after 1945 part 2
The founding of the Federal Republic of Germany
West Germany had already begun receiving American foreign aid in 1946 (under the
GARIOA Programme), but it was George C. Marshall's programme to combat 'hunger,
poverty, despair and chaos' (the Marshall Plan) that provided the crucial boost
for the country's economic recovery (1.4 billion dollars between 1948 and 1952).
While in the Soviet-occupied zone the process of transferring industry to public
ownership continued, the 'social market economy' system (Alfred Muller-Armack
1947) continued to gain ground in the west after the currency reform. The new
economic order was intended to prevent, on the one hand, the 'stagnation of capitalism'
(Walter Eucken) and, on the other, a centrally planned economy which would be
a hindrance to creativity and initiative.
This concept was supplemented by the rule-of-law and the
welfare-state principle embodied in the Basic Law and by the country's federal
structure. The constitution was deliberately termed the 'Basic Law' in order to
emphasize its provisional character. The idea was that a definitive constitution
should only be adopted after Germany's reunification.
The Basic Law naturally included many of the intentions
of the western occupying powers, who, with the Frankfurt Documents presented on
1 July 1948, authorized West Germany's minister presidents (i.e. the heads of
government of the Lander) to draw up a constitution. But that document also reflects
much of Germany's experience with the Weimar Republic and the 'legal' installation
of the nazi dictatorship. The constitutional convention held at Herrenchiemsee
(10-23 August 1948) and the Parliamentary Council which met in Bonn on 1 September
1948 (65 delegates of the state parliaments) incorporated in the Basic Law (adopted
on 8 May 1949) provisions requiring future governments, parties and other political
groupings to protect the democratic system. Ever since, all attempts to do away
with the liberal, democratic system, or to replace it with a right-wing or leftwing
dictatorship, have been treated as criminal offences and the organizations concerned
can be banned. The Federal Constitutional Court, the guardian of the constitution,
is the authority which decides whether a party is legal or not.
Whereas the authors of the Weimar constitution, naively
believing in the uprightness of parliament, had, through article 76, made it possible
for enemies of the constitution to destroy what in those days was the most liberal
constitution in the world, article 79 of the Basic Law prohibits any change in
its article 1 (which ties the use of all public authority to protection of human
rights), and any attempt to do away with the country's democratic, social and
federal system (article 20 (4)). These requirements were an immediate reaction
to what had happened under the nazi dictatorship, at whose hands most of the 'politicians
of the Federal Republic's first hour' had suffered, those men and women who were
now rebuilding Germany on the democratic traditions of 1848 and 1919 and in the
of the 'revolt of the conscience' of 20 July 1944. All of them personified in
the eyes of the world the 'other Germany' and won the respect of the occupying
powers. They included the first Federal President Theodor Heuss (FDP), the first
Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (CDU), and Economics Minister Ludwig Erhard
(CDU), the 'locomotive' of the 'economic miracle', but also the outstanding leaders
of the SPD opposition such as Kurt Schumacher and Erich Ollenhauer, as well as
the cosmopolitan Carlo Schmid. It was they who gave the new party system in West
Germany its unmistakable character. Gradually, Germany's involvement and political
influence increased (Occupation Statute, Petersberg Agreements, membership of
GATT, accession to the European Coal and Steel Community). In July 1951 the United
Kingdom, France and the United States declared that Germany was no longer a war
enemy. The Soviet Union did the same on 25 January 1955.
Security through integration with the west and European
reconciliation. To Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who until 1963 had largely held
the reigns of foreign and domestic policy himself (Chancellor democracy), Germany's
reunification in peace and freedom was the foremost political objective. To achieve
this it was necessary for West Germany to be integrated into the Atlantic Alliance.
Accordingly, the restoration of the Federal Republic's sovereignty on 5 May 1955
coincided with its accession to NATO. This alliance was to be the main protective
shield, the proposed European Defence Community having proved abortive due to
At the same time the European Communities (Treaty of Rome,
1957) were developed into an anti-communist bastion. Adenauer's distrust of Moscow
was so deeprooted that in 1952 he, together with the other western powers, rejected
Stalin's offer of reuniting Germany as a neutral country as far as the Oder-Neisse
line. To the Chancellor the protection of American troops in Germany was indispensable.
His suspicion seemed only too justified when, on 17 June 1953, the people's uprising
in East Germany in protest against their life of bondage and against the unbearable
productivity norms imposed by the regime, was savagely put down by Soviet tanks.
This showed once again that without Moscow little progress could be made on the
German question. Thus for sober political reasons it was expedient to establish
diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union as the largest power in Europe. This
was accomplished during Adenauer's visit to Moscow in September 1955, on which
occasion he also secured the release of the last 10,000 German prisoners-of-war
and about 20,000 civilians.
The crushing of the popular revolt in Hungary by Soviet
troops in November 1956, as well as the 'Sputnik shock' (4 October 1957), signalled
a considerable growth of Soviet power, which manifested itself in the establishment
of a socialist system in East Germany, but above all in the Berlin ultimatum issued
by Stalin's successor, Nikita Khrushchev, who demanded that the western allies
leave West Berlin within six months.
Their adamant refusal caused Khrushchev to try a softer
approach on Berlin. His visit to the United States in 1959 did indeed considerably
improve the atmosphere (spirit of Camp David), and the American President, Dwight
D. Eisenhower, to the great concern of the Bonn government, felt that the Russian
transgressions of international agreements regarding Berlin were not so serious
as to warrant a military conflict outside Germany.
Bonn's disquiet with regard to Berlin's security increased
when John F. Kennedy became President of the United States. This represented a
change of generation in the American leadership which considerably reduced Adenauer's
influence on US policy towards Europe. True, Kennedy guaranteed with his three
'essentials' (25 July 1961) free access to Berlin, the presence of the western
powers in the city, and its overall security, but when the Berlin wall was built
on 13 August 1961 the allied reaction went little beyond diplomatic protests and
symbolic threats. Once again Moscow was able to safeguard its protectorate. Barricades,
death strips and repression prevented the people from 'voting with their feet'
against the East German regime. In July alone, the month before the wall was erected,
over 30,000 people had fled from East Germany. The wall had staked out the claims
of the superpowers. Although the German question had not been resolved it at least
seemed regulated. Even after the Cuba crisis in 1962 the two superpowers continued
to seek a better understanding they had to on account of the nuclear stalemate.
Bonn therefore had no option but to look in other directions,
and the temporary estrangement with Washington was in fact outwardly compensated
for by the 'summer of French friendship'. With the Treaty which they signed in
January 1963 Chancellor Adenauer and President de Gaulle laid special emphasis
on Franco-German friendship. In order to stress the new quality of this relationship
de Gaulle, during his triumphant state visit to Bonn a few months previously,
had spoken of the 'great German nation'. In his view the Second World War had
to be seen more in terms of tragedy than of guilt.
As the Federal Republic became increasingly integrated into
the western community the atmosphere also began to improve in the relationship
with eastern Europe. In December 1963 NATO, at a ministerial meeting in Athens,
had signalled this change with its new strategy of flexible response in place
of that of massive retaliation.
In an attempt to soften the rigid East-West relationship,
the Federal Republic tried to improve contacts at least with the Soviet Union's
satellite countries. Without officially abandoning the Hallstein Doctrine, that
is to say Bonn's policy of severing relations with any country which recognized
the GDR, Adenauer's successors, Ludwig Erhard and Kurt Georg Kiesinger, based
their policy on the harsh realities prevailing in central Europe. They were prompted
to do so not least by the new approach adopted by the SPD opposition, which promoted
Egon Bahr's formula of 'change through rapprochement' (15 July 1963).
The establishment of German trade missions in Bucharest
and Budapest was a promising start. In the west increasing efforts were being
made to merge the European Coal and Steel Community, the European Atomic Energy
Community (EURATOM) and the European Economic Community, into one European Community
(8 April 1965). The establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel despite
pan-Arab protests was a major step in the Federal Republic's policy of rapprochement.
At the beginning of 1967 Bonn established diplomatic relations with Romania, and
in June the Federal Republic and Czechoslovakia opened trade missions in their
The Harmel Report of December 1967 at least prepared the
way for further steps towards detente by laying down the western alliance's twofold
aim of maintaining its military strength whilst at the same time being ready to
talk to the eastern bloc. In that year Bonn and Belgrade resumed diplomatic relations,
they having been broken off by the Federal Republic on account of Yugoslavia's
recognition of the GDR. And from Poland came proposals for a non-aggression pact.
In addition to the policy of reconciliation with Germany's
European neighbours and her integration into the western community, Adenauer too
had attached special importance to restitution for the Jews. Six million Jews
had been systematically exterminated by the nazis. It was not least the close
personal relationship between the Federal Republic's first Chancellor and Israel's
Prime Minister Ben Gurion which fostered the process of reconciliation between
Jews and Germans. One outstanding event at that time was their meeting in New
York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel on 14 March 1960. Addressing parliament in 1961,
Adenauer stressed that the Federal Republic could only prove that the Germans
had broken completely with their nazi past by making material restitution as well.
As early as 1952 the first agreement had been signed in
Luxembourg. It provided for assistance for the integration of Jewish refugees
in Israel. Of the total sum of about 90 billion marks provided for restitution
purposes, roughly one third went to Israel and Jewish organizations, and especially
to the Jewish Claims Conference, a hardship fund which helped Jews all over the
world who had been persecuted by the nazis. However, diplomatic relations between
the two countries were not established until 1965.
German-German dialogue in spite of the GDR's self-detachment.
In spite of the GDR's continuing efforts to cut itself off completely from the
west (e.g. by requiring passports and visas for persons in transit between the
Federal Republic and West Berlin) and in spite of the Warsaw Pact's crushing of
attempted reforms in Czechoslovakia, the 'Brezhnev Doctrine' of the indivisibility
of the socialist bloc did not have any serious repercussions on the process of
detente. In April 1969 Bonn said it was ready to enter into agreements with the
GDR below the level of international recognition.
Obviously, German-German agreements of this kind could hardly
be achieved without some kind of prior understanding with Moscow. When the Soviet
Union proposed a non-aggression pact, the 'new eastern policy'adopted by the Social-Liberal
coalition that had assumed power in Bonn on 21 October 1969 quickly began to take
on substance. A few months previously (5 March 1969) Gustav Heinemann, who even
in Adenauer's day had been a strong advocate of East-West rapprochement, had been
elected Federal President. Willy Brandt, who had played an active part in the
resistance against the Hitler dictatorship, was now head of a federal government
which directed its energies to the construction of a peaceful order throughout
Europe. The international constellation was favourable. Moscow and Washington
were negotiating on the limitation of strategic arms (SALT), and NATO proposed
negotiations on mutual balanced force reductions (MBFR). On 28 November 1969 the
Federal Republic became a party to the treaty banning the proliferation of nuclear
weapons (NPT). Following the turbulence experienced by its predecessor, the grand
coalition government (Viet Nam conflict, emergency legislation, Auschwitz trials,
Extra-Parliamentary Opposition, and student revolts), the new cabinet, by embarking
on its 'Ostpolitik', placed itself under considerable pressure to produce results.
While talks on a non-aggression agreement were being conducted
in Moscow and Warsaw, Bonn and East Berlin, too, explored the possibilities of
improving relations. On 19 March 1970 the heads of government of both German states,
Willy Brandt and Willi Stoph, met for the first time in Erfurt. This was followed
by another meeting on 21 May in Kassel. On 12 August 1970 a treaty on the renunciation
of force and recognition of the status quo was signed in Moscow. Both sides proclaimed
that they had no territorial claims against anyone. In a 'letter on German unity'
presented to the Soviet Government in Moscow, the Federal Republic stated that
the treaty did not contradict its aim of working towards a state of peace in Europe
'in which the German people will regain their unity in free self-determination'.
On 7 December of that year the Treaty of Warsaw was signed
which reaffirmed the inviolability of the existing border (the Oder-Neisse line).
Warsaw and Bonn, too, gave an assurance that they had no territorial claims against
one another and declared their intention of improving mutual cooperation. In an
'information' document on humanitarian measures, Warsaw agreed to the transfer
of ethnic Germans from Poland and the reunion of separated families by the Red
In order to pave the way for the ratification of those treaties,
France, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union signed an agreement
on Berlin which stated that Berlin was not a constituent part of the Federal Republic
but that Bonn was entitled to represent West Berlin. In addition, the 'ties' between
West Berlin and the Federal Republic were to be improved and relations between
East Berlin/GDR and West Berlin developed (signing of the Transit Agreement on
17 December). Germany's efforts to foster peace and detente received worldwide
recognition which culminated in the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Willy Brandt
However, the CDU/CSU, who were in opposition for the first
time, considered the results of the negotiations too meagre. Yet their constructive
vote of no confidence against Brandt came to grief (247 for, 249 against) and
the Bundestag (parliament) ratified the treaties with the Soviet Union and Poland
on 17 May. Most CDU/CSU members of parliament abstained. The Bundestag, in an
'interpretative resolution', declared that the treaties did not conflict with
the aim of restoring German unity by peaceful means.
The series of treaties with Eastern Europe was rounded off
by a Treaty on the Basis of Relations between the two Germanies which had been
preceded by talks and negotiations since June 1972. After Willy Brandt's reelection
as Chancellor on 14 December, the way was clear for the signing of the treaty
on 21 December. Both sides undertook not to threaten or use force against one
another and to respect each other's independence. The inviolability of the border
between the two states was also endorsed. Furthermore, the two sides expressed
their willingness to resolve humanitarian problems in a practical manner. It was
agreed that, owing to the special nature of their relationship, they would establish
'representations' in their respective capitals instead of the usual embassies.
At the signing ceremony the Federal Government again handed
over a letter emphasizing its intention to pursue German unity. The government
of the state of Bavaria asked the Federal Constitutional Court to confirm that
the treaty did not run contrary to this objective. It also noted that the German
Empire continued to exist in international law and was partially identical with
the Federal Republic. The Court ruled that the GDR could not be regarded as a
foreign country, only as domestic territory.
In 1973 the Treaty of Prague between Czechoslovakia and
the Federal Republic was signed. It declared the Munich Agreement of 1938 to be
null and void 'in accordance with this Treaty'. The two sides also agreed that
their borders were inviolable and that they would not use force against one another.
Whilst negotiations were going on in Vienna on mutual balanced
force reductions, the Soviet Union and the United States completed an agreement
designed to prevent a nuclear war, and 35 countries attended a Conference on Security
and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in Helsinki, little change came about in the
relationship between the GDR and the Federal Republic. On the one hand, East Berlin
benefited both materially and financially from the follow-up agreements to the
Basic Treaty, but on the other the East German regime meticulously kept its ideological
distance. The East German constitution was amended and the term 'socialist state
of the German nation' was replaced by 'socialist state of workers and peasants'.
Also omitted was the passage '... fulfilling its responsibility to show the entire
German nation the way into a future of peace and socialism'.
Nonetheless, Helmut Schmidt, too, strived to continue the
policy of developing a balanced relationship. On 16 May 1974 he had succeeded
Willy Brandt, who had resigned from the chancellorship when one of his aides,
Gunther Guillaume, was unmasked as an East German spy. The 'swing' arrangement,
a facility which allowed the GDR to overdraw by as much as DM 850 million on its
credit from the Federal Republic, was extended until 1981.
The GDR continued to profit handsomely from the various
transit agreements which were financed by the West, without budging on the political
issues. The Final Act of Helsinki (1975), which called for greater freedom of
movement in transboundary traffic and more respect for human and civil rights,
proved to be a disappointment, not only to the East Germans but to the people
of other East European countries as well. There was no end to the chicanery at
East Germany's borders. People were arbitrarily turned back, as were visitors
to the Leipzig Fair. Western journalists who criticized the GDR were forced to
leave the country.
The East German regime suffered a further loss of prestige
around the world when it deprived Wolf Biermann, a well-known singer-songwriter,
of his citizenship. In spite of all this, the Federal Republic decided for the
sake of the people in East Germany to continue its efforts to improve relations.
Thus in 1978 an agreement was reached to build an autobahn from Berlin to Hamburg
and to repair the transit waterways to West Berlin, the greater proportion of
the cost being borne by the Federal Republic. The Federal Government also continued
to buy the release of political prisoners from the GDR. In the end Bonn had paid
over DM 3.5 billion for the release of 33,755 people, and to have 250,000 families
Missiles versus detente
Whereas the process of European integration continued steadily
in the West, the transition from the 70s, the decade of detente, to the 80s was
marked by fresh conflicts in Eastern Europe. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
and the imposition of martial law in Poland, as well as the emplacement of new
intermediate-range nuclear weapons (SS 20) in East Germany and Czechoslovakia,
worsened the climate of East-West relations.
NATO reacted to this serious upset of the balance of security
by deciding that it, too, would introduce new missiles as from 1983. But at the
same time it proposed arms control negotiations to the Soviet Union. This was
the 'two-track' decision. In protest at the invasion of Afghanistan, the United
States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Norway and the Federal Republic refused to
take part in the Moscow Summer Olympics (1980).
The Americans tried a new initiative, the 'zero' solution,
by which the Soviets would remove their intermediate-range missiles whilst NATO
would promise not to deploy its Pershing II and the new Cruise missiles.
Chancellor Schmidt insisted on the missile modernization
alternative so as not to leave any gaps in the Western security shield, but at
the same time tried to keep the damage to the German-German relationship within
limits. Although East German leader Erich Honekker proposed to introduce a separate
East German citizenship, and although the East German regime drastically increased
the daily amount of currency which visitors from the West had to exchange on entering
the GDR, Schmidt visited East Germany, but without getting any substantial concessions
from Honecker. The regime's hardening ideological stance was not least a reaction
to the growing protest movements in neighbouring Poland, where the people were
demanding economic reform, freedom and disarmament.
But the missile question was not only problematical in the
East. In Bonn the FDP decided to change its tack on economic policy and began
to drift out of the coalition. Grassroots SPD followers, largely because of pressure
from the peace movement and some union factions, withdrew their support for Schmidt
for adhering to the NATO two-track decision. As a result, Helmut Kohl replaced
him as Chancellor at the head of a CDU/CSU/FDP coalition. He continued Bonn's
security policy and close cooperation with Paris and Washington with a view to
uniting Europe within a stable and secure framework. In the face of massive protest
from the peace movement, sections of the SPD and the Greens (who had polled 5.6%
of the votes in the 1983 election for the Bundestag and thus were represented
in parliament for the first time), the German parliament approved in November
1983 the deployment of intermediate-range missiles because of 'the Warsaw Pact's
conventional superiority' (Chancellor Kohl).
Whereas the growing peace movement had been one of the causes
of a change in government in West Germany, protest groups in East Germany, which
through the initiative of the Church (swords into ploughshares) had become more
and more vociferous since the beginning of 1982, led ultimately to the disintegration
of the entire socialist system.