Berlin Should Be the Working Capital of a United Germany
Paul Bookbinder. Paul Bookbinder is associate professor of history ., The Christian Science Monitor
WITH unification today, Berlin will once again become the formal capital of Germany. The question remains, however, as to whether it will also become Germany's working capital housing its legislature and its administrative bureaucracy.
The current leadership of the Federal Republic headed by Christian Democratic Chancellor Helmut Kohl would prefer that Bonn remain the working capital. Informal polls indicate that most of the West German legislators also favor keeping Bonn as the capital, while the East German legislators favor Berlin. Since the number of West German legislators will be far greater in the new state, the prospects seem to favor Bonn as the choice.
Arguments to justify the Bonn location point to government facilities that are already in place in Bonn. There are buildings for all the administrative agencies, a meeting place for the parliament, and housing for the 150,000 civil servants who run the government bureaus. The transportation and communication systems are modern and adequate for the functioning of the government. Bonn is a pleasant, uncrowded, and unpolluted city that has few ties to the Nazi era, points toward the West, and represents the new democratic Germany created at the end of World War II.
Berlin is a crowded, polluted city without the housing and administrative facilities necessary for the civil servants who run the country. Its transportation and communications systems are inadequate to meet the government needs, and every section of the city contains constant reminders of earlier unfortunate periods in German history, particularly the Nazi era. In addition, an investment of from $30 billion to $50 billion dollars would be needed to make the changes and improvements necessary to make Berlin the seat of Germany's government.
While there is some truth in these arguments, there are more compelling reasons for the Berlin location. Berlin has played a central role in the history of modern Germany. No people needs to be more aware of their history to avoid repeating it than the Germans. With Berlin as the capital, Germans will be more likely to study their history and learn its lessons. …