Yes this is long, but it needed to be


Background


At the end of the second world war, seeing it had been beaten, Germany surrendered unconditionally to the allies, who quickly occupied every inch of German land they could find. On June 5, 1945, the allies proclaimed supreme authority over all Germany, which they broke up into 4 'zones' one for each of the four powerful allied nations - America, Britain, France and the Soviet Union. The plans for who would get what were then hammered out in the Yalta Conference in February, then further at the Potsdam Conference between July 17 and August 2. The Soviet got all the land east of Berlin, while the US, France and Britain had their zones west of Berlin. Berlin itself was controlled by all 4 allies.

By 1946, the US and British were getting worried about the Soviets' expansionism in its zone, and decided that they must be contained. This decision was based on the Soviets' actions in other nations it controlled, as well as undemocratic behaviour. After heavy negotiation with the Soviets and France, the US and British combined their zones on January 1, 1947. The French were reluctant to see Germany prosper again, but, after seeing the economic growth in the Bizone (as it was called), France joined up. In early 1948 a central bank was built in western controlled Berlin and currency reform in the (now) Trizone was introduced, converting from the Reich mark to the deutsche mark. The Soviets quickly tried to do the same in their zone and even West Berlin which it didn't control. The west stepped in and on June 24, 1948, the blockade of Berlin began.

Reacting to what the Soviets saw as western efforts to undermine their efforts of building a socialist society in their zone, the Soviets blocked off every road and rail entry into the western controlled part of Berlin. All food supplies and electricity were cut off in the hopes they could starve the west into 'falling into line' with the Soviets' plans. The western powers launched one of the largest 'aid missions' in history, flying in up to 10,000 tons of supplies daily to keep the population alive for the duration of the blockade, which lasted until May 12, 1949. The next month, the Soviets pulled out from the Allied Control Council (set up to govern each 4 zones, 3 years earlier), resulting in Germany being fully split into east and west.


West Germany is Born


After a series of talks that had lasted the previous 2 years, the Federal Republic of Germany (stated from here on as West Germany) was formed on May 23. With it, a 'Basic Law' was introduced (their version of a constitution). This improved the power of the lower house of parliament, as well as the federal chancellor. It also helped by giving each individual Ländar (individual province) representation in the upper house of parliament. It introduced the power to disband any political party intent on bringing down or obstructing the democratic process.

Konrad Adenauer was appointed the very first chancellor of the new west German state, after previously sitting on the council that finalized and passed the Basic Law as well as the ruling party in the British occupation zone before it combined with the US. A statute known as the Ruhr statue had been signed during April 1949, which kept that area in foreign control, due to it having been a main area for the building of the German military. Konrad Adenauer pushed to get West Germany onto the International Authority for Ruhr, which was granted, as well as making consular relations with other nations. Adenauer also played a key part in getting the dismantling of industrial plants stopped, as well as the allowance for West Germany to start building merchant ships again. These concessions were huge wins for Adenauer and West Germany.

In 1950, France recommended the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) to revive economic cooperation between France and West Germany. Konrad Adenauer immediately jumped into negotiations that also included Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Italy. Negotiations were completed in 1952 and the ECSC was born. Due to the ECSC being created, the International Authority for Ruhr was no longer needed as its powers were now covered by the new body.


The Economy


After West Germany became a separate state, there was much debate on how to restore its now shattered economy. Socialist parties wanted a central distribution system and nationalization of industry. Ludwig Erhard was the head of economic affairs, who didn't particularly like these suggestions. He viewed a market economy based on free trade and private enterprise, along with cash from the Marshall Plan. Based on this concept, West Germany's economy boomed during the 1950's. Social services such as health and unemployment plans for its citizens were also implemented during the boom. In 1957, West Germany became one of the founding members of the European Economic Community (ECC), which boosted their economy even more. These 3 things combined helped West Germany build up its private capital and become one of the richest nations in the world.

The welfare systems put in place by West Germany had the unintended side effect of causing mass movements by citizens from Soviet controlled East Germany. On August 13, 1961, construction on the Berlin Wall began, which quickly shut off the stream of refugees. By the time the wall was completed, it was estimated that as many as 3.5 million people had crossed the border from East to West.

By 1966, however, West Germany was facing an economic crisis. Unemployment had grown greatly, as had the budget deficit, and support for right wing political parties was growing. The leading ministers of Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD1) formed the Grand coalition. This was only a temporary solution, used to help stabilize the flailing economy and get the co-operation of the trade unions.


1969 and Beyond


In the 1969 elections, Willy Brandt, leader of the SPD was helped into power by the Free Democratic Party (FDP) who supported him. He was also elected to be the new chancellor. His party ruled West Germany for 13 years straight. During his term in office (he resigned in 1974) he introduced local reforms, including reforms to abortion/divorce laws and education. His biggest success while in office was negotiating treaties with Poland, the Soviet Union, East Germany and other Soviet run eastern European nations. 1971 saw an agreement made between East and West allowing traffic (albeit limited) between the states. West Berlin citizens could visit the East relatively freely, however East Berlin citizens were only allowed to cross the border in cases of family emergencies.

When Brandt resigned, Helmut Schmidt was elected the new leader of the SPD-FPD coalition. Once again unemployment was rising, and their traditional allies, the trade unions, were growing distant. Schmidt did his best, but his policies weren’t always in line with his parties’ thinking.

In 1982, the ruling SPD-FPD coalition fell apart and the CDU again took control of the country. Helmut Kohl took over the position of chancellor, and retained it at the 1983 elections. Early 80's West German politics were focused on NATO plans to deploy missile batteries all around Europe, as the Soviet Union had seen fit to upgrade its missiles in the late 70's to be capable of delivering a 150 kg nuclear warhead up to 5000km away. America countered by developing 2 weapon systems to counter-act this: Pershing II inter-mediate-range rocket and the cruise missile. NATO wished to deploy 108 Pershing II’s and 464 cruise missiles around Europe to protect against a possible nuclear strike by the Soviets. All this caused unrest in West Germany, with many rallies and protests taking place. Despite this, the ruling CDU party voted to deploy, and immediately missile batteries were deployed on West German soil. No missiles were launched however, and people's focus turned to uniting Germany to a whole once again.

On November 9, 1989, among growing dissent in its population, East Germany shocked the world by opening up the Berlin Wall. 4 days later, Soviet members of the ruling East Germany party stepped down, and one day later, on the 15th, negotiations began. on November 28, Chancellor Kohl presented his 10 step plan for unification of East and West. The first concrete step wasn't taken until July 1 of 1990, where there deutsche mark was adopted as the currency of East Germany. It was then that it was realised how bad the East's financial position was. The first aid package was 115 billion Deutsche Marks, with much more flowing in the months and years that followed.

On October 3, 1990, Germany was unified. East and West Germany ceased to exist, apart from the history and record books. The Berlin wall was pulled down and the country rejoiced.

Footnote 1: While the English spelling produces the acroynm SDP, the German spelling of the party name is Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, which is why the acroynm is SPD

Sources:
  • http://www.germanculture.com.ua/library/history/bl_west_germany.htm
  • http://www.factmonster.com/ce6/world/A0856909.html
  • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/2WWwestGermany.htm
  • http://www.workmall.com/wfb2001/germany/germany_history_index.html

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