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Two-thirds of Germans see persistent east-west divisions: poll

BERLIN (Reuters) - Twenty-seven years after German reunification, nearly two-thirds of Germans still see persistent divisions between those in the former communist East and the West, a sort of “Berlin Wall in the head”, a new poll for Bild newspaper showed on Monday.

Conducted by pollster INSA, the survey showed 64.6 percent of those polled believed Germans saw such divisions, compared to 22.9 percent who felt they had been overcome.

The poll - released a day before Germany’s reunification holiday - showed that 74 percent of Germans in the former East saw the “invisible barrier”, compared to just 62.3 percent of those who lived in the former West Germany.

The lingering divisions became evident in the German national election on Sept. 24, in which voters dealt mainstream political parties their biggest defeats in the post-war era, while the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party won 12.6 of the vote and moved into parliament for the first time. {nL5N1M40IH]

Support for the AfD and its “take your country back” platform was particularly strong in eastern Germany, fueled by anger about Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to open the doors to a million mostly Muslim migrants in 2015.

Malu Dreyer, the Social Democratic premier of the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate, said the election results were a “wake-up call” for the big political parties about the continuing unmet concerns of east Germans.

“We under-estimated how much transformation pressure the east Germans had, and how much they had to accomplish to make reunification a reality,” she told broadcaster Bayrischer Rundfunk on Monday.

“Reunification didn’t impact the daily lives of most West Germans.”

Iris Gleicke, the German government’s commissioner for eastern German affairs, said unemployment was down and average income had increased sharply in the region since reunification, but population decline remained a problem.

Gleicke said glamorization and demographic changes had strengthened regional trends, with per capita gross domestic product falling behind that of the west by 27 percent, and industrial productivity lagging by 20 percent.

She called for more efforts to ensure essential services in the east and to guard against the rise of far-right extremism.

“Where the government is not present anymore, gaps are necessarily filled by those who are up to no good,” she said.

Separately, Research Minister Johanna Wanka announced a new project on Monday to examine how many Nazis were able to continue working in East Germany’s education and research institutions after World War Two.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal, editing by Ed Osmond