A. The Physical Setting
Due to its losses in the two world wars, Germany’s territory has changed a great deal over the past 80 years. Most of East Prussia is now Russian territory, whereas virtually all of what is presently northern and western Poland once was German property. The present Germany has an area of roughly 138,000 square miles (357,000 sq km), roughly the size of Montana, with a population of 81 million. It should also be noted that the present Germany has only been in existence for a little more than 10 years, with the two Germanies being formally unified on October 3, 1990.
Germany is one of the wealthiest nations in Europe, and indeed the world. Presently, it has a GDP of about 28k per person, with this accounting for ppp of 79% of the US. However, this does not mean that Germany is without its economic and social problems. The absorption of the East has been a very costly venture and has created resentment on both sides, with the Easterners assuming that the West has absorbed it with a great deal of resentment rather than creating a unified state and that little attention is paid to its problems, and the West being contemptuous of the Ossies (Easterners). Some truth in both of these assertions. West does tend to look down upon the East, and the East has created an enormous drain on the economy of the West. Another problem worthy of note is one that Germany shares with the French - high unemployment. It presently stands at 9.5%, though it has declined by 2.5% over the past three years, there are still serious concerns about the ability of the German economy to meet future demands. Also, uncertainty over the future course of the Euro and it is worth remembering that the Germans were highly reluctant to surrender what had been the strongest currency in Europe. In the 1998 election, the longest serving German Chancellor of this century, Helmut Kohl was defeated, and his successor (Gerhard Schroeder) presently faces a series of difficulties, though the money scandal in the CDU has made his life somewhat easier of late.
In short, Germany is a very wealthy state, yet the cold war divisions have not entirely healed. It is also facing some rather serious political and economic uncertainty at the moment. Discussion comes at a good time.
B. A Brief Look at Pre- War German History
When we examine Germany we are looking at a state that has undergone a tremendous degree of change over the past century, if Britain can be considered a paragon of stability and evolutionary gov’t and France a model of political experimentation, then Germany has been a font of political change. In this century, the territory that comprises present day Germany has seen a Monarchy, a fractious parliamentary government, a brutal dictatorship, a modern democratic state and a communist government over the past 75 years. The present day Germany has only been in existence for a little more than 10 years, spending the previous 40 divided, as the virtual symbol of the Cold War. Even present day Germany looks very different in a territorial sense from the country that went into the second world war, much of what is now Western and Northern Poland was German territory prior to 1939, and what was formerly East Prussia is now a part of Russia.
While the idea of a German nation is very old (witness Tacitus’ rambling about the difficulty in pacifying the Germanic tribes in the first century A.D.), its experience as a modern nation-state is rather new. It was only in the 1860s/1870s that the previously small units became unified into a coherent state. In 1871, Otto von Bismarck founded the Wilhemite Empire by merging all of these states into one body - dominated by Prussia. Bismarck served as the Chancellor of Prussia from 1862 to 1871 and from the unified German state between 1871 and 1890, a record that Kohl may break if he is successful in next year’s election. Anyway, Bismarck brought about the unification of Germany under Prussian terms with victories in three wars: against Denmark in 1864, which brought in the North-west component of Germany; against Austria in 1866, which brought in the southern parts; and the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian war, which captured territories in the South-West. These three events not only gave Prussia large territorial gains, but also served to spur the other German principalities into merger and the formation of the Second Reich.
Yet, obviously, this did not mean that the arguments concerning what actually constituted German territory were over. Not only were the old Germanic states a hodge-podge of dozens of small principalities and several large ones, but the German people have been strewn all over Europe - Volga Deutsch, Sudetenland, etc. While there has been a long standing German culture, the German state is a rather recent invention.
The Second Reich (1871-1918), as created at Versailles in 1871, was an authoritarian state with power emanating from the Emperor, and its creator Bismarck, formerly the chancellor of Prussia, exercised enormous powers. Bismarck had sought to build a Germany out of “Blood and Iron”, and had largely succeeded. The Second Reich was able to bring about rapid industrialization, yet political and economic power remained in the hands of the aristocracy and the traditional elite. The state was sufficiently powerful to resist demands for change that emanated from a weak middle class.
Wilhelm II became the Kaiser (emperor in 1888) and instituted a campaign for territory in Africa (Germans acquired what is now Namibia, Tanzania, Togo and Cameroon), also increased the size of the Navy, dismissed Bismarck in 1890 and set the stage for German involvement in WWI (1914-1918). WWI was disastrous for Germany, over 3 million soldiers and civilians were killed and the economy was stretched beyond capacity. War ended in a German defeat and the placement of crushing reparations, also a loss of the Alsace-Lorraine region to France and a large swath of Prussia to Poland, as well as its African colonies. The Treaty of Versailles took 15% of Germany’s arable land and 10% of its population.We should remember the character of WWI, awful trench warfare, poison gas, etc. This war was not supported by all elements of German society, especially as it began to drag on. Catholic, liberal, and socialist groups all quickly grew tired of the war and Germany became a virtual military dictatorship by 1917. Especially interesting as these people would end up being scapegoated by the Nazis for the loss of WWI, as opposed to the Kaiser and military which served as the primary advocates of the conflict.
Weimar Republic (1919-1933) established in 1919. This new constitution promised universal suffrage and guaranteed human rights. Political power was centered on a directly elected Parliament and President. Political parties from across the spectrum were given access to parliament. However, the country suffered from severe economic problems: huge reparations payments to the victorious nations, wartime destruction, inflation on an unimaginable level (26 billion % in 1923). The Stock market crash and Great Depression nearly destroyed Germany, roughly a third of the labor force became unemployed and a frustrated public began to turn to parties of the extremes as potential solutions. The major beneficiary from this was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazis), who saw their popular vote increase from 2% in 1928 to 33% in 1932. Hitler was named Chancellor in January of 1933 and the Weimar Republic came to a quick end. The Germans had not really inculcated the basic values of democracy during the 15 years of the Weimar, and many elements, including the army longed for a return to German Empire. Of course, the country also faced staggering economic problems during this time and an electorate that was turning to extremes as solutions. The German elite severely underestimated Hitler and believed that he could be controlled like any other politician, this proved to be a miscalculation.
The Third Reich (1933-45) was established by Hitler in 1933. Shortly after assuming power, the Nazis used a fire in Reichstag (blamed on the Communists) to bring draconian laws into being. All aspects of German society were placed under the co-ordination of the Nazi party. Massive public works projects, rebuilding of the military, scapegoating of jews, communists, socialists and minorities, repudiation of Versailles (1934), annexation of Austria (1938), Sudentenland (1938 - followed by Munich), invasion of Poland (1939), France (1940), USSR (1941). Second World war left Germany partitioned and in ruins.
C. The Immediate Aftermath of the War: Occupation (45-49)
Under the occupation, post-war Germany was divided into four sectors: British, French, American and Soviet. Berlin sat well inside the Soviet sector, and was also partitioned, with the Western part of the city falling in the American, British, and French sectors and eventually becoming a part of West Germany. An isolated island of the West inside Eastern Germany
- According to David Conradt, the allies had four central aims in the west, to: (1) de-nazify the country to the point where all vestiges of the Third Reich were to be removed, trials of the top party, government, and business officials as War criminals at Nuremberg, difficult process that still raises concerns, role of education (mention the story of the flags); (2) the country was to be demilitarized, with its aggressive ability to wage war ended (mention how these attitudes changed in the early 50s, when both sides sought to re-arm their ally, but the continued German reluctance to send troops to fight in non-NATO areas); (3) to democratize the country, so that there would not be a repeat of the events of the 1930s; (4) Country was to be decentralized, power was to be divided between the national and state (lander) governments, institution of federalism in order to prevent the concentration of power in a central government.
- In the East, as we shall see in a moment, Stalin installed a government officials that they could control and assured the ascendancy of a communist party. In their defense, from their perspective the last thing that they wanted was the re-emergence of a hostile Germany and they also believed that this was a superior and more democratic system of government (explain).
- In the West, the allies sought to introduce market reforms to bring the country out of the post-war chaos and hardship. There was a belief by the US and the British that as economic disaster had created the conditions that gave rise to Hitler, that to assist in the building of a prosperous Germany would be the best guarantee of future peace.
- West faced not only the devastation of the war, but also mass migration (in the millions) from the former German territories that were now part of Poland, the SU, Czechoslovakia, etc. None of these were too keen on Germans following World War Two. Also, those fleeing from East Germany meant that the West had to absorb 10 million refugees at a time of great economic hardship.
- Marshall Plan (1947), more than $14 billion is extended for European reconstruction. Rejected by the Soviets, who formed Comecon as an alternative to this “dollar imperialism”.
- In 1948, a new currency and market reforms were introduced in the Western zones of occupation, also later in that year a constitutional council met in Bonn and in May of 1949 they agreed on a basic law and established the Federal Republic of Germany, German Democratic Republic was created in the East in October.
- The Soviet viewed these events with a certain degree of trepidation, very concerned about the formation of a separate state in the West, initiated an 11 month blockade of Berlin following the currency reforms of 1948. Halted all ground traffic between the West and Berlin. City was kept alive by and airlift that had up to 900 daily flights transferring thousands of tons of food on a daily basis. Throughout the division the East, under Soviet bidding demanded reunification and neutrality.
- Result is that by the end of the 1940s, Germany was divided in two: The FRG in the West and the GDR in the East.
D. Two Germanies
- Division was initially intended as temporary, but mutual suspicion of the West and the Soviet Union solidified this in the late 1940s.
1. The G.D.R.
- Child of the cold war, created from the Soviet occupied zone in the aftermath of WWII. Neither the Soviets nor the United States were willing to allow for the creation of a unified German state within the alliance system of the other. Result was a division of Germany that lasted from the close of the second world war until 1990.
- Founded on October 7, 1949, had a population of roughly 16 million at the time of unification in a territory about half the size of West Germany.
- Modeled after the Soviet Union, dominated by a single communist party - the Socialist Unity Party (SED). G.D.R. was one of the more tightly controlled of the Eastern bloc states. Elections to parliament were held, yet this was based on a list determined by the party, often fielding only one candidate.
- Domination by the SED, with a membership of 2.1 million (1988), it controlled access to all of the upper echelon positions within the administration, judiciary, education, the military, media, and the economy. Idea of Nomenklatura - make sure that they are familiar with this concept.
- Government was supported by the secret police, the Stasi (Staatssicherheit), monitored and controlled the population. Staasi had a network of somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million informers and had files on over 6 million East Germans.
- Economy was also based on the Soviet model - heavy centralized planning, state control of the means of production, collectivized farmland.
- While this was a disaster for all involved countries (industrial dinosaurs), the East Germans were able to sustain this better than most due to their pre-communist industrial base (what was not either destroyed by the war or taken by the Russians in reparations).
- Berlin Blockade in 1948-49, building of the wall in 1961.
- Began to borrow heavily from the West following the thaw in inter-German relations in the 1970s (see below). While the East Germans were among the wealthiest of the nations in the Eastern bloc (Soviet alliance system), they were not comparable to the West.
- Anyway, Erich Honecker, First Secretary of the SED from 1971 to 1989, was opposed to the Gorbachev inspired reforms that began to sweep the eastern bloc from 1987 to 1989. Believed, with some justification, that loosening the leash would cause the end of the G.D.R.. However, their neighbors did not share Honecker’s beliefs and in the fall of 1989, hundreds of thousands of East Germans began to pour through the open borders of Czechoslovakia and Hungary into Austria and eventually into West Germany.
- Mounting civil disorder in the East in the fall of 1989, massive demonstrations in Berlin, Leipzig, and Dresden. Honecker wanted to do a series of Tienanmens, but was overruled by Gorbachev (contrast with 1953). Leadership change within the SED, Honecker replaced by Egon Krenz and the wall came down in November.
- Free elections to the East German parliament in march of 1990, forces favoring immediate unification carried the day, economic union took place in July, and the country was unified in October. Just prior to that, a final settlement ended the rights of the four powers and confirmed Germany’s eastern borders along the Oder-Neisse River.
2. The F.R.G.
- After enduing economic hardship in the half decade following the war, the FRG began a spectacular two decade period of economic growth in the early 1950s. By the first part of the 1950s, income levels were at pre-war levels - over the next twenty years, per capita wealth tripled, average incomes increased sevenfold, and average industrial wages increased fivefold. By the early 1970s, the West German public was several times more wealthy than it had been at any previous time in its history. West German Economic Miracle.
- Establishment of a democratic system, bi-cameral Bundestag (popular rep) and Bundesrat (seats are allocated to the states).
- West Germany had a policy of automatic citizenship for those who fled East Germany.
- First Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer (1949-63) set about to integrate the FRG into the Western Alliance system. Joined the European Coal and Steel Commission (1951), the EEC (1957), NATO (1955). FRG achieved full sovereignty in 1955, following agreements in Paris (1954) and the occupation was formally over. In essence, the occupation period had served its purpose and West Germany had been de-nazified, democratized, federalized, and brought into the Western alliance system. The first twenty odd years of the FRG and GDR was a rather odd time for Germany, both sides proclaimed a desire for unity, yet both also took steps to solidify their states as separate entities. From the start of the Cold War to the early 1970s, relations between West Germany and the nations of Eastern Europe were largely conflictual and the Hallstead Doctrine (1955) announced that the FRG would not have diplomatic relations with those states that recognized East Germany. Similarly, the East also set out to deepen the division between the two states with the establishment of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Built to stem the tide of refugees flooding into West Berlin from the East, the GDR justified this by stating that it was established to protect the East from exploitation by the West.
- The changed in 1969 with the election of a leftist coalition in the FRG, the new chancellor, Willy Brandt, advocated a very different policy toward the East. Brandt’s Ostpolitik was a recognition of the two Germanies and indicated a willingness to accept the reality of a divided Germany. In 1970 and 1971, the FRG signed treaties with the Soviet Union and Poland which renounced the former German territory now occupied by these countries. In 1972, Brandt renounced the Hallstead Doctrine and signed a treaty of Basic Relations with East Germany, this treaty formalized the basic relationship between two German states within one German nation.
- Both were admitted to the UN in the immediate aftermath of this treaty and the East forged new relations with over 150 different states.
- However, this proved to be a mixed blessing for the East. While this granted it an increased degree of international legitimacy, it also granted increased economic and cultural ties with the West and allowed the East German people access to Western values, ideas, and glimpses of the different living standards. Would prove to be quite costly once Gorbachev began to loosen the screws on the Eastern bloc.
- East West relations remained relatively constant until the rise of Gorbachev in the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s.
- Brandt also introduced social reforms, efforts were made to expand social services and increase the access of all Germans to the Economic miracle. Social programs were increased and efforts were made to create new benefits in the areas of social security, health insurance, and other services.
- Germany hit hard by the recession of the mid 1970s; world wide economic slowdown in the wake of the first oil shocks hit this export oriented economy. New Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt (Brandt retired) scaled back the social programs due to the new uncertainties of economic growth.
- Kohl cam to power in 1982, cut public spending in an effort to reduce deficit and the economy also responded to the world wide economic upturn. Growth continued until collapse of the wall and reunification in 1990. Tremendous problem for Germany (more a little later).
- Kohl has since won elections in 1987, 1990, and 1994. Next year could be his undoing.
E. Ramifications of Unification
1. Unemployment- Frightening levels of unemployment in the East (16% one year ago). Old industrial monoliths that proved to be more or less impossible to maintain, treuhand was established to sell the off, limited returns.
- Many people over the age of 50 (perhaps even 40) must accept the fact that they may never have a job again.
- Workforce that is untrained to meet the demands of German industry - productivity in the East is about half the level of the West.
2. Disparities in Wealth - Full economic parity is estimated at being at least a decade away by your book, which is more optimistic than some of the other accounts I have read. Presently, annual GDP per person of former east is slightly more than half of the West.
- However, this is not to say that reunification has been bad for the East. Access to consumer goods and increased ability to pay. Pensioners are now compensated according to the West model.
3. Environmental problems.
4. Deficits - based on the cleanup, welfare costs of the East.
- By 1995, unification was costing the average German family $225 a month in increased taxes and social security payments. 7.5% unification tax on corporate and individual income.
- Presently, East Germans produce about 60% of their level of consumption, the rest comes from subsidies from the West.
- Also, running up very un-German deficits. Germany’s total debt, as a percentage of GNP has gone from below 40% in 1991 to above 60% in 1997.
5. Resentments between citizens of the two former Germanies.
- more a takeover than a unification.
- two thirds of the citizens of the former east consider themselves to “be first and foremost, East Germans”.
- West regard the east as timid and lazy, east thinks of the westerners as being arrogant and bossy.
- Psychological ramifications of the unification process.
- belief that this was almost a colonization with the Western companies coming in and getting Germans industry on the cheap.
6. Uncertainty of neighbors.
- country still trying to live down its past.
- Further commitment to the EU.
- Tremendous change in Germany over the past 100 years.
- Monarchy to fractious parliament to authoritarian dictatorship to democracy/communist state to democracy.
- Unification a qualified success, yet not for all, and it has come at exorbitant costs.
- Modern Germany aims to be a peaceful neighbor.