The Soviet Union and the United States also built rival political regimes: In the East, the Communist-dominated Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) ruled; in the Western zones, the Communist Party was banned and the dominant party was the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). In June 1948 the Soviet Union tried to force the Western powers out of Berlin by blocking all roads to the city. The United States organized an airlift that supplied West Berlin for 11 months, until the blockade was lifted in May 1949.
The practical polarization of Germany was finally legalized by the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), or West Germany, on September 21, 1949. Although Berlin was still occupied by all four allied powers, West Berlin (the American, French, and British zones) was administered as part of the republic. The Western powers granted the new state internal self-government, and it established a new provisional capital in Bonn. Konrad Adenauer, head of the CDU, was the first chancellor; Theodor Heuss was elected its first president. On October 7 the German Democratic Republic (GDR), or East Germany, was formed in the Soviet zone. For a more complete discussion of the history of that country.
In 1952 the Western occupation powers and West Germany signed the Bonn Convention, officially ending military occupation, although Western troops remained in West Germany as allies. The Western powers also agreed to the rearmament of the country.
In 1955 they granted West Germany full independence and membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) defense system. However, the former occupation powers continued their presence in West Berlin and reserved the right to deal with the Soviet Union in matters concerning German reunification.
In 1956 the West German government reintroduced military conscription, which was vigorously opposed by the Social Democratic Party (SPD).
In 1958 the SPD also demanded the withdrawal of all foreign troops from both Germanys and the limitation of the German military to conventional weapons. A strong CDU showing in national elections later that year encouraged proponents of a rearmed West Germany and a strong NATO nuclear force. In 1957 the Saar returned by popular referendum to West Germany, and the country joined the European Economic Community.
Under Adenauer, West Germany was stable and prosperous. From 1951 to 1957 the gross national product rose 75 percent, with annual per capita income doubling during the same period. Industrial growth was aided by tax laws favoring business owners and by large private investment. The workforce was augmented first by a large influx of highly skilled immigrants, who were among the more than 3.5 million refugees from East Germany. Later, so-called guest workers came from Italy, Spain, and Turkey. The result was a period of rapid industrial expansion and prosperity known as the Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle). Funded by its growing industrial wealth, the government built an army and expanded the social welfare system.
The government continued to prosecute some Nazi war criminals and paid reparations to the new state of Israel, but by the 1950s some former Nazis began to return to high positions. Giant corporations with a Nazi past also continued to dominate the West German economy, particularly Krupp, Flicks, and I. G. Farben. By 1960 West Germany attained an export surplus of $1 billion. At the time of Adenauer’s retirement in 1963, West Germany was a leading political and economic force in Europe. In East Germany the SED was in firm control, aided by the State Security Police, or Stasi. East Germany pursued a much more rigorous process of denazification than West Germany, prohibiting former Nazis from working in education, law, or the armed forces. High production quotas and food shortages led to worker revolts that were suppressed. Many dissatisfied East Germans, especially skilled workers, continued to flee to the West. In August 1961 East German authorities constructed a barrier around West Berlin, which they called an “anti-Fascist protection wall.” Within a year, barbed wire fences and ditches were replaced with the monumental stone cordon known as the Berlin Wall.
Adenauer was succeeded as West German chancellor by two other CDU leaders, Ludwig Erhard from 1963 to 1966 and Kurt Georg Kiesinger, who was supported by a CDU-SPD coalition, until October 1969. During this period, the West German government pursued a policy of constructive engagement with East Germany and the Soviet bloc known as Ostpolitik (eastern policies), aimed at improving political and trade relations. In 1968, though, a new East German constitution proclaimed the Democratic Republic a separate “socialist state of German nationality” and declared unification impossible until West Germany also became socialist. Ostpolitik was partly abandoned after East German and other Warsaw Pact forces overthrew the newly progressive government of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. The government had been moving away from the Communist system and had loosened its ties with the USSR. In 1969 the SPD won enough votes to form a ruling coalition with the small Free Democratic Party (FDP). The new chancellor, Willy Brandt, a former mayor of Berlin, revived Ostpolitik. In 1970 he concluded a treaty with the USSR recognizing Europe’s postwar boundaries. A four-power accord on Berlin was then signed, and in 1972 East and West Germany recognized each other’s sovereignty. The next year both countries were admitted to the United Nations. In 1974 Brandt resigned when it was discovered that a member of his personal staff was an East German spy. By the early 1980s the ruling SPD-FDP coalition—in power since Brandt’s resignation under Chancellor Helmut Schmidt—was weakened by inflation and unemployment. In 1982 the FDP decided to switch its support to the CDU. As a result, Schmidt resigned and a new chancellor, Helmut Kohl, was elected. About this time, a new fourth party, the Greens, came to prominence in the Bundestag (the lower house of parliament) on an environmental and pacifist platform. However, the ruling coalition of the CDU, the FDP, and the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) continued to hold power.
In the 1980s West Germany emerged as a leading economic power, along with Japan and the United States. West German leadership in the international arena became more prominent in the late 1980s, as it supported the birth of new democracies in Eastern Europe. Kohl’s political coalition was confirmed in elections in 1983 and 1987. The two German republics achieved better relations with new financial and travel accords in 1984, and East German president Erich Honecker paid his first official visit to West Germany in 1987. "Germany" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
Photos of European countries to visit
Photos of Asian countries to visit
Photos of America