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After the Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago, the former East Germany's society and economy had to be reimagined. Some enterprises were purchased by Western companies while others scaled back their workforces by tens of thousands. Altogether about 14,000 companies in East Germany were closed or privatized in the five years following German reunification, resulting in the loss of about 4 million jobs.
Twenty years later, the economy and business culture of the former East Germany offers a mixed picture. Such cities as Berlin, Dresden, and Leipzig have developed strong entrepreneurial cultures that encourage technology startups and small business ventures. Smaller cities like Jena and Chemnitz—formerly known as Karl Marx Stadt—are persevering remarkably well, despite the recession. But many rural areas suffer from depopulation and high unemployment.
Following is a selection of companies and brands that have emerged in the former East Germany. Some have roots that date back more than 100 years and have endured two world wars, the Cold War, and reunification. Other brands grew up in postwar East Germany and are now experiencing comebacks thanks to "Ostalgie,"—nostalgia for the DDR, or Deutsche Demokratische Republik. Others were founded after reunification by an emerging class of entrepreneurs.
For an introduction to some of the leading lights of Eastern Germany in alphabetical order, click on.