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History of Germany since 1945

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Germany since 1945
After the beginning of the Cold War following Germany's defeat in World War II, Germany was split for about 40 years, representing the focus of the two global blocks in the east and west. Only in 1990 would Germany be reunited.

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Germany from 1945-1949

At the Potsdam Conference in August 1945, after Germany's unconditional surrender[?] on May 8, 1945, the Allies divided Germany into four military occupation zones -- French in the southwest, British in the northwest, United States in the south, and Soviet in the east. More territory in the east was given to Poland and the Soviet Union, effectively shifting Poland to the west.

The intended governing body was called the Allied Control Council. The commanders-in-chief exercised supreme authority in their respective zones and acted in concert on questions affecting the whole country. France was later given a separate zone of occupation. Berlin, which lay in the Soviet sector, was also divided into four sectors.

As another result of the Potsdam Conference, territories east of the Oder-Neisse line (East Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia) were removed from Germany and put under Soviet and Polish administration; this administration was originally intended to last until a final peace treaty was to be signed, which however did not happen until 1990. A transfer of Germans from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary was agreed on, but the countries were urged to stop the expulsions of these Heimatvertriebene.

The United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union had agreed at Potsdam to a broad program of decentralization, treating Germany as a single economic unit with some central administrative departments. These plans broke down in 1948 with the emergence of the Cold War. The Western powers were concerned about the deterioating economic situation in their zones; the American Marshall Plan economic aid was extended to Western Germany and a currency reform introduced the Deutsche Mark and halted rampant inflation there. The Soviets had not agreed to this currency reform and withdrew in March 1948 from the four-power governing bodies and initiated the Berlin blockade in June 1948, blocking all ground transport routes between the FRG and Berlin. The western allies replied with a continuous airlift of supplies to the western half of the city. The Soviets ended the blockade after 15 months.

In 1949, the Western occupied zones were established as the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, Bundesrepublik Deutschland, or West Germany). The Soviet Zone became the German Democratic Republic (GDR, Deutsche Demokratische Republik, or East Germany).

West Germany was allied with the United States of America, the UK and France. A western capitalist country with a so-called social market economy, the country enjoyed prolonged economic growth following the currency reform of June 1948 and US assistance through Marshall Aid (1948-1951).

East Germany was at first occupied by and later (May 1955) allied with the Soviet Union. An authoritarian country with a Soviet-style economy, East Germany soon became the richest, most advanced country in the Soviet bloc, but many of its citizens looked to the West for political freedoms and economic prosperity.

Political Developments in West Germany

The United States and the United Kingdom moved to establish a nucleus for a future German government by creating a central Economic Council for their two zones. The program later provided for a West German constituent assembly, an occupation statute governing relations between the Allies and the German authorities, and the political and economic merger of the French with the British and American zones.

On May 23, 1949, the Basic Law, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany, was promulgated. Following elections in August, the first federal government was formed on September 20, 1949, by Konrad Adenauer of the Christian Democratic Party. The next day, the occupation statute came into force, granting powers of self-government with certain exceptions.

The FRG quickly progressed toward fuller sovereignty and association with its European neighbors and the Atlantic community. The London and Paris agreements of 1954 restored full sovereignty (with some exceptions) to the FRG in May 1955 and opened the way for German membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In April 1951 the FRG joined with France, Italy and the Benelux countries in the European Coal and Steel Community, forerunner of the European Union first established as the European Economic Community in March 1957

The outbreak of war in Korea (June 1950) led to U.S. calls for the rearmanent of West Germany in order to defend western Europe from the perceived Soviet threat. But the memory of German aggression led other European states to seek tight control over the West German military. Germany's partners in the Coal and Steel Community decided to establish a European Defence Commuity[?] (EDC), with an integrated army, navy and air force, composed of the armed forces of its member states. The West German military would be subject to complete EDC control, but the other EDC member states (Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) would cooperate in the EDC while maintaining independent control of their own armed forces.

Though the EDC treaty was signed (May 1952), it never entered into force. France's Gaullists it on the grounds that it threatened national sovereignty, and when the French National Assembly refused to ratify it (August 1954), the treaty died. Other means then had to be found to allow West German rearmament. In response, the Brussels Treaty[?] was modified to include West Germany, and to form the Western European Union (WEU). West Germany was to be permitted to rearm, and have full sovereign control of its military; the WEU would however regulate the size of the armed forces permitted to each of its member states. Fears of a return to Nazism, however, soon receded, and as a consequence these provisions of the WEU treaty have little effect today.

The three Western Allies retained occupation powers in Berlin and certain responsibilities for Germany as a whole. Under the new arrangements, the Allies stationed troops within the FRG for NATO defense, pursuant to stationing and status-of-forces agreements. With the exception of 45,000 French troops, Allied forces were under NATO's joint defense command. (France withdrew from the collective military command structure of NATO in 1966.)

Political life in the FRG was remarkably stable and orderly. The Adenauer era (1949-63) was followed by a brief period under Ludwig Erhard (1963-66) who, in turn, was replaced by Kurt Georg Kiesinger (1966-69). All governments between 1949 and 1966 were formed by the united caucus of the Christian-Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU), either alone or in coalition with the smaller Free Democratic Party (FDP).

Kiesinger's 1966-69 "Grand Coalition" included the FRG's two largest parties, CDU/CSU and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). In the 1969 election, the SPD -- headed by Willy Brandt -- gained enough votes to form a coalition government with the FDP. Chancellor Brandt remained head of government until May 1974, when he resigned after a senior member of his staff was uncovered as a spy for the East German intelligence service.

Finance Minister Helmut Schmidt (SPD) formed a government and received the unanimous support of coalition members. He served as Chancellor from 1974 to 1982. Hans-Dietrich Genscher, a leading FDP official, became Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister. Schmidt, a strong supporter of the European Community (EC) and the Atlantic alliance, emphasized his commitment to "the political unification of Europe in partnership with the USA".

In October 1982, the SPD-FDP coalition fell apart when the FDP joined forces with the CDU/CSU to elect CDU Chairman Helmut Kohl as Chancellor in a Constructive Vote of No Confidence. Following national elections in March 1983, Kohl emerged in firm control of both the government and the CDU. The CDU/CSU fell just short of an absolute majority, due to the entry into the Bundestag of the Greens, who received 5.6% of the vote.

In January 1987, the Kohl-Genscher government was returned to office, but the FDP and the Greens gained at the expense of the larger parties. Kohl's CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, slipped from 48.8% of the vote in 1983 to 44.3%. The SPD fell to 37%; long-time SPD Chairman Brandt subsequently resigned in April 1987 and was succeeded by Hans-Jochen Vogel. The FDP's share rose from 7% to 9.1%, its best showing since 1980. The Greens' share rose to 8.3% from their 1983 share of 5.6%.

Political Developments in East Germany

In the Soviet zone, the Social Democratic Party was forced to merge with the Communist Party in April 1946 to form a new party, the Socialist Unity Party (SED). The October 1946 elections resulted in coalition governments in the five Land (state) parliaments with the SED as the undisputed leader.

A series of people's congresses were called in 1948 and early 1949 by the SED. Under Soviet direction, a constitution was drafted on May 30, 1949, and adopted on October 7, which was celebrated as the day when the German Democratic Republic was proclaimed. The People's Chamber (Volkskammer)--the lower house of the GDR Parliament--and an upper house--the States Chamber (Laenderkammer)--were created. (The Laenderkammer was abolished in 1958.) On October 11, 1949, the two houses elected Wilhelm Pieck[?] as President, and a SED government was set up. The Soviet Union and its East European allies immediately recognized the GDR, although it remained largely unrecognized by noncommunist countries until 1972-73.

The GDR established the structures of a single-party, centralized, communist state. On July 23, 1952, the traditional Laender were abolished and, in their place, 14 Bezirke (districts) were established. Effectively, all government control was in the hands of the SED, and almost all important government positions were held by SED members.

The National Front was an umbrella organization nominally consisting of the SED, four other political parties controlled and directed by the SED, and the four principal mass organizations-- youth, trade unions, women, and culture. However, control was clearly and solely in the hands of the SED. Balloting in GDR elections was not secret. As in other Soviet bloc countries, electoral participation was consistently high, with nearly unanimous candidate approval.

Inter-German Relations

The constant stream of East Germans fleeing to West Germany placed great strains on FRG-GDR relations in the 1950s. The GDR sealed the borders to the FRG in 1952, but people continued to flee from East to West Berlin. On August 13, 1961, the GDR began building the Berlin Wall through the center of the city to slow the flood of refugees to a trickle. The Berlin Wall became the symbol of the cold war and the division of Europe.

In 1969, Chancellor Brandt announced that the FRG would remain firmly rooted in the Atlantic alliance but would intensify efforts to improve relations with Eastern Europe and the GDR. The FRG commenced this Ostpolitik by negotiating nonaggression treaties with the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Hungary.

The FRG's relations with the GDR posed particularly difficult questions. Though anxious to relieve serious hardships for divided families and to reduce friction, the FRG under Brandt was intent on holding to its concept of "two German states in one German nation." Relations improved, however, and in September 1973, the FRG and the GDR were admitted to the United Nations. The two Germanys exchanged permanent representatives in 1974, and, in 1987, GDR head of state Erich Honecker paid an official visit to the FRG.

German Unification

During the summer of 1989, rapid changes took place in the GDR, which ultimately led to German unification. Growing numbers of East Germans emigrated to the FRG via Hungary after the Hungarians decided not to use force to stop them. Thousands of East Germans also tried to reach the West by staging sit-ins at FRG diplomatic facilities in other East European capitals. The exodus generated demands within the GDR for political change, and mass demonstrations in several cities--particularly in Leipzig--continued to grow. On October 7, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev visited Berlin to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the GDR and urged the East German leadership to pursue reform.

On October 18, Erich Honecker resigned as head of the SED and as head of state and was replaced by Egon Krenz. But the exodus continued unabated, and pressure for political reform mounted. On November 4, a demonstration in East Berlin drew as many as 1 million East Germans. Finally, on November 9, the Berlin Wall was opened, and East Germans were allowed to travel freely. Thousands poured through the wall into the western sectors of Berlin, and on November 12, the GDR began dismantling it.

On November 28, FRG Chancellor Helmut Kohl outlined a 10-point plan for the peaceful unification of the two Germanys based on free elections in the GDR and a unification of their two economies. In December, the GDR Volkskammer eliminated the SED monopoly on power, and the entire Politburo and Central Committee--including Krenz--resigned. The SED changed its name to the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and the formation and growth of numerous political groups and parties marked the end of the communist system. Prime Minister Hans Modrow[?] headed a caretaker government which shared power with the new, democratically oriented parties. On December 7, 1989, agreement was reached to hold free elections in May 1990 and rewrite the GDR constitution. On January 28, all the parties agreed to advance the elections to March 18, primarily because of an erosion of state authority and because the East German exodus was continuing apace; more than 117,000 left in January and February 1990.

In early February 1990, the Modrow government's proposal for a unified, neutral German state was rejected by Chancellor Kohl, who affirmed that a unified Germany must be a member of NATO. Finally, on March 18, the first free elections were held in the GDR, and a government led by Lothar de Maizière[?] (CDU) was formed under a policy of expeditious unification with the FRG. The freely elected representatives of the Volkskammer held their first session on April 5, and the GDR peacefully evolved from a communist to a democratically elected government. Free and secret communal (local) elections were held in the GDR on May 6, and the CDU again won. On July 1, the two Germanys entered into an economic and monetary union.

Four Power Control Ends

During 1990, in parallel with internal German developments, the Four Powers--the United States, U.K., France, and the Soviet Union--together with the two German states negotiated to end Four Power reserved rights for Berlin and Germany as a whole. These "Two-plus-Four" negotiations were mandated at the Ottawa Open Skies conference[?] on February 13, 1990. The six foreign ministers met four times in the ensuing months in Bonn (May 5), Berlin (June 22), Paris (July 17), and Moscow (September 12). The Polish Foreign Minister participated in the part of the Paris meeting that dealt with the Polish-German borders.

Of key importance was overcoming Soviet objections to a united Germany's membership in NATO. This was accomplished in July when the alliance, led by President Bush, issued the London Declaration on a transformed NATO. On July 16, President Gorbachev and Chancellor Kohl announced agreement in principle on a united Germany in NATO. This cleared the way for the signing in Moscow on September 12 of the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany. In addition to terminating Four Power rights, the treaty mandated the withdrawal of all Soviet forces from Germany by the end of 1994, made clear that the current borders were final and definitive, and specified the right of a united Germany to belong to NATO. It also provided for the continued presence of British, French, and American troops in Berlin during the interim period of the Soviet withdrawal. In the treaty, the Germans renounced nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and stated their intention to reduce German armed forces to 370,000 within 3 to 4 years after the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, signed in Paris on November 19, 1990, entered into force.

Conclusion of the final settlement cleared the way for unification of the FRG and GDR. Formal political union occurred on October 3, 1990, with the accession (in accordance with Article 23 of the FRG's Basic Law) of the five Laender which had been reestablished in the GDR. On December 2, 1990, all-German elections were held for the first time since 1933. In fact, accession meant that East Germany was annexed by West Germany, as the new country kept the name Bundesrepublik Deutschland, used the West German "Deutsche Mark" for currency, and the capital remained at Bonn for the time being. Around 1994 it was moved back to Berlin, where it had been before World War II. Now the main administrative bodies are situated in Berlin.

Today Germany is doing fairly well economically, being the world's third-largest economy (behind the USA and Japan). It is among the top 5 countries in Internet access worldwide. Many Germans speak English and/or French, in addition to High German and their local dialect of German (of which there are many).



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