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Consequently
after their defeat in World War II, Germany was divided up between the Allies.
The Western bloc belonged to the western Allies (France, USA and Britain) and
the Eastern bloc was occupied by the Soviet Union.  Political parties were reformed in both West
and East Germany, which are still existent today. These parties included CDU
(Christian Democrats), CSU (Christian Democrats representing Bavaria), FDP
(Liberals), KPD (Communist Party), and SPD (Social democrats). Later, SPD and
KPD collaborated, forming the SED.

 

West Germany and
its formative years

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The introduction of the “5 percent threshold for elections has proved a
highly effective instrument in excluding radical parties” (Britannica Educational Publishing, 2013). The two main parties which
emerged after WW2 were the CDU and SPD, which later dropped its Marxist views
and moved on to Keynesianism. In other words, the SPD shifted from the left
towards the centre. CSU and CDU would form a permanent coalition, meaning that
these would never run against each other.  

In February 1947, the Ahlen Programme was established. The programme sought
to provide German people with an “economic and social framework that accords
with the rights and dignity of the individual” (Editors of GHI Prof. Volker
Berghahn and Prof. Uta Poiger). The CDU in the British occupation zone was
sceptical of the former capitalist economic system. In Ahlen the CDU demanded a
reorder of the economic, in order to serve the people’s interests.

In August 1949, federal elections were held in West Germany for the
first Bundestag (German parliament), established under the occupation statute
which was a specification of regulations concerning the newly formed
government. American, British and French representatives gave the German
government conditions that should be accepted before this election can take
place; some of these included demilitarization, war reparations, foreign
control over scientific research and disarmament. The request of drafting a constitution
could only have been fulfilled when the German government accepted these
conditions. Although the SPD disagreed, the terms were still met. The Basic
Law, which was the constitution of the German Federal State, was approved in
1949 by the western Allies and ensured that a potential dictator would never be
able to rise to power again.

Konrad
Adenauer vs. Kurt Schumacher

Konrad Adenauer was running for presidency for the elections in 1949 and
was the main representative of the CDU. He believed in a moderate Christian
democracy. Leader of the SPD, Kurt Schumacher, was
strictly against a merge with the KPD Party and had other beliefs. These
involved a united and socialist Germany and representing a big tent party,
which is a party that shares diverse viewpoints and ideologies. Schumacher
wanted the SPD to represent a left-wing party, rather than act as a supportive
party for the working class. He criticised Konrad Adenauer, representative of
the CDU of being a betrayal to Germany’s national interests and accused him of
being the “Chancellor of the Allies” at the Bundestag session in September
1949. In the end, the CDU/CSU outnumbered SPD by “31.0% to 29.2%”
(Alverez-Rivera, 2017) and Adenauer formed a coalition with the FDP and DP (a
national conservative party). Schumacher led his party into opposition, refusing
a grand coalition. Adenauer was later elected Chancellor 4 times in a row,
until his death in 1963.

Post Adenauer
Chancellors and political development

Former minister of economic affairs, Ludwig Erhard was elected
chancellor after Konrad Adenauer. He believed that economic development
involves integration and opposed Adenauer’s standpoint that integration should
lead to “political union” (Ciceo, 2008).
Erhard considered that European integration should have an “economic architecture
and an economic finality” (Ciceo, 2008).
Erhard was forced to resign after troubled government (1963-66), due to
insufficient foreign policy, and a budget deficit”. As a response to the mild
recession in 1966, the chancellor raised taxes which created concern between
the cabinet members. He resigned by Dec 1966.

Former NSDAP member Kurt Georg Kiesinger was elected chancellor in 1966
and served his duty until 1969. He led a grand coalition with the CDU and SPD,
strengthening the Western German economy. The chancellor supported a
pro-western foreign policy but was also able to alleviate tensions with the
Soviet Union. The chancellor however was not popular amongst the country’s
students.  Protests in 1968 demonstrated against
Kiesinger’s government and his plans of emergency rule/laws. These gave the
government special privileges in case of a crisis.             In her book Why Arendt Matters, author Elisabeth Young-Bruehl,
quoted Hannah Arendt who was a Jewish publicist. Arendt described Kiesinger’s
government to have been a “two-party dictatorship”, and Young-Bruehl herself
stated that this emergency law to have “eroded many civil liberties”
(Young-Bruehl, 2009). In addition, Publicist Roger Willemsen stated that the emergency
rule “was seen as a mechanism with which the state wanted to exert totalitarian
control” (Sheetz, 2015). Although being convinced that he will be elected
again, Willy Brandt took his place.

In 1969, Willy Brandt’s SPD formed a coalition with the FDP, pushing the CDU into opposition.
Brandt’s efforts involved signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which
was an agreement between 62 different states that “agreed not to assist other
states in obtaining or producing them” (Duignan, 2016). Since the division of
Germany, Brandt was the first chancellor to introduce the “Ostpolitik”, which
was the recognition of East German politics and expanding relations with other
Soviet-bloc countries. However, Brandt’s Ostpolitik was not approved by
everyone. President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger approached
this idea of “Ostpolitik” with scepticism. The two believed that this would “potentially
destabilize the situation in Europe” (Reeves,
2014). Brandt proved his efforts by recognizing the Oder-Neisse-Line
agreement as Poland’s western boundary. On the other hand, criticisers “claimed
that it signalled West Germany’s acceptance of the permanent loss of those
eastern lands” (Sheetz, 2017). Concerning this topic, SPD politician Egon Bahr once
stated that, “We planned to approach the East with the hope that it will open
up to us” (Sheetz, 2017). Brandt was the first chancellor to approach and
tackle the strange relationship between east and west, where Journalist Gerhard
Löwenthal of ZDF-Magazin justifies his actions with the statement that “70
million Germans were hostages to a totalitarian Communist government” (Sheetz,
2017). Meeting with the Council of State of the GDR Willi Stoph, Brandt proved
that he wanted to preserve the unity of the nation, despite the growing
segregation. Willy Brandt resigned in 1974 after finding out that his “close
aide Günter Guillaume was unmasked as an East German spy” (Sheetz, 2017)

In 1974, Helmut Schmidt took over office, continued the SPD-FDP alliance
and was re-elected in 1976 and 1980. Schmidt continued Willy Brandt’s culture
of seeking reconciliation with Soviet-bloc and maintaining partnership with USA.
He however refused to cut social welfare in recession during early 1980s, where
the FDP (centre business-orientated party) defected from his coalition. During
his chancellorship, a left-wing extremist group called the RAF (1968) was
formed. The group “Characterized the West German government as a fascist
holdover of the Nazi era” (Tikkanen,
2015). West German corporations and U.S. military installations were the
main target. The group’s aim was to “trigger an aggressive response from the
government” which was thought “spark a broader revolutionary movement” (Tikkanen, 2015). After the collapse
of East Germany, it was founded that RAF” had been given training, shelter, and
supplies by the Stasi” (Tikkanen, 2015).

Helmut Kohl was part of the vote of no confidence against Schmidt, a
procedure used by members of legislative body to remove government from office.
On October 1st 1982, the CDU managed to be back in power after being
13 years in opposition (1969-82). The legislative body representing the party
was Helmut Kohl, who formed a CDU-CSU-FDP coalition. Kohl had centrist
approaches which involved moderate cuts in government spending and more German
commitments to NATO. Kohl was chancellor and therefore witness of the
dissolution of East Germany in the late 1980s/ early 1990s. He was eager for a
reunification: “German unity and European unification are two sides of the same
coin” (Editors of Encyclopædia
Britannica, 2000). He led a vigorous campaign for CDU/CSU in East Germany’s
first democratic parliamentary elections. His efforts turned out positive as he
formed a government for unification involving the merge of the economic and
social-welfare systems of both nations. 
Unfortunately, the absorption of the East was not as easy as thought. It
was expensive and in order to finance the unification, Kohl decided to approach
a contractionary fiscal policy, which embodies an increase in taxes and less
government spending.

East German
Politics: The SED ruled GRD until 1989

Former member of the KPD Communist group, Wilhelm Pieck was elected chairman
of SED (KDP) alongside with Otto Grotewohl (SPD). Walter Ernst Paul
Ulbricht was general secretary of the SED, and proved himself to have been more
“powerful and politically reliable” (Kopstein,
2000) in comparison to Pieck and Grotewohl, in the eyes of the Soviets. Pieck
wanted an integrated political system where “all antifascist and democratic
forces, no matter of what party of religious affiliation…” (Niven & Jones, 2003) should be
unified. His goal was to “‘establish a unity of all creative people'” (Niven & Jones, quoted from Keßler and
Staufenbiel, 2003).

After Pieck’s death, Walther Ulbricht took over in 1960. The office of
presidency was abolished and the council of state was formed. Ulbricht planned
a western standard of living for the GDR, but refused to be the marionette of
the Soviet. According to Herbert Häber, former member of the SED, Ulbricht said
to Breschnew (leader of Communist Party): 
“We are not Belarus; I demanded to be treated like a partner” (Sheetz,
2015). On the 15th June in
1961 a press conference had taken place in the Leipziger Straße, East Berlin.
The Soviet Union offered a peace treaty and regulation concerning the ongoing
debate over the status of Berlin, as the sector boundary between West and East
Berlin has caused inner conflict within the GDR. It was also known as the
refugee crisis. Publicist and political scientist Hans-Hermann Hertle once
stated that the GDR has lost one fifth of its population (Sheetz, 2015).  The loss of people, or in other words, emigration
meant a withdrawal from the economy. Fewer taxes are being paid and consumption
is decreasing. Therefore, the GDR had to do something about its refugees.

Ulbricht’s famous sentence, “Niemand hat die Absicht eine Mauer zu
bauen” (Nobody has the intention to build a wall), was a straight lie towards
the GDR citizens because two months later the wall was first recognised as a
“…result of a decree passed on August 12 by the East German Volkskammer (“Peoples’
Chamber”)” (Editors of Encyclopædia
Britannica, 1998).

            Walter Ulbricht resigned from his
position on the grounds of ill health. In 1973, a rigid conservative named Willi
Stoph, took over office. Stoph “gained worldwide recognition in 1970” (Saxon, 1999) by meeting Willy Brandt in
Erfurt. This signified that Stoph was willing to expand East Germany’s foreign
affairs, perhaps in the interest of the people. Stoph was sending the message
that he was willing to reconcile with the West, by playing a part in Willy
Brandt’s Ostpolitik. Within the GDR however, Stoph had a continuous rivalry
with Erich Honecker, first secretary of the GDR, as Honecker “emerged as
Ulbricht’s preferred candidate” (The Times, 1999). As Honecker’s career
appeared to increasingly succeed, Stoph’s position and popularity seemed to
decline. Stoph was released from office due to ill health.

In 1976, Erich Honecke, who was already first secretary of the Central
Committee takes over and therefore has two main positions of power. Already in
1961 Honecker was put in charge of building the Berlin Wall which separated
East and West, hence making it impossible for citizens to cross over. He traded
with West Germany, in return for financial aid as the GDR’s economic growth was
quiet slow compared to the West.

After building Berlin Wall in 1961, the state sought “further isolation
of its Christian subjects” (Moses,
2011). Secret discussions were held with the chairman of KKL, Albrecht
Schönherr. As a result, the state accepted the church as being a “permanent
social phenomenon” (Moses, 2011).
Honecke specified that, “…churches within socialism had opened themselves for
the realisation today and in the future of many possibilities for
collaboration” (Moses, 2011).
He therefore revised former policies and the GDR was on the move of no longer
being a monolithic society. It slowly tilted towards pluralistic worldviews,
which derived from the “abandonment of the SED’s claim to (…) spiritual
monopoly within the socialist community” (Moses, 2011). These worldviews also involved allowing church
representatives to visit ecumenical (body which represents the church as a
whole) meetings and broadcast the “…evil consequences of the capitalism” (Moses, 2011)

Honecker also played an important role in the refugee crisis.
Reportedly, the shoot-to-kill order started with Wili Stoph; however it was
Honecker himself who stated, “”Zögern Sie nicht mit der Anwendung der
Schusswaffe”.  Translated, the phrase
meant an order which gives the border troops the permission to use the firearm,
if they catch anyone crossing the border. For these orders, Honecker was accused
of manslaughter and later on escaped into exile in the early 1990s. Concerning
Honecker’s trials, some people claimed that the German Rechtstaat (state under
law) will be “will prove incapable of responding to public demands for
retribution” (McAdams, 1996). 

After Honecker Egon Krenz took over office and promised to investigate
into police brutality. He sought public support for the maintenance of the
GDR’s unity, despite the fact that the country was slowly falling apart.

Günter Schabowski, spokesman of SED read a draft bill just passed by the
government in a conference that occurred shortly after the resignation of Erich
Honecker. The draft bill concerned the “rights of citizens to immigrate to the
West” (Shepherd, 2016). A reporter
asked when more permissive measures would be taken into action, where Schabowski
“distractedly” (Shepherd, 2016)
answered “immediately”. As a result, people stormed the wall and Schabowski was
expelled the following day from office. The official fall of the wall was Nov
10 1989.

Maastricht Treaty

On February 7th 1992, the Maastricht treaty was signed. It is
an approved agreement between members of European Community, (established in 1957)
in effort to integrate European economies. The treaty entered force on Nov 1st
1993, officially signalling the establishment of EU. The terms of this treaty
included “EU citizenship granted to every person who was a citizen of a member
state.” (Editors of Encyclopædia
Britannica, 1998) and also “enabled people to vote and run for office in
local and European Parliament elections (…) regardless of their nationality.” The
treaty also included the introduction of a central bank system and a shared
currency, today’s Euro.

            In conclusion we may deduce that
Germany’s political system has undergone many changes, ever since its defeat in
the Second World War. The Western bloc proved to have been more cooperative
with its citizens, trying to operate in favour for the interests of the people.
Willy Brandt was the first chancellor to reach out to the East, expanding the
country’s foreign affairs and therefore reflecting the positive western
attitude towards openness and diversity. In contrast, the politicians of the
GDR presented an image of a sheltered state, which tried to force its views
onto its people, instead of cooperating with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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