A tale of rich and poor in Germany

( AFP ) - Not far from the lakeside villas of Potsdam lies Prenzlau, capital of Germany's poorest region where discount stores and residents on the dole tell the story of the country's deepening social divide.

Purchasing power in Prenzlau is lower than in the Czech Republic and certain parts of Romania and the fact is tangible on the main street, Friedrichstrasse, where shirts sell for one euro (1.55 dollars) and jackets for four euros.

The town is the capital of the northeastern Uckermark region, part of the former communist east of the country. Population: 135,000. One in four unemployed.

Since the Iron Curtain fell nearly 20 years ago, 20,000 people have left.

A study by the Eurostat institute published last month has shown that the GDP per capita here is 74 percent of the average figure for the European Union, compared to 115.2 percent for Germany as a whole.

"If you are 57 years old, there is nothing here for you," says Berndt, who lost his job in 2005 and is living on welfare payments of 347 euros per month.

He shares the outrage of many at Germany's biggest ever tax evasion scandal in which up to 600 members of the business and social elite are suspected of hiding their wealth in secret accounts in Liechtenstein.

"It's obscene, they should lock them all up. Those bastards should really get the stick."

The ongoing tax fraud revelations have heightened bitterness among lower classes who have long felt that they are being forgotten while rich bosses line their pockets.

A study released this week confirmed that more and more people are joining Germany's lower income bracket as the middle class has shrunk by eight percent since 2000.

The DIW research institute calls it a "bigger concentration on both ends of the scale," meaning the rich have become richer and the poor not only poorer but also greater in numbers.

Those who officially qualify as poor because they earn less than 70 percent of the median annual income of 16,000 euros, have grown from 18.9 percent of the population to 25.4 percent in 2006.

- 'It is really hard to motivate young people living here' -

The phenomenon has been felt hardest in the former communist east where unemployment is higher than in the west and salaries are often so low that even those in jobs cannot get by without state welfare.

"More than 5,000 people here get some state help to complement their salaries," said Ramona Neumann, a spokeswoman for the local authorities in the Uckermark.

"They work all day long and still earn less than if the stayed at home and simply lived off full unemployment benefits," she said.

Sandra, a 26-year-old part-time waitress, said she took a job at the Dolce Vita pizzeria on Prenzlau's high street because it is better than sitting at home.

"I make two to three euros a day, and then I get social welfare. So it is really not 'la dolce vita' but just having a job is already something here."

The mayor of the hamlet of Uckerland, Monica Becker, said to help some of its 3,400 people keep body and soul together, the council tries to "find them mini-jobs that pay one euro an hour or get them into job share schemes where with three-year contracts where they earn 1,000 euros a month for 30 hours of work."

"During communist days, people worked on the East German farming cooperatives, but now many have no choice but to get out of here," she told AFP.

"It is really hard to motivate young people living here."

Twenty-year-old Dennis Sooth says he has been "lucky" to find a trainee post because most of his peers have no career prospects.

"They stay at home, drink beer and some of them become violent and go out onto the streets to beat people up."

Back in Potsdam, some 175 kilometres (110 miles) from Prenzlau, the picturesque former residence of the Prussian royal family, damaged by bombs in World War II, has been neatly plastered over in the past two decades.

Contrary to other parts of the east, the capital of the state of Brandenburg has seen its population grow rapidly post-reunification. In 2001, it had 120,000 residents and by last year the number had grown to 150,000.

It is conveniently close to Berlin and to a cluster of lakes where the wealthy set stays in lavish villas overlooking the water and sails at weekends. Tourism is good and unemployment stands at 8.7 percent.

Der Spiegel magazine said Potsdam was "attracting the beautiful people" while mayor Jann Jakobs, a Social Democrat, said rising property prices risked making the town a millionaires' enclave.

"One day soon only the rich will be able to afford living here."

Norway calls on all political parties to enable new, more diverse parliament in Georgia
Norway calls on all political parties to enable new, more diverse parliament in Georgia
Geostat reveals volume of ferroalloys exported by Georgia to Turkey
Geostat reveals volume of ferroalloys exported by Georgia to Turkey
EU aims to support Georgia in its efforts to reform electricity market
EU aims to support Georgia in its efforts to reform electricity market
Loading Bars
Energy Minister: One of key goals is to ensure effective use of resources in Azerbaijan's liberated lands (INTERVIEW)
Azerbaijani currency rates for Nov. 30
Number of patients recovered from COVID-19 in Uzbekistan passes 70,000
UAE, Afghanistan buy Turkmen-made gasoline
Design work to build new highway in liberated Azerbaijani territories starts (Exclusive)
Iranian currency rates for November 30
Oil prices slip in cautious trade ahead of OPEC+ meet
Azerbaijan's ANAMA continues demining road to liberated Sugovushan settlement (PHOTOS)
Iran boosts exports via Kerman Province
Iran to prepare agricultural plan for Gilan and Mazandaran provinces
Azerbaijan’s liberation of its territories to revive historical Silk Road – Turkish Grand National Assembly
Azerbaijan’s Aghdam sometimes called "Hiroshima of Caucasus" - France-24 (VIDEO)
Brazil surpasses 6.3 million COVID-19 cases
Malaria death toll to exceed COVID-19's in sub-Saharan Africa: WHO
New Zealand regulator charges 13 parties over White Island eruption tragedy
Daily COVID-19 case count drops to 794 in Kazakhstan
Solar panel power plant launched in Iran's Fars Province
Hamilton wins F1 Bahrain Grand Prix as Grosjean escapes horror crash
Biden to receive first presidential intelligence briefing on Monday
Jennifer Psaki to be Joe Biden’s White House press secretary
Expenses on construction of enterprises in Iran’s Tehran Province drops
Trump senior aide Kushner and team heading to Saudi Arabia, Qatar
France's new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations continue to fall
Israeli cabinet approves aviation, science cooperation deals with UAE
Africa's confirmed COVID-19 cases pass 2.15 mln mark: Africa CDC
74 more coronavirus patients die in Moscow in past day
Israel launches national plan to strengthen industry amid COVID-19
OPEC+ monitoring committee meeting yields no consensus
Weekly review of Azerbaijan's transport sector
Several Turkish provinces revert preschools to remote teaching over pandemic
UK records another 12,155 coronavirus cases with 215 deaths
Certain investments to be made into industrial parks of Iran’s Qazvin Province
Azerbaijani ministries, AzerGold company hold landscaping campaign on Chovdar field
Rocket hits small oil refinery in Iraq's north, forcing shutdown: officials
Jeyhun Bayramov expresses condolences to his Iranian counterpart
Number of COVID-2019 cases across globe up by over 564,000 in past day
Employment in Iran's Bushehr Province enlarges
Average yield of tobacco in Azerbaijan in 2020 exceeds last year volume
Iranian Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale November 30
Weekly review of events in financial market of Azerbaijan
Norway calls on all political parties to enable new, more diverse parliament in Georgia
Turkey condemns killing of key Iranian nuclear scientist as act of 'terrorism'
Argentine prosecutors investigate death of soccer star Maradona
Performances results of Azerbaijani gymnasts at European Championships in rhythmic gymnastics unveiled
Iran reveals details of exports through Bandar Lengeh County
Projects within Industrialization Map framework being implemented in Kazakhstan's Akmola
Overview of events in agricultural sector of Azerbaijan for last week of November
Activities on provision of Russian peacekeeping contingent held (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Iran boosts manufacturing of passenger cars
UAE cabinet approves new cybersecurity body, climate change envoy
Geostat reveals volume of ferroalloys exported by Georgia to Turkey
Bahar Azadi gold coin price still falling in Iran
Kazakhstan continues introduction of mobile diagnostic tools in railway sector
Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan discuss possibilities of attracting investors to Azerbaijani territories liberated from occupation
Britain expects 'very significant' week for Brexit talks as clock ticks down
Iran declares cargo transportation from Sistan and Baluchestan Province
Death toll from COVID-19 tops 172,000 in Brazil
Chinese companies to process Uzbek garlic for further export to US and European countries
Turkey's export of grain, legumes to France declines
Iran reveals its COVID-19 data for November 29
Details of Iran’s trade turnover announced
EU aims to support Georgia in its efforts to reform electricity market
Azerbaijan confirms 4,170 new COVID-19 cases, 1,985 recoveries
5.5-magnitude quake hits Vanuatu
Azersu LLC announces tender for purchase of equipment for laboratory
Kazakhstan's import of Turkish cement up
Azerbaijan shows footage of Aghdam's Shahbuldag village (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Expenses on construction of enterprises in Iran’s Isfahan Province increases
Number of enterprises launched in Iran's Ilam Province shrinks
Turkmengas opens tender for maintenance of gas turbine generators
At least 30 police killed, over 20 wounded in suicide car bomb explosion in E. Afghanistan
Georgia reports 4 426 new coronavirus cases, 3 721 recoveries, 35 deaths
Over 5,500 patients recover from coronavirus in Moscow in the past day
Azerbaijan shows footage of liberated from occupation villages of Kalbajar region (PHOTO/VIDEO)
China increases import of Turkish cars
Employment in Iran's Alborz Province declines
The President of Turkmenistan receives representative of medical community of Germany
S. Korea reports 450 more COVID-19 cases, 33,824 in total
Azerbaijan's turnover on payment cards in 10M2020 up
Inter-Agency Coordination Council discusses enforcement of Covid restrictions
Azerbaijan has ample opportunities and potential for artificial intelligence dev't
Trump may announce plans for 2024 presidential race during Biden’s inauguration
826 more coronavirus cases recorded in Kazakhstan over 24 hours
France sees further fall in COVID-19 hospitalizations as lockdown exit starts
Turkey's Temsa makes 1st electric bus exports to Sweden
Iran registers monthly positive trade balance
Scottish dev’t agency eyes establishing co-op with companies in Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan
Croatian PM in self-quarantine after wife contracts COVID-19
UK records another 15,871 coronavirus cases with 479 deaths
Some 46,000 people gather in Paris to protest against security bill
Kazakhstan to modify large energy saving projects on railways
Severe fire danger for Australia as temperatures smash records
Dozens of Boko Haram militants killed in Nigeria airstrikes
Pope installs new cardinals, including first African-American
WHO reports new daily record high of over 747,000 COVID-19 cases
UK police arrest 155 in anti-lockdown protests in London
Assistant to Azerbaijani president posts footage from Tartar, Aghdam cities
UK, France sign new deal to stop illegal migration across Channel
Iran discloses electricity generation at Iran's Bandar Abbas TPP
Turkey reports 6,714 new COVID-19 cases, 487,912 in total
All news