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Shrinking City

Hoyerswerda was once a boom-town - a model vision of GDR socialism, built around a large coal and gas plant. Between 1955 and 1981, the industrialisation of this medium-sized East German town took the population up to 71,000. A New Town had to be built to accommodate the workers of Schwarze Pumpe, the town's coal and gas plant, and in 1981 there was nowhere in the GDR with a higher birth rate.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, and the end of the GDR, all that began to change. The glassworks closed, as did the army artillery range; then the coal mines closed, and eventually so did Schwarze Pumpe. Employees lost their jobs and joined the throngs of East Germans heading West in search of work.

The social fabric of the town also began to disintegrate. In 1991, a xenophobic attack on a hostel housing refugees forced Hoyerswerda to develop an anti-violence programme for its citizens. The number of inhabitants steadily fell throughout the 1990s, until by 2000 the population had dropped to just over 40,000. The population is expected to shrink even further, to about 20,000 or 30,000, by 2030, making it the most rapidly shrinking town in Germany.
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