May 5, 2005
One of the unanticipated costs of unifying Germany has been the expense of removing all the unexploded munitions in the former East Germany. The Communist government there was not interested in doing it, and was able to avoid doing so because there was not a lot of new construction while the communist were in charge (1945-91). When unification, and a market economy, arrived in 1991, East Germany was found to be full of unexploded munitions. As the more prosperous West Germany began pouring billions of dollars into the East, the construction projects continually bumped into thousands of bombs and shells that had not gone off. As a result, since 1991, nearly 10,000 tons of munitions have been removed. Last year alone, there were 1,478 sites in and around Berlin where 500 tons of munitions were removed, at a cost of $26 million. Berlin has an exceptionally large amount of unexploded munitions. This is partly due to the extensive air bombardment of the city during World War II, and also because of the major battles fought with the Russian troops, who captured the city, in 1945. In addition to all the unexploded munitions, thousands of bodies, mostly skeletons now, of soldiers and civilians, have also been unearthed. The construction boom in eastern Germany is expected to continue for another few years, and so will the large haul of deadly reminders of World War II.