, and they’ve got the same problems,” Mr. Von Ohsen said. “But each side thinks the other is better off, and they hate each other for it. I’m not optimistic that will change anytime soon.”

You can’t tell the difference between Belfast’s Catholics and Protestants by looking at them. But sometimes you can tell by listening to the words they use.

To Catholics, the second largest city in Northern Ireland is called Derry. To Protestants, it’s Londonderry, in recognition of the Protestants from the British capital who took control of the town in 1609.

Protestants often call Northern Ireland Ulster, as in the name of Northern Ireland’s largest Protestant party, the Ulster Unionists.

In contrast, the name of one of the two main Catholic parties, Sinn Fein, isn’t even in English; it means “we, ourselves” in Irish. Sinn Fein is the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, a paramilitary group aimed at a reunited Ireland, through violence if necessary.

Catholics point out that the ancient boundaries of Ulster actually include three counties now in the Republic of Ireland, and that their goal is to unite them.

The divide in Northern Ireland has even split the language in two. “The differences are important,” said Dominic Doherty, press officer for Sinn Fein. “Words actually mean things here.”

Driving around West Belfast – the part of this 300,000-person capital city hardest hit by the Troubles – shows quickly that the division goes far beyond language.

Police stations look like forts, surrounded by 25-foot windowless concrete walls topped with barbed wire. It’s a rare sight to see anyone actually walking into a police station. Many Catholics and Protestants choose to get their “justice” through local paramilitaries, who use beatings to get their points across to suspected criminals, even of their own religion.

In the most one-sided parts of the city, Belfast’s famous murals of masked gunmen still loom over residential neighborhoods. Ten-foot walls, put up by the government for peacekeeping purposes, divide Catholic neighborhoods from Protestant ones.

Almost comically, the division lasts beyond death. When it was discovered a few years ago that a city cemetery included Catholics and Protestants, locals built an underground wall to separate the two sets of bodies.

“After you’re dead and turning to dust, you’re still on one side or the other,” said Jason Welley, a Catholic West Belfast construction worker.

The battles over Northern Ireland began in 1609, during the reign of James I, the Scot who had become King of England. British military forces were in control of nearly all of Ireland, with the notable exception of Ulster, a province in the northeast.

English officials came up with a solution to their problem: encourage tens of thousands of English Protestants to move to Ulster. This colonization replaced the Catholic leadership in Ulster with a Protestant one. While there continued to be battles between the two groups for centuries, the lines were drawn and Ulster became mostly Protestant while the rest of Ireland remained mostly Catholic.

As punishment for a variety of rebellions over the years, the English enacted punishing laws discriminating against Catholics, stripping them of their rights and their lands. By 1700, less than 10 per cent of Irish land was owned by Catholics.

Eventually, Great Britain began to relent on its stern command of Ireland. . In January, 1922, Ireland was formally partitioned politically – one parliament for the six majority-Protestant counties of Ulster, which became Northern Ireland, and one for the rest of Ireland, which became the Irish Free State.

Still, problems continued. Dissident groups within the Free State, unhappy with the accord with Britain, began waging war against the Free State’s provisional government. Once the groups settled their differences, the Free State turned its attention to gaining economic strength and severing its ties to Great Britain. This struggle continued for another two decades.

It wasn’t until April 18, 1949, that the Republic of Ireland was formed, free of any allegiance to the British crown and the Commonwealth. The next month, the British Parliament voted to keep Northern Ireland as a part of Great Britain. The Republic of Ireland objected, demanding return of the six counties to form a united Ireland. Its leaders have been making that demand ever since.

“There’s no reason for there to be two Irelands,” said Francie Molloy, a Sinn Fein member of the new assembly created by the Good Friday accord.

Catholics began a civil rights movement in 1968, which they intended to put them on an equal level with the Protestant rulers. Catholics earned many concessions, such as equal rights in housing, voting, and employment. But the peaceful movement was also the start of the violence-ridden “Troubles,” pitting nationalists and republicans (who want Northern Ireland united with the rest of Ireland) against unionists and loyalists (who want to keep the North’s association with Britain).

In the 31 years since, the human cost has been substantial. More than 3,200 people have died from bombings, shootings, and beatings, along with tens of thousands injured. The main culprit has been the IRA, but in response to their actions, several loyalist paramilitaries have taken up arms.

The underground paramilitaries have always been small. Some have only a few dozen members, and experts believe that the IRA has never had more than a few hundred. But they’ve caught the 1.6 million people of the North in their crossfire.

“Ulster’s been torn apart,” said Sarah McDonald, a Protestant housewife who lives a few blocks away from the infamous Shankill Road, site of dozens of violent acts during the Troubles. “Some people want to give in to the other side to get peace, and some want to keep fighting. I don’t think we should give in yet.”

Because the two sides’ demands are so far apart, compromise was almost impossible for decades. Either the North would be part of Great Britain, or it wouldn’t. Bombs in Northern Ireland became a regular highlight of the American evening news, and some Irish-Americans chose to help fund the IRA’s militant efforts.

The last few years, however, have seen enormous progress. In 1997, the IRA declared a cease-fire, and representatives of Sinn Fein were invited to the negotiating table at peace talks chaired by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell. Finally, last year, the parties announced an agreement to create a government in which members of all the major parties would share power.

The accord calls for a national assembly and a 12-member executive, the equivalent of the cabinet in America. Four of the seats in the executive will go to the Ulster Unionists, and four will go to the largest nationalist party, the Social Democratic and Labor Party, which has always opposed the violence on both sides. As the two largest parties, the UUP and the SDLP have long formed the moderate center of Northern politics; their leaders, John Hume for the SDLP and David Trimble for the UUP, were winners of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Two seats each will go to the more extreme Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party, an openly anti-Catholic party that considers the Good Friday agreement treachery against the Protestant majority.

If it all works, it would be the first time since a brief failed experiment in 1974 that loyalists and republicans shared government power. It would allow Northern Ireland to rule itself for the first extended period since 1972, when the British government took control from the fractured local parliament.

But the Good Friday accord did not settle all the tough questions, for either the politicians or the general population.

For the politicians, the biggest problem has been a dispute over the IRA and other paramilitaries giving up their weapons. The Ulster Unionists have operated for several years under the slogan “No guns, no government,” meaning that until the IRA decommissions its guns and explosives, it will not sit in government with any representatives of Sinn Fein.

But that potentially explosive issue was partially resolved yesterday, when the Ulster Unionists voted to join in the formation of the executive tomorrow, the same day the IRA begins negotiations on decommissioning.

It’s not a guarantee of peace – the IRA still has not turned in one weapon, and Mr. Trimble has said he will resign if that hasn’t happened by February – but it’s an important step.

“We need more than assurances,” said Rev. Robert Coulter, an Ulster Unionist member of the Northern Ireland Assembly. “We need weapons. If we let them into the government, they have no excuses for armed patriotism any more.”

The stakes are high for the current peace talks, as the last few years of relative peace hang in the balance. “History tells us that when there’s a vacuum, and the political process isn’t working, then in come the people with violent intentions,” said Jackie Johnston, an assistant director of political affairs in the Northern Ireland government.

“If this process fails, you’d be straight into open civil war worse than what we’ve seen,” said Pauline Lindsay, a secretary who works for the Ulster Unionist Party. “It’d be Kosovo all over again.”

But even if the party leaders reach a settlement of their own, the general population of Northern Ireland will still have four centuries of religious warfare in its history, and a pattern of hatred difficult to eradicate. The views of the two sides remain far apart.

While legal discrimination against Catholics has been eliminated, it continues on among the Protestant business owners who have long held economic power in Northern Ireland. Catholic unemployment rates are more than twice as high as Protestant ones; in some Catholic neighborhoods, as many as 65 per cent are jobless.

“I think a lot of it does come down to money,” said Janey Wilcox, a Protestant nurse from suburban Belfast. “It’s economics, really: if you have a job, you don’t want to make trouble.”

And even if the IRA turns in its weapons – certainly not a foregone conclusion – there are still more violent groups ready to enter the fray to scuttle peace. Several extremist IRA splinter groups, most notably one calling itself the Real IRA, are believed to be hoarding weapons just across the border with the Republic, ready to strike.

Still, there are reasons for hope in Northern Ireland. There has been relative peace since the IRA’s 1997 cease-fire, although the paramilitaries on both sides continue to murder dozens of “troublemakers” annually. The economy, fed by the Republic of Ireland’s boom and the U.K.’s continued prosperity, is doing well. Belfast has seen an influx of foreign capital previously scared off by the violence; a new Hilton has just gone up downtown.

And as scarred psychologically as Northern Ireland may be, it has never been the disaster zone other parts of the world have been.

“We’ve never reached the level of the Balkans,” said Dr. Sean Antrim, an SDLP assembly member who will be one of the 12 executive ministers if the government is ever formed. “We’ve never gone over the precipice here. We’ve gone to the edge and looked over to see what’s there, but we’ve always scampered back.”

If the current political debate over decommissioning is solved, and a government is formed, the cooperation that would be created by power sharing could go a long way to building common ground between Catholics and Protestants, who often agree on issues.

“The Troubles are about history, culture, and feelings, not about politics,” Mr. Johnston said. “On health issues, economic issues, agricultural issues, the differences are not large.”

“I think people are getting more mature,” Mr. Coulter of the Ulster Unionists said. “People can work together once you get past republicans vs. loyalists.”

There are real issues to deal with, such as the fact that 60 per cent of the economy is still in the public sector and significant problems with the province’s agricultural business.

In time, the decision on the unification question may be made for leaders by Northern Ireland’s changing demographics.

The Catholic birth rate is higher than that of Protestants. Some Protestants, perhaps seeing an eventual Catholic victory or simply tired of the fighting, have left for England.

Over the last 10 years, the population of the Shankill Road area, long West Belfast’s Protestant stronghold, has dropped 75 per cent.

“Protestants feel as though they’re under siege,” Mr. Von Ohsen said.

“A lot of my friends have moved out to the suburbs, or just left Ireland, to get away from all this,” said Ms. McDonald, who lives near Shankill Road.

As a result, some demographers predict that within a decade or so, Catholics will become the majority.

Currently, Northern Ireland is about 42 per cent Catholic; they already make up majorities in four of the six counties.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that his government would allow the North to join Ireland if a majority of voters ever approved such a move.

“It’s a matter of time, really,” Mr. Doherty of Sinn Fein said. “The unionists want to hold on to their privilege and power for as long as they can, and they’re willing to stall and be obstructionist if that will accomplish their goals.”

All sides agree that a solution to the generations of enmity will take time.

Their brightest hope may be the next generation, which may be beginning to look beyond the sectarianism of the past.

At an Internet cafe a few blocks away from the North’s most prestigious college – the somewhat argumentatively named Queen’s University – 25-year-old George O’Neill sips a latte and surfs the web site for CNN.

Mr. O’Neill knows computers, and has a job writing software for a company in South Belfast.

“It’s tragic that it’s gone on for as long as it has,” he said. “But a lot of people my age couldn’t care less what you are. They’re more interested in what kind of a person you are.” Mr. O’Neill said he is a Protestant, but quickly added that “it’s not a big deal for me.”

Sitting at the next computer terminal at the cafe was Jenny McGowan, also 25.

“I’m a Catholic, but that doesn’t mean I hate Protestants or anything,” she said while taking a break from reading up on fashion news at a web site.

“It’s silly to hate people for things that they had no control over and that happened hundreds of years ago.”

Irish-Americans provide money, moral support

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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Throughout the three decades of conflict in Northern Ireland, those on both sides have looked to America as one of their greatest resources.

And why not: There are more than seven times as many Irish-Americans as there are Irish.

“They’ve played an important part in the conflict for decades,” said Dr. Seamus Metress, a professor of anthropology at the University of Toledo and a longtime activist for a united Ireland.

The famous potato famines of 1845 to 1851 reduced the population of Ireland from 8 million to 4 million. More than 1 million died, and many of the remainder fled to America.

In the 15 decades since, Ireland’s population has struggled back up to about 5.3 million. In the U.S., 42 million Americans are of Irish descent, according to the 1990 census.

Irish-Americans have been supporting the republican cause throughout this century. But beginning with the Irish civil rights movement in 1968 – when images of British soldiers beating Catholics with batons made their way onto the nightly news – more and more Americans decided to get involved.

Some raised money for human rights organizations and wrote articles about the crisis. Others went further, and shipped arms and money to groups such as the Irish Republican Army. A 1973 FBI report stated that the Irish conflict had been largely paid for with American dollars; that trend has continued throughout the bloody times since.

The violent aspect of the Irish-American connection was in the news in August, when four men were arrested in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and charged with attempting to export more than 40 handguns and several hundred rounds of rifle ammunition to the IRA. The IRA has denied it was involved in the gun-running operation; the four men are awaiting trial.

John Finucane, national president of the American Ireland Educational Foundation, estimated that 100,000 Americans have been involved in the Irish conflict over the years, from writing letters to members of Congress to shipping guns to the IRA. That’s a tiny percentage of the total number of Irish-Americans, but still a substantial number.

“It’s hugely important to have that American backing, whether it’s money or just moral support,” said Mr. Finucane, who was born in the United States to Irish parents.

Mr. Finucane’s group advocates a united Ireland, but only through nonviolent means. On some issues, he said, his group can mobilize enough American support for 10,000 letters to reach Congress in a few days.

But Dr. Metress and Mr. Finucane agree that most Irish-Americans have stayed out of Irish politics entirely.

“Most people get in touch with their Irish roots once a year, on St. Patrick’s Day,” Dr. Metress said. A few others get fired up about the British occupation while drinking Irish beer at pubs, he said; he calls them “Guinness commandos.”

Most Irish-Americans concerned about their homeland have had no links to the violence there, they agree.

“Not everybody was sending explosives and guns to the IRA,” Dr. Metress said. “Most of the people who were involved were working with groups aimed at peace and justice in Ireland, not the violent end of things.”

No doubt many Irish-Americans believe that IRA stands only for Individual Retirement Account.

But with the IRA and its political wing Sinn Fein achieving greater standing through their inclusion in the peace process, many Irish-Americans are making their support of the cause more open. In September, Sinn Fein leaders held a $500-a-plate dinner at the Plaza Hotel in New York. The dinner raised more than $500,000 for the party, Mr. Finucane said.

Some Irish-Americans have worked individually for the Protestant side of the fight, but the Catholic republican side has received much more American support over the years. That’s in part because Irish Catholic emigrants to the United States in the 1800s outnumbered Protestant ones. Because they shared a single church, Catholics were more likely to remain an organized community than Irish-American Protestants were.

“There’s never been an organized movement on our side in America,” said Anne Smith, the Washingtonlobbyist for the Ulster Unionist Party, Northern Ireland’s largest Protestant party.

Ms. Smith said that the work of Irish-Americans has been “very important” to the republican cause. “It’s a fairly small number of people, but they’re very passionate,” she said.

Dr. Metress, 66, is one of that small group. He became interested in Irish history as a child, when his Irish grandmother sang him songs and told him stories about the British occupation of the North. A self-described “radical republican,” Dr. Metress has been to Ireland almost a dozen times and has written dozens of articles on the island, as well as a book, The American Irish and Irish Nationalism.

In Toledo, he leads the local chapter of Clan Na Gael (the name means “band of the Irish”) and has sometimes created controversy. In 1981, at the dedication ceremony for International Park in East Toledo, members of the clan lowered the Irish flag to half-mast in front of a British consul to protest the death of Bobby Sands, an IRA hunger striker.

Dr. Metress said he’s been visited twice by FBI agents as a result of his work, which he said has never involved violence.

1st Thanksgiving celebration not remembered like it was; The Pilgrims had a big meal, but they didn’t eat like we do

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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Our images of the Pilgrims are straight out of second grade: happy, placid people, sitting around a big table with peaceful Indians, eating turkey with cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.

It’s a caricature ready-made for 7-year-olds, and almost four centuries after the landing at Plymouth, it’s almost impossible to separate fact from fiction.

But what if the Pilgrims were here in the flesh? Imagine a lost scene from a science-fiction movie: What if the pilgrims were time-warped to the present day? What would they think of the country (and holiday) they played a part in founding?

First, they’d likely be surprised that the volume of religious debate in America has been turned down so low. We’ve got Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and every other faith from animism to zoroastrianism, but almost everyone manages to get along.

We might find that something to be thankful for, but the Pilgrims would probably think it’s a tragedy.

One of their favorite books – published in 1618 by their religious leader, William Brewster – was a theological critique of the first English Catholic translation of the Bible, written by Puritan Thomas Cartwright.

Its title: A Confutation of the Rhemists’ Translation, Glosses and Annotations on the New Testament, so far as They Contain Manifest Impieties, Heresies, Idolatries, Superstitions, Prophanesse, Treasons, Slanders, Absurdities, Falsehoods, and other Evills.

Hardly the words of someone eager for people of all faiths to get along.

For a window into the force of their faith, look no further than Cartwright’s book. Brewster, the printer, spent a full decade of his life – and lives were often short back then – setting the type for the 800-plus-page tome. Cartwright’s forcefully argued theology is crammed into every available square inch of paper, a dense sea of close to a million tiny words.

Just reading it would take a lifetime. Picture what Brewster did – setting all those words into type by hand, one letter at a time – and the devotion to faith is obvious.

The grade-school version of the Pilgrims’ story says they came to America fleeing religious oppression. And the English authorities had indeed chased them out of their homeland.

But from England, the Pilgrims went to Holland, where they enjoyed freedom to worship however they chose. They lived happily there for more than a decade. They left Holland in 1620 because they didn’t want to be in a pluralistic society where multiple religions were tolerated; they feared that their children might be swayed to other faiths.

Our time-traveling Pilgrims would probably be more than a bit angry that a little feast they had back in the 1620s had led to the creation of a national holiday.

One of the reasons the Pilgrims fled England was the Church of England’s insistence that everyone participate in the church’s holidays, which the Pilgrims considered an abomination. The pilgrims hated the idea of man-made celebrations, and didn’t even celebrate Christmas, Easter, or birthdays.

In his book, Cartwright attacks Catholics for “press[ing] observations of feasts of men’s devising, and to the honor of men.” A Pilgrim dropped in a modern-day America likely would be appalled at the annual rituals, even if they are more likely to involve turkey and stuffing than bread and wine.

What we now celebrate as Thanksgiving dates back to a three-day feast the Pilgrims had in 1621 after their first harvest. About 50 Pilgrims shared the meals with roughly 90 Native Americans. There wasn’t any religious component to the day, or even much of an actual thanksgiving; their faith demanded that the giving of thanks to God be an individual action, not a ceremony.

They did have a few wild turkeys, according to accounts from the time. But no pumpkin pie and no cranberry sauce. And, as far as we know, the Pilgrims didn’t play football.

The Pilgrims certainly weren’t planning on starting an annual tradition. There is no record of them ever having another such feast.

The idea of a Pilgrim Thanksgiving was ignored for two centuries, until writings describing the original feast were rediscovered in the 1840s. Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of what was then America’s most read magazine, Godey’s Lady’s Book, began writing annual editorials calling for the creation of a national holiday. (It was her editorials that made turkey the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal.) President Abraham Lincoln answered her wishes in 1863, in the darkest days of the Civil War.

Finally, the Pilgrims would certainly be puzzled at how easy things are for Americans today. Life or death was for them often a daily debate, thanks to meager harvests and wretched winters. Fresh supplies were an ocean away. They were planting crops they had never seen. Their life required enormous reserves of resourcefulness.

They could have been back in England, where life was, if not luxurious, much easier. But by force of will, they clung to the edge of a strange continent.

A Pilgrim seeing the modern Thanksgiving spread probably would be stunned at the bounty, then amazed at learning much of it came from cans instead of the garden out back.

On this day of Thanksgiving, perhaps what we should be most thankful for is that we no longer have to live like the Pilgrims.

Thinking split on Medlin role; Conflict feared if port chairman also is development chief

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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Several local officials and businessmen seem to have no problem with G. Ray Medlin, Jr., being chairman of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority board and Toledo’s new development director.

“He’s bright, articulate, and high batteried,” said port board member George Ballas. “There won’t be any conflicts.”

But at least one Toledo councilman wants Mr. Medlin to have one job or the other – but not both.

“I just don’t see how that could not be a conflict,” Councilman C. Allan McConnell said yesterday. “I would just want to avoid the appearance of impropriety. I think if he takes the position with the city, he should resign from the port board.”

And the Ohio Ethics Commission has concerns that it could be a violation of state conflict of interest rules if he had both jobs.

Mr. Medlin, port board chairman, is under consideration for the Toledo development job. He is the executive director of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters Health & Safety Fund.

That job is based in Las Vegas, and Mr. Medlin has said in the past he is looking for new employment that would not require him to be out of town as often.

Mr. Medlin, 51, did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

He has had no paid experience in economic development, having spent the last 18 years working for a variety of union organizations in Toledo, Washington, and Las Vegas. But he has served on several area boards, and Mr. Finkbeiner said Mr. Medlin’s personal skills outweigh that lack of experience.

“Ray is a leader, first and foremost,” the mayor said. “He is one of the best, and has been for 10 years. He’s a big picture guy, a vision guy, a guy who likes big challenges.”

If he is hired by the city, his substantial role in the region’s economic development would grow.

In 1989, the port authority became, by law, the region’s lead economic development agency. Five years later, the port board created the Regional Growth Partnership to take over the job. Mr. Medlin was on the growth partnership board first in 1994, but left in 1997.

But many of the growth partnership’s projects still require the work of the port board, such as the issuance of bonds for construction projects. Some, like Mr. McConnell, who soon will leave council to take a seat on the Toledo Municipal Court bench, expressed concern that Mr. Medlin’s two jobs could cause conflicts of interest on some projects, like a new factory that could be located in Toledo or in a neighboring suburb.

At-large Councilman Gene Zmuda said he hopes “the mayor would make sure there weren’t any legal improprieties, given [Mr. Medlin’s] position as chairman of the port board. It is a question that needs to be answered. You cannot ignore the issue.”

“I think it’s an issue that he’s going to have to answer, and describe how he’ll deal with that situation,” said Bill Bostleman, president of The Bostleman Corp., a Maumee-based development and construction firm.

David Freel, executive director of the Ohio Ethics Commission, cautioned that he did not know the full details of Mr. Medlin’s case. But he said that “generally, there is a conflict under law that exists when you have a public official in one position and then in a second position with a body that contracts with a public agency.”

In other words, there may be a conflict because the city does business with the port authority, and Mr. Medlin “would be on both sides of the contract,” he said.

But he said that a potential conflict might be headed off – again, generally speaking – if the person in question were a formal representative of one body to the other. If Mr. Medlin was appointed by the city to the port board, a conflict might be avoided.

Meanwhile, Mr. Finkbeiner said he is down to two finalists for the job. Deborah Younger, named last week to be the city’s new neighborhood director, has been eliminated from consideration.

The only candidate left to challenge Mr. Medlin is Steven Rockwell, the executive director of the Federal Lands Reuse Authority of Bucks County in Warminster, Pa. Mr. Rockwell has led the redevelopment of a shuttered Navy base there into a technology center. The mayor said that Mr. Rockwell is under consideration for subordinate jobs in the city’s development department.

Mr. Medlin was appointed by the Lucas County commissioners in 1992, and reappointed by the county in 1996. The county names six members to the board, as does the city of Toledo. A 13th member is a joint appointment.

Mr. Freel said that he has spoken with city and port officials in the last week about Mr. Medlin’s case, but said that the Ethics Commission has not been asked for a formal opinion.

Mr. Finkbeiner said that, if a conflict between Mr. Medlin’s two positions ever arose, the mayor would simply ask him to abstain from voting on the issue.

But most port board members said they trust Mr. Medlin not to do anything underhanded.

“He comes in the front door, he puts his cards on the table, and he doesn’t have any hidden agendas,” said Mr. Ballas, who is a member of the growth partnership board.

“On its face, it really does appear to create some difficulties,” said port board member Doni Miller. “But there are mitigating factors. It’s a very strong board at the port, and they’re not going to allow any action that’s unduly influenced by outside forces.”

“I don’t see any problem at all,” said J. Patrick Nicholson, the port board’s vice chairman. “Quite frankly, I’d be delighted to just have him working here in Toledo, because sometimes it’s hard to reach him when he’s traveling all around the country.”

“I wouldn’t have a problem with it,” said port board member Mark Zyndorf, who is on the growth partnership’s board. “The reality is that port board members don’t have a daily handle on what the [growth partnership] is doing, so I don’t think it would be a conflict.”

Mr. Zyndorf said that if Mr. Medlin was still a member of the growth partnership board, “that would be a very different story.”

Port board member Opie Rollison said that the separation between the growth partnership and the port authority means there is no conflict between Mr. Medlin’s two jobs. “The port [authority] is a funding mechanism for the [growth] partnership, but we do not have direct control over the [growth partnership] or who they do business with,” he said.

“I would be more concerned if [growth partnership President and Chief Executive Officer] Don Jakeway was taking over the city job,” said Jerry Hayes, the acting director of the Defiance County economic development office. “I wouldn’t have any opposition to Ray taking the job.”

Sandy Isenberg, president of the Lucas County commissioners, said she is not sure if having the two jobs would be an ethics violation. She said that the county would check with Prosecutor Julia Bates to see if the hiring would be allowed, and said the Ohio Ethics Commission should be asked for a written opinion on the matter.

Ms. Isenberg said she does not know what development abilities Mr. Medlin has.

“Ray has a very dynamic personality, and I think that in any job he would take, he would do well,” Ms. Isenberg said. “But in the economic development area, I don’t know what his skills are.”

She said Mr. Medlin’s strength is his ability “to bring lots of people to the table, to work with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations, and to come to some sort of a consensus.”

Ms. Isenberg said she spoke to Mr. Medlin yesterday and told him: “Remember, you have a broader constituency than the city of Toledo on the port board, and I hope you remember that during your deliberations.”

Mr. Medlin’s term on the port board expires in July. Ms. Isenberg said being employed by the city would not hurt Mr. Medlin’s chance for reappointment.

Mr. Bostleman said he does not think Mr. Medlin’s labor background would be a hindrance in attracting businesses to the area.

Mr. Bostleman said the opposite might be true: that Mr. Medlin could help improve the image, held by some, that Toledo’s unions can be difficult to work with.

“He understands management and business well enough that he would be able to be a good go-between to really help sort those issues out in the minds of businessmen,” Mr. Bostleman said. “He would be a good person to have out front on those issues.”

Under the city charter, council would have to ratify Mr. Medlin’s appointment as permanent director of economic development. However, the mayor could name Mr. Medlin acting director without the consent of council, a position he could hold for up to a year.

Council would have to grant Mr. Medlin a residency waiver if he is hired. All city employees without waivers must live within the city limits. Mr. Medlin lives in Washington Township.

Blade staff writers Vanessa Gezari and Fritz Wenzel contributed to this report.

Port board sessions energized by conflict

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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News Analysis

When the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority was under intense public scrutiny in 1998, one of the most damaging perceptions about its board was that it operated like an “old boys club,” with few disputes and debates over issues.

For example, during one six-month stretch in 1997 and 1998, the number of “yes” votes cast by board members outnumbered the “nos” 730 to zero.

But no matter how accurate that perception was then, it’s false now. The new port board, fresh off its levy victory earlier this month, is now home to sometimes angry disputes over policies and personalities.

“The openness and interaction is invigorating,” said Opie Rollison, the board’s newest member. “We’re putting everything on the table. I think the dynamics of the board have changed, and the disagreements are getting aired out.”

At the center of the latest dispute is board member Jerry Chabler, once one of the board’s most vocal critics.

As the agency determines how to begin a formal evaluation of the way it does business, Mr. Chabler is arguing with other board members over how thorough the evaluation should be.

Mr. Chabler says he is fighting for the taxpayers of Lucas County, who he says demand change.

“It’s their money being spent, and they should have someone to defend their interests and see that their money is being used as efficiently as possible,” he said. “I’m afraid that some of the other board members may have tried to hoodwink the voters and make them think that real change is on the way.”

But some of his fellow board members, including the board’s chairman and vice chairman, think he is a publicity hound with a political agenda and a vendetta against some of the port’s staff.

“It’s great for people to have diverse opinions and for there to be debate, and if Chabler did that I would welcome it,” said J. Patrick Nicholson, the board’s vice chairman. “But he needs to stop grandstanding and complaining when there’s no rational reason to complain.”

Much of the tension on the board has played out through the relationship between Mr. Chabler and G. Ray Medlin, Jr., the board’s chairman.

That they’re on the same board at all is remarkable, considering they were political enemies at the start of 1999. Mr. Medlin, then the newly elected port board chairman, was trying to improve the public face of the agency two months after voters soundly rejected a 0.4-mill port authority levy renewal. Mr. Chabler had been one of the levy’s biggest opponents who helped lead the campaign against it.

But, in part to improve perceptions of the agency, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner appointed Mr. Chabler to the port board in July.

At the time, the mayor said it is “important that the majority of voters opposed to the levy last time feel that some of their concerns will be addressed by someone who also opposed the levy.”

Once on the port board, Mr. Chabler worked to get the levy passed, an effort that proved successful when voters approved it overwhelmingly on Nov. 2.

Friday’s port board meeting was the first after the levy victory, and after a few self-congratulations, the board got to one of the most important issues it will deal with: the creation of a strategic plan to lead the agency into the next century.

Mr. Chabler asked Mr. Medlin a series of pointed questions aimed at implying that the chairman was trying to limit the scope of the review. Specifically, Mr. Chabler wants to hire an outside consulting firm to evaluate the performance of current port staff members, which he thinks has been poor.

Mr. Medlin was clearly upset at the suggestion that he would limit the review’s scope. He said he believes reviewing staff performance is the job of port President James Hartung, but that if the board wanted such a review, he would not block it. “We all want what’s best for the port,” he said. “I have the right to an opinion, and sometimes I don’t think you think I have that right.”

When asked about Mr. Chabler’s statements after the port board meeting, Mr. Medlin used a common expletive to respond: “I don’t want to dignify Chabler’s [comments] with a response, and you can quote me on that.”

Mr. Medlin said he welcomes constructive criticism from Mr. Chabler, but “he is being needlessly divisive, and that’s not helpful.”

Mr. Chabler said that he is concerned that some of the board’s members may not be fully committed to changing the port’s ways.

“I’m getting concerned that the voters might have been fooled,” he said. “I think some people on the board are reading the levy’s passing as a vote of confidence. It wasn’t a vote of confidence. It was a mandate for change, and I think some people might not get that.”

“Show me one person on this board who isn’t committed to making the changes needed to make this the best port authority in the country, and I’ll eat my hat,” Mr. Nicholson said.

Mr. Nicholson said the dispute isn’t between Mr. Chabler and Mr. Medlin: “It’s between Chabler and the whole board.”

But several board members said that they were not troubled by Mr. Chabler’s activities.

“This kind of debate is the best way to flush things out, and it doesn’t bother me,” Mr. Rollison said. “Everything’s out there for discussion.” He said that he would like to see an external staff review as long as “it doesn’t become a witch hunt.”

Jim White, Jr., who leads the committee that will decide how the review will take place, said that Mr. Chabler’s comments were not objectionable. “He has his style and I have my style,” he said. “We’re all adults, we’re all mature, and we all have the same goal in mind. I don’t mind if he wants to air out his views.”

Port board panel to consider scope of review

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority wants to evaluate the way it does business, and yesterday its board chairman picked the people who will be in charge of the process – but not without some controversy over how thorough the evaluation will be.

Chairman G. Ray Medlin, Jr., named James F. White, Jr., head of the new strategic management plan committee. Mr. White and five other board members will be charged with figuring out how to evaluate the agency, including whether to bring in an outside consultant.

“We want an objective look at how we do things now, and a plan and a vision on how we can change in the next century,” Mr. Medlin said.

George Ballas was named the committee’s vice chairman. Others on the committee are J. Patrick Nicholson, Bruce Baumhower, Thomas Palmer, and Jerry Chabler.

Over the last several years, the port authority has been hit by allegations of mismanagement and lavish spending, criticism that contributed to the 1998 defeat of a 0.4-mill port authority levy renewal.

In the last year, port officials have made an effort to improve their public image and express a willingness to examine the authority’s methods of doing business. When the levy went before voters again on Nov. 2, it passed easily.

Over the next few months, the new committee will meet to determine if an outside review of the authority is necessary. The committee will report its findings back to the full board sometime next spring; the board will then decide what action to take.

Mr. White said he estimates the committee’s work will take three to four months. “I think we understand what our charge is and that we’ll be able to find a good process to look forward,” Mr. White said.

But heated talk arose at yesterday’s meeting when Mr. Chabler challenged Mr. Medlin over the scope of the potential outside review.

Mr. Chabler, who was appointed to the board in July after being a vocal critic of the agency, wants the review to include evaluations of the port authority’s senior staff.

“You need an external review if you want objectivity,” Mr. Chabler said. “If you have [port authority President Jim] Hartung reviewing his own employees, he wants to make them look good so he can look good.”

At the meeting, Mr. Chabler read a portion of a letter Mr. Medlin wrote to a Toledoan in response to a letter published in The Blade’s Readers Forum: “Among the principal responsibilities of the president is to … evaluate the effectiveness of the staff. For the board or its president to abrogate its responsibility would be an extraordinary contradiction to good business practice.”

Mr. Chabler asked the chairman if his statement meant he would not allow an outside staff evaluation. Somewhat angrily, Mr. Medlin said the committee would be able to make that decision on its own.

“I have the right to an opinion, and sometimes I don’t think you think I have that right,” Mr. Medlin said to Mr. Chabler sternly. “I think this is a matter for you to take up with the committee, not in this forum.”

“I don’t believe you answered my question,” Mr. Chabler parried.

Mr. Medlin previously has said that having consultants review the performances of senior staff could turn into a “witch hunt” based on vendettas against certain staff members, including Mr. Hartung.

After the meeting, Mr. Chabler said at least six members of the port authority’s senior staff make more than the $75,000 salary of Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, and that with salaries that high, staff members deserve external scrutiny.

Mr. White said the idea of an external staff review will be debated within the committee.

“As far as I’m concerned, everything is on the table,” Mr. White said. “There are no limits on the scope of our work.”

Among the topics Mr. Medlin said might be included in the review: the authority’s relationship with the Regional Growth Partnership and local governments, and the organization of port staff.

He said he would be willing to consider hiring an outside consulting firm – “the very best professionals, people who could not be influenced by anyone in this community or on this board.”

“Any operation has to understand that change is a part of everyday life,” he said. “We just need to separate change for the right reasons from change for change’s sake.”

Finkbeiner promotes 2 in latest staff shakeup

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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Mayor Carty Finkbeiner made two changes to Toledo’s management team yesterday, adding a member to his executive staff and promoting the housing commissioner to neighborhoods director.

Effective Nov. 29, Anthony Reams will become an assistant chief operating officer. The city’s housing commissioner, Deborah Younger, will take over Mr. Reams’s job of neighborhoods director.

“We are not standing on our laurels,” the mayor said. “We’re continuing to fine-tune the administration to make it better.”

Mr. Reams will become the fourth member of the mayor’s top executive team, joining Dan Hiskey, the chief operating officer, Mike Justen, an assistant chief operating officer, and Arturo Quintero, the mayor’s executive officer. Mr. Justen and Mr. Reams will each oversee six of the city’s 12 major departments.

Mr. Reams, 52, has been with the city for 13 years in a variety of positions, including commissioner of streets, bridges, and harbor, public service director, and chief operating officer.

In February, Mr. Reams drew the ire of the mayor, who cut his pay from $88,500 to $80,000 because he failed to meet performance standards as neighborhoods director. But Mr. Finkbeiner gave back half of the pay cut in July.

With his promotion, Mr. Reams’s pay will return to its original level, $88,500 a year.

“He has shown real leadership skills and has done a terrific job,” the mayor said.

Ms. Younger, 39, joined city government in October, 1998, as housing commissioner. Previously, she had been an administrator in the neighborhoods development division in the city of Columbus. Recently, she applied for the vacant economic development director position, but was instead given the neighborhoods job.

Ms. Younger’s salary will be $85,000. Her salary as housing commissioner was $69,500.

2 Germanys struggle under 1 flag; Iron Curtain still shadows east, west after decade

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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BERLIN — It is the first question any tourist here asks: Where was The Wall?

Driving through the Mitte district of Berlin, taxi driver Ranier Quambusch points to a thin line of cobblestones snaking through a city street, about two feet from the curb. “There it is,” he said. “That was the big bad Berlin Wall.”

When the wall came down in 1989, Berlin officials had to find a way to deal with suddenly open spaces that cut a gash through the middle of the city. In some places, buildings went up; in others, parks were opened.

On this particular stretch, the wall’s location was integrated into a street, with the cobblestones added as a reminder of what once stood there. On either side are sleek new office buildings and construction crews working on putting up more.

Now, on the line that once divided two global empires, a line of tiny two-door cars sits.

“They’re the real winners of the Cold War,” Mr. Quambusch said. “They got a parking space.”

Tuesday is the 10th anniversary of the wall’s fall. For nearly three decades, the wall was the most visible reminder of the planet’s ideological divide, the metaphorical “Iron Curtain” made real.

When, in a rush of rejoicing, the wall came down, Germans both East and West looked forward to a dynamic future, a united powerhouse confidently pushing ahead in the world. And while Germany is the largest economy in Europe and has become a significant global player, it still is dealing with the pains of reunification.

For every newly vibrant stretch of the former East Berlin – flush with coffee-shop urbanism and cosmopolitan apartment life – plenty of places still have the dull, depressing gloom of old socialism. Growing groups of neo-Nazi skinheads threaten immigrants and minorities there.

The East and West often feel estranged from one another, and the optimism of 1989 has been replaced with the realities of assembling one nation from two. Like much of the rest of the former Warsaw Pact countries, the former East Germany has realized that the end of the Cold War didn’t end all its problems.

“There’s still a lot of differences between West and East,” said Curt Heissig, who left a rundown part of East Berlin and now makes drinks at an upscale bar in the West. “It’s like people speak a different language sometimes. It will take a lot to adjust.”

Berlin’s division dates back to the aftermath of its lowest moment, the dictatorship of Hitler and the Nazis. When the Allies finally reached Berlin, the city was divided into four sectors, one each controlled by France, Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States. With the start of the Cold War, it became a perfect staging ground for the superpowers to antagonize one another.

First, in 1948, the Soviet Union cut off all land transportation links from West Berlin through communist East Germany, isolating the city from the West and forcing an 11-month airlift of fuel and food. Then, in 1961, came the most dramatic move: the wall.

Fernand Auberjonois, who was then The Blade’s European correspondent based in London, was in Berlin on the morning the wall went up, Aug. 13, 1961.

“I was there to do another story when it went up,” Mr. Auberjonois, 89, remembered. “At first, it was just a barbed-wire fence. Anything could have rolled right over it. I thought it might just be symbolic, as propaganda.”

But within a week, it was clear the fence was becoming a wall. “I remember one of the other reporters coming to get us early in the morning and saying, ‘Something is going on at the fence,'” Mr. Auberjonois said. “We went down to the border, and there were cranes mounted on trucks putting up slabs of concrete.”

Over the years, the wall grew stronger still, with electrified fences and minefields. Buildings along the wall had their windows bricked up to prevent anyone from leaping over. Steel stakes were planted in the ground along potential escape routes; Germans nicknamed them “Stalin’s Grass.”

The East German government called the wall the “Anti-Fascist Protection Barrier,” but in truth it would have done little to protect the East from the West. But it did stop the flow of East Germans to the West. In the days before the wall went up, 1,500 easterners were moving west every day.

The wall didn’t just divide the city geographically, it created a cultural and economic gap. Western powers saw West Berlin as an island of capitalism in the communist East and pumped millions into the city to make it a showcase for Western money. Storefronts hawked the finest luxury goods; the Kufurstendamm strip became the Berlin equivalent of New York’s Fifth Avenue.

Meanwhile, the East stuck to boxy, dirty socialist architecture, with depressing street scenes and smoke-belching factories. The division between the two cities was clear from the air. Even the wall’s two sides showed the gap: the East guarded by armed men in uniforms, the West covered in colorful graffiti and the work of political artists.

Even with the wall, East Germans tried to escape, often by scaling the wall or tunneling under it. In all, 239 East Germans were killed trying to flee. An eastern border guard was given a holiday on the Baltic for every escapee he shot.

But 5,043 managed to make it across the border.

The beginning of the end came in May, 1989, when Mikhail Gorbachev made a state visit to West Germany and informed Chancellor Helmut Kohl that the Soviet Union would no longer use force to prevent democratization in its satellite states in eastern Europe.

“We could feel the change coming,” said Oskar Wohlrabe, then an East German factory worker. “The direction was changing, and it couldn’t be stopped.”

That month, Hungary opened up its border to Austria. Thousands of East Germans realized that they could travel freely to the communist country of Hungary, cross the border into free Austria, and then reach West Germany. Within six months, 220,000 East Germans had made the trip.

In a last-ditch attempt to save the government, East German leaders decided to allow free travel. On Nov. 9, shortly before 7 p.m., Gunther Schabowski, a member of the Politburo, announced that the border to West Berlin would be opening. The reform was supposed to be phased in over some time, but Mr. Schabowski mistakenly said the border would open “immediately.”

All across the city, people heard about the change and rushed to the wall. Guards had not been given instructions on what to do, but several decided to let people through. In the next few hours, the wall became a relic of the past, and Berlin became the site of the world’s biggest party. As Americans watched on television, the verdict was almost unanimous: Symbolically at least, the Cold War was over.

“It was amazing,” said Mr. Wohlrabe, who was at the wall that night. “Everyone was excited, jumping around, hugging people they never knew. It was like the whole place was drunk. Everybody was so happy.”

Angelika Wohlrabe, then his girlfriend and now his wife, was with him. “We went around to all the shops and looked in the windows at all the West had,” she said. “People thought that the wall would be there for their children and their grandchildren and that it would always be there. It was magic. It was real magic.”

Germany’s national high lasted for about a year. After the wall tumbled, the nation’s thoughts turned to reunification. On Oct. 3, 1990, East and West officially were united into one Germany.

Then came the hard part, the part with which Germany is still struggling: making that unification more than just official.

“The Ossies [easterners] don’t understand how to run their land,” said Mr. Quambusch, the Wessie [Westerner] taxi driver. “I feel a lot more in common with young Italians, Americans, or French than with these people in my own country. It will take generations for them to learn.”

Berlin is the centerpiece of Germany’s struggle for unity. Like the entire country’s, the city’s reconstruction has been a mix of unrelenting optimism and disheartening division.

When the wall came down, enormous swaths of prime property in the middle of Berlin suddenly was open to development. City planners set about hurriedly trying to determine how Berlin would be rebuilt.

(The last time someone tried to plan a new Berlin was before in the 1930s, when Hitler had his architect, Albert Speer, completely redesign the city, renamed Germania, along a north-south axis, with monuments of a truly Reich size, such as a 700-foot dome and a memorial arch twice the size of the Arc de Triomphe. Speer had a chance to start work on his plan – at least the parts that involved tearing down buildings in Jewish neighborhoods – until World War II interrupted his plans.)

The result has been the largest construction site in Europe and the second-largest in the world only to Shanghai. From the roof of any tall building in Berlin, you can count the huge construction cranes that dot the skyline, with more than a hundred visible from some vantage points. The German press has reported that there were more than 700 cranes in the city at one point.

Certain districts of East Berlin, such as the newly hip Prenzlauer Berg, have seen huge reconstruction efforts, with fancy new stores, luxury apartments, and office complexes. This summer, the German government moved its capital from sleepy Bonn to Berlin, creating a rush on property for the thousands of bureaucrats, officials, and lobbyists moving to the new capital.

But some districts still look out of sorts, with socialist architecture, grimy buildings, and the depressing shadow of the East.

“It makes you sad to be in some of the places in the East,” said Mr. Heissig, who recently moved from his home in grim, decaying Marzahn to the West. “Everything is so decayed.”

East and West Berlin are still quite different but not in the way they used to be. In the days of the wall, the capitalist playland of the West stopped at the wall; a few feet away was the sad grayness.

Now, the area just across from the wall is filled with the fresh cleanliness of newly constructed buildings, along with a few bustling shopping districts. The sad grayness is still there, but it’s been pushed back a bit farther into the East.

Still, nostalgia for the old eastern way of life lives on among some. Not so much among the former East Germans, but among young Wessies who latch onto Ossie kitsch. Dussman, a large bookstore in downtown Berlin, has a separate room that does a brisk business in “Ostalgie”: Ossie nostalgia. In the middle of a completely modern three-story store selling books, compact discs, and DVDs, you can buy a 30-year-old dusty copy of Das Kapital or the collected works of Marx and Engels.

“It’s cool to have these Ossie things,” said Martin Erde, a 22-year-old wearing a stylish leather jacket and a nose stud in the Ostalgie room. He did say, however, that he’d stop short of getting a Trabant, the famously clunky plastic-body car of East Germany.

The idea of celebrating any part of German history may seem unusual to a 20th-century observer, considering the country’s starring role in two world wars and the deaths of tens of millions.

Still, Berlin has a big party planned for Tuesday, the wall anniversary, complete with a rock concert at the Brandenburg Gate and speeches by Mr. Gorbachev and former President George Bush.

But Nov. 9 is not just the anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s demise. Tuesday is the 61st anniversary of Kristallnacht, one of the first bursts of organized terror from Hitler’s Nazis. On Nov. 9, 1938, rampaging mobs roamed the streets of Germany, attacking Jews, burning their homes, and destroying their synagogues. In the end, at least 96 Jews were killed, 7,500 Jewish businesses were destroyed, and 30,000 Jews were rounded up and sent to some of Hitler’s first concentration camps.

And the significance of Nov. 9 doesn’t end there. It was on that day in 1918 when Kaiser Wilhelm II, his nation crushed in World War I, was forced to abdicate and the Weimar Republic was declared.

It was this event, many scholars believe, that caused a young Hitler to decide to eradicate the Jews, who he held responsible for Germany’s defeat.

In 1939, Hitler wrote the foreign minister of the Czech government: “We are going to destroy the Jews. They are not going to get away with what they did on Nov. 9, 1918. The day of reckoning has come.”

That is the difficulty inherent in celebrating Germany history: How to separate the good from the bad; how to evoke national pride without reviving the totalitarian past.

Initially, the biggest problems with integrating the East were economic. East Germany was years behind the West in its industry, its infrastructure, and in the training of its workers. Thrown into a single economic system with West Germany – and, through the European Union, with all of western Europe – the East simply wasn’t able to compete.

Within a year of reunification, economic output in the East fell 30 per cent. Eastern plants were less than a third as efficient as their counterparts in the West. In four years, 14,000 state-run firms were turned over to private industry and 4,000 more liquidated.

Rebuilding the eastern economy has taken enormous amounts of money: hundreds of billions of dollars went into housing, industrial parks, environmental cleanups, telecommunications, and a myriad other areas. And that has created an enormous amount of bitterness among some in the West. But the eastern economy has made great improvements and is now stronger than any of the other former Warsaw Pact countries.

Now, the differences are less economic and more personal.

“In the United States, you had a Civil War that lasted four years, and people in your country are still working out North against South,” said Alec Hauptvogel, a shopkeeper in the Kreuzberg district of western Berlin. “You still have people with Confederate flags. In Berlin, we had the Cold War for a generation and a half, and it will be a very long time before people are actually united again.”

The country still is dealing with the psychological issues of uniting a people split for decades by a war over ideology. Among the victims: immigrants and minorities. Throughout the 1990s, the former East has seen a rebirth of far-right-wing activity, along with anti-immigrant violence often directed at Turks. One Ossie said that for every communist old man in East Germany, there’s a neo-Nazi son.

Berlin is trying its best to create a new image for itself. Despite being the largest city between Paris and Moscow, most people probably could not name a single monument in Berlin other than the wall. The future, which seemed so heavenly 10 years ago, is more cloudy now.

“Rebuilding takes a long time,” Mr. Quambusch said. “Before, the two sides were going in different directions, because the governments made them. But now, the division is personal, and that makes it harder to put the country back together.”