But in 1990, after the Wall comes down, the state factory becomes a company called Fashion Ltd. and mass firings begin, particularly of women. Those who protest or demonstrate are the first to get sacked. Elizabeth and Renata get a year of unemployment benefits, while Edith and her husband reluctantly move to southern Germany to find work. Their fear of change is palpable.
Three years later, three-quarters of Wittstock’s women are jobless. Renata, who was once in charge of 450 people at the factory, is happy to find work as a hotel maid. Elizabeth, supported by her husband, is glad to work a few hours a week in a supermarket, which is now full of champagne and deli items. In 1996, we find her “retraining” as a cosmetics saleswoman, then as a computer operator.
But there are no jobs (unemployment has hit 90%), only retraining programs. The factory is now an empty parking lot.
Never laboring its points, docu offers a crystal-clear view of Germany’s ills. The women are likable, even quietly heroic in accepting the end of their careers. “That’s capitalism for you,” they shrug. “It has good points and bad.” In “Wittstock, Wittstock,” however, it’s hard to discern the good side.