Scenes of gloom in an abandoned German town

Abandoned chair stands in the midst of litter in Dessau. Dessau fell already years ago victim of the dramatic depopulation of former East German states. Soon after German unification uncompetitive industries collapsed and unemployment soared. By now one in three inhabitants have moved away from Dessau. (Kalle Koponen)

Depopulation in Eastern Germany is very visible in Dessau

I went recently to Dessau in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. This former East German industrial town is a prime example of what has been happening for two decades now in the former East Germany: industries have collapsed, jobs have been lost and young people have moved out. Apartment blocks have been torn down, because nobody lives there anymore. Dessau has lost almost a third of its population on 20 years since the German unification. And believe me, it shows! It is already a cult thing for many hobby photographers to wander in some of the many abandoned industrial facilities to shoot some pretty gritty imagery. (I met some while doing it myself in Dessau and they were magnificent people.) Anyway, the light was mouthwatering in some empty halls and the atmosphere creepy at times. The proportion on elderly people is obviously rising and in Dessau I saw a courtesy wheelchair in the local shopping mall. That was a first!

Germany has invested massively in keeping the eastern part afloat and many good things have been achieved. The depopulation is slowing down. The eastern states bled so badly, however, during recent years that it will take a few decades to bring them on par with the former West German states. The story can be read in the Theme supplement of Helsingin Sanomat, just out this week. See the full photo gallery here.

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