For arguably more than 70 years Germany has been at the heart of European politics, and therefore world politics. For another forty years, its reunification was the silent issue of world politics. Then for a few years after governments of the world spoke of its potential occurrence. Then without warning it happened so quickly that much of the international community was taken by surprise. Having been of such an importance the events that surrounded reunification ultimately led to the much more anticipated collapse of the Soviet Union. It has become apparent that Germany is, if not at the center, very central to world politics. Despite having appeared to occur so suddenly, the diplomacy of German reunification occurred over a much longer period of time than noticed. While the American government seemed quite eager to reunify Germany, both Britain and France did not share those same sentiments. By chronologically examining the events and treaties that led up to the reunification it will possible to look at where Germany dictated their own sovereignty and where external international pressure took precedence.
After the Second World War, during the infamous Yalta Conference between President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill and General Secretary Stalin, the issue of a post-war Germany became one of the central talking points. Clearly the same mistake that was made during the earlier Treaty of Versailles could not be made again, Germany was to be reorganized and rebuilt. Subsequently Germany was divided amongst the wartime-allied powers the United Kingdom, the USSR, the United States, and later France (after the UK and the US ceded parts of their territory).
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The initial intention in spite of this was not to split Germany, but rather to designate zones of administration. However one of the first points on the Soviet agenda was Poland; the former areas of the Oder River and the Neisse River in the North East of Germany were put under Polish administration. In effect this meant the expulsion of millions of Germans. This was under the Yalta Conference called territorial compensation. Stalin stated that the Russian people had sinned against the Polish people and that he wanted to atone for that. Also on the agenda was the Morgenthau Plan, which stipulated that Germany’s economy under the ‘levels of industry’ plans should be reduced to 50% of its 1938 capacity, which would in effect prevent the remilitarization of Germany. While the Soviets and initially the French were in favor of the plans, Britain was not at the outset. Britain occupied the northeast region of Germany, which was considered to have been the least sustainable in terms of food. With some convincing at an earlier conference held in Quebec in 1944, Churchill agreed to the plan. On the matter the US had initially supported the Morgenthau Plan, however later found that implementation was impractical. Former President Hoover stated that implementation of the plan would mean reducing Germany to a ‘pastoral state’, and also that ‘It [could not] be done unless we exterminate of move 25, 000, 000 people out of [Germany]’. In turn the US government suggested the ‘Marshal Plan’, which could set up financial aid for Germany (among other war-torn European states) that would completely revive Germany’s industrial sector and re-establish a strong German economy.
Former General Secretary Stalin had strongly opposed the plan, claiming that it was an American ploy to buy a pro-US alignment in the new Europe. Stalin having set up a strong Eastern bloc of Communist aligned countries considered the Marshal Plan to be a threat to his buffer zone of states along the Western border. Having initially looked for support from the Soviets, the Americans had no time to lose and announced the implementation European Recovery Plan (Marshal Plan).
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These events lead to what effectively is considered to be the first major crisis in the Cold War, the Berlin Blockade.
In order to coordinate economies the British and the US occupation zones combined into what was informally referred to as Bizonia (later to be referred to as Trizonia with the addition of the French zone).
In response to what appeared to be a western threat to the Soviet occupied zone, the Soviet Union blocked all western railway and road access to Western occupied zone of Berlin. In response the Western allies organized the Berlin Airlift, which carried supplies to the area. While the Soviets had laughed at the matter, the Airlifts proved to be more effective that any previous method of supplying the area. These Airlifts served not only as the first successful Western Cold War victory, but also as the primary gateway to Berlin for another 50 years.
The western sectors, which were already informally coordinated under Trizonia, were officially merged on the 23rd of May 1949 effectively establishing the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG).
The initial steps towards the reunification of western occupied zones were of course geared towards the re-industrialization and rebuilding of the German economy. Not to be outdone by the Western powers, on October 7th, 1949 the Soviet zone became formerly known as the German Democratic Republic (GDR).
They were, amongst the international community, informally referred to as West Germany and East Germany. As well the two parts of Berlin were referred to as “East Berlin” and “West Berlin”. The GDR declared its capital in East Berlin, and the FRG changed its to Bonn (although to emphasize their stance their declared this capital strictly provisional) .
In order to properly understand German unification, one must first understand how each state grew and what sort of diplomatic ties each state had amalgamated prior to reunification. While the GDR became just another Soviet Satellite, the FRG was undergoing massive economic growth. The FRG was established with a ‘social market economy’. Allied with the United States the West German economic growth was largely attributed by some to the Marshall Plan. This could not be the only factor because France and Britain, which both had received higher economic assistance than Germany, did not experience the same economic growth. Another factor in what was called Germany’s Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle) was the currency reform in 1948, which replaced the Reichsmark with the new Deutsche Mark, effectively curbing inflation. Also Germany’s re-industrialization coupled with cheap labour was quite timely with the Korean War (1950-1953), as there was now a worldwide increase in the demand for goods. From the late 1950s onwards the FRG had one of the strongest economies in the world.
... East German government built the Berlin Wall. 1989 The Communist government in East Germany collapsed, and the Berlin Wall was dismantled. Thousands of East Germans emigrated to West Germany. 1990 Germany ...
The East German economy started quite poorly – due in part to war reparations owed to the USSR. Reparations were paid in agricultural and industrial products; also much of the land that was given to Poland under command of Stalin contained very important natural resources and ports. However as the reparations began to be paid off, the GDR began to show a certain growth (though incomparable to West Germany’s economic miracle).
West Germany and East Germany were evidently involved in very different international organizations. In 1952 West Germany became pivotal in the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC); West Germany and France would symbolically sign a declaration, which shared their steel and coal (which were two resources integral to building up arms supplies).
This marked the birth of a united Europe, as ECSC would later evolve into the European Union. By May 5th 1955, West Germany was considered fully sovereign, although due to a continued Soviet presence in the GDR the western militaries also maintained their presence. That same year the prominent Hallstein Doctrine was created by state-secretary Walter Hallstein, the doctrine stipulated that the FRG would not maintain any diplomatic relations with any state that recognized the GDR. This doctrine acted as an attempt, largely backed by the United States, to undermine communism.
During the 1950s as mentioned earlier West Germany was undergoing its economic miracle, however the GDR was not showing the same growth. Thus emigration was on the rise; up until 1952 the border between East and West Germany could be easily crossed. This lead to the closing of the inner German border, whereby traffic between the two German states was closed and a barbed wire fence was erected. The border between the Western and Eastern parts of Berlin remained relatively open during this time however (although traffic was somewhat restricted).
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However this backfired, as West Berlin became a magnet to those seeking to escape the GDR.
Emigrants tended to be younger and well educated, since they were seeking more opportunities. By 1960, the causalities of WWII coupled with massive emigration westward left the GDR with only 61% of its population being of working (compared to 70.5% before the war).
Those emigrating were primarily professionals: engineers, teachers, technicians, physicians and skilled workers. The brain drain, as it was referred to, was so crushing to the GDR’s political credibility as well as economy that the securing of the German border became imperative. On August 12th 1961, Party Secretary Walter Ulbricht and Soviet General Secretary Khrushchev signed an order to close the border and erect a wall; by the next morning the border was completely closed.
The effects were immediate; East Germans and West Germans alike were separated from their families, East Germans employed in the West were cut off from their jobs, and West Berlin became an isolated enclave in a sea of socialism. West Berliners were quick however to lead demonstration against the wall, led by then Mayor Michael Abbott who was quick to criticize the US for not responding. In response President John F. Kennedy acknowledged America’s intentions to defend the FRG, but stipulated that any further actions would result in an embarrassing downfall. While the wall violated postwar Potsdam Agreements, which allowed the UK, the US, and France say over the whole of Berlin, the US did not challenge the wall and informed that Soviets that they accepted it as a “fact of international life”. On one hand the US and the UK considered this to be an end to concerns of Soviet retaking of the whole of Berlin; overall Soviet military conflict likelihood had decreased.
While much of the East German press claimed the wall to be “anti-fascist”, or an attempt to protect against West German agents working within the east the view that the Wall was mainly a means of preventing mass emigration was widely accepted. As the decade ensued, the two cities existed apart from each other. Residents of East Germany were only permitted to visit the West under very strict situations and even stricter conditions. The international community took notice; on June 26th 1963, nearly 22 months after the Wall was put up, President Kennedy in his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech publicly denounced communism claiming that wall was an example of its failures:
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“Freedom has many difficulties, and democracy isn’t perfect, but we never had to put up a wall to keep our people in.”
The relationship between East and West Berlin remained stagnant until late 1969, after Wily Brandt’s ascension to chancellorship. Brandt undertook a new policy towards the GDR to normalize their relations. These policies would come to be known as Ostopolitik (Eastern policy or politics).
While he predecessors attempted to ignore the GDR, Brandt sought to work not only to improve relations for West Germans but also to achieve more freedom for the East. Brandt met twice with then GDR premier Willi Stoph in 1970; West Germany was beginning to execute its sovereignty. The first meeting was in August 12th of that year for the Moscow Treaty, which effectively recognized de facto existence of the GDR and the Polish Oder-Neisse Line. The Treaty was first friendship treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic. The second meeting was the Treaty of Warsaw, which also dealt with the Oder-Neisse Line and aimed at détente. Brandt’s Ostopolitik held that the Hallstein Doctrine did nothing to help undermine the communist regime or help the situation of the East German people. Brandt stated that collaboration with the communists would lead to closer ties that eventually would undermine their communist principles and the regime in its entirety. Brandt even went so far as to encourage the former allies of WWII to work toward a settlement of the Berlin issue rather than dwelling on past jurisdictional claims.
The Berlin Agreement signed in September of 1971, set the stage for East-West agreements which led to détente, and re-established ties between East and West Berlin. The agreement was not a treaty however, and thus required no formal ratification. Some have argued that this simply formalized the divisions in Europe; others have said that it began talks between the opposing sides that eventually led to the end of the cold war.
During the wake of an alleged espionage scandal Brandt resigned in 1974 leaving Finance minister Helmut Schmidt in his place. Schmidt was a strong supporter of international agreements and organizations, and used them to exercise his and West Germany’s will on the international level (particularly when dealing with the Soviets and the GDR. He served from 1974 to 1982. Apprehensive about the vastly superior number of Soviet missiles in central Europe paired with the impending Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Chancellor Schmitt emphasized West German involvement in NATO, the European Community (EC) and also a commitment to the US-European partnership. Schmitt proposal led to the 1979 NATO Double-Track Decision, which offered the Warsaw Pact countries a mutual limitation of Medium-ranged ballistic missiles as well as Intermediate-range ballistic missiles. In order to legitimize this mutual limitation NATO threatened that if the agreement was not reached they would deploy more middle range nuclear weapons. Though this official agreement was never met, it was certainly a starting point for nuclear disarmament discussions between the Western nations and the Soviets.
... On November 9, 1989 the border between East Germany and West Germany was opened. The East German government ended its restrictions on immigration and travel ... the boarder between was and peace. Large numbers of East Germans fled to West Germany by way of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. ... a part of the soviet occupied sector, and when the Wall was built to separate East and West Berlin, the gate ...
However, perhaps one of the most important events to happen to modern history and set the stage for contemporary politics as we know it would come at the end of the 1980s; the German reunification. It has set up not only modern German demographics, but also the fall of the Soviet Union (ergo sum the demographics of the modern political situations of the world).
While negotiations to set up reunification happened as early as the Stalin Note in 1952, success was never achieved until Helmut Kohl took office in 1982. Kohl however cannot be solely credited on the reunification. In fact, reunification accolades should be more weighted on the eastern side of Germany.
Political stability in Warsaw Pact countries was waning; while as early as 1968 with the Prague Spring this was becoming apparent it wasn’t until the late 1980s that much of the Western bordering countries were begin to defunct from the Soviet. The Soviets were suffering sever food shortages, and running a massive deficit by end of the 1980s. Relaxation of censorship in ways of the arts and press in an otherwise very centrally driven power structure was leading to a resurfacing of widespread anti-Soviet sentiments. One such event that was instrumental in triggering was the opening of the Hungarian borders in 1989. This occurred on August 23rd, by the end of September more than 13, 000 East German tourists escaped to Austria. This set up the domino effect that would lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Once past the Iron Curtain, these East Germans flooded the West German embassy, where they refused to return to East Germany. This mass emigration was met by the GDR response to disallow any further travel to Hungary, which led to mass demonstrations within the GDR itself. Leader Erich Honecker thus resigned in October of the same year, replaced by the less imposing Egon Krenz.
These demonstrations were called the Peaceful Revolution of 1989; by November 4th protests had gotten so severe that an estimated half a million people gathered in East Berlin. Meanwhile East Germans were now filtering through the Czechoslovakian border, which was tolerated by Krenz. Things had gotten so out of control that Krenz began allowing refugees to exit directly from East to West Germany by November 9th.
Due to errors in communication, on November 9th, a West German television channel, ARD broadcasted incomplete information from Schabowski’s (a spokesperson for the politburo) press conference. A moderator stated: “This ninth of November is a historic day.” “East Germany has announced that, starting immediately, its borders are open to everyone.” Upon hearing this East Germans began to gather in masses at the wall, demanding that they be allowed to cross. Due to the overwhelming numbers of people, the guards and the GDR government finally yielded and allowed travel across freely.
However it wasn’t until Kohl took advantage of this political instability that we saw the emergence of a new reunified German state. Kohl presented the ten-point plan for “Overcoming the division of Germany and Europe”. In February of 1990 he visited Soviet Party Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev hoping to negotiate the reunification. This would effectively set up the economic and social unions that would establish exchange rates, interest and rent between the two Marks. On October 3rd 1990, the GDR was abolished and was annexed by West Germany.
Not all was so easy however, it became public according to records coming out of Russia that the British and the French governments did not want German “reunification. Before the fall of the wall British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in a conversation with Gorbachev assessed that neither Britain nor the rest of Western Europe wanted the reunification of Germany. She told Gorbachev that he should do what he can to stop it. Thatcher stated that ““This would lead to a change to postwar borders, and we cannot allow that because such a development would undermine the stability of the whole international situation and could endanger our security.” . French President Mitterrand had a similar perspective though he accepted it as ‘inevitable’. Despite this both countries signed the Two Plus Four Treaty, which finalized the reunification into international law. Though it was later revealed that France only agreed in exchange for Chancellor Kohl’s European Economic and Monetary Union.
Germany has always been at the centre of European, and in turn world politics; its power and political stability have been instrumental to world diplomacy let alone European diplomacy. The reunification of Germany paired with the economic and agricultural disparities the Soviet Union was facing ultimately led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. While perhaps a bit of stretch, the fall of the world’s only other super-power led to the disorganizing (from political disbanding) and the sale of Russia’s main commodity, their armories. Germany continues to be one the most powerful nations of the world today, economically speaking, and will continue to be at the centre of European diplomatic relations. While perhaps it feels comfortable letting France do the proverbial driving, its interests are always at the foremost of European foreign and domestic policy. This illustration of post-war Germany clearly displays the effect that a divided and indeed unstable Germany had on Europe. Its reunification was instrumental in establishing the international system, as it is known today.
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