HI136 The History of Germany Lecture 15

Download 15.28 Kb.
Size15.28 Kb.

HI136 The History of Germany Lecture 15

  • Reconstruction:
  • West Germany

The Basic Law

  • Based on 4 key principles:
    • The rule of law
    • Democratic participation for all
    • Federalism
    • Social welfare
  • Established the Federal Republic of Germany as a federal parliamentary democracy with separation of powers between the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government.

Government Structure under the Basic Law

  • Bi-cameral parliament:
    • Bundestag – Elected every 4 years through universal suffrage. 50% of members directly elected, 50% elected through party lists. Parties need to win over 5% of the vote to gain additional proportional representatives.
    • Bundesrat – Made up of representatives of the Länder, has the power to approve or veto legislation.
  • President of the Republic – a largely ceremonial head of state elected by Bundestag members & representatives of the federal Länder.
  • Chancellor – head of government & elected by the Bundestag. Can only be removed from office through a constructive vote of no confidence.
  • Länder have extensive powers over administration, education, law & order.
  • Federal Constitutional Court – based on the US Supreme Court, designed to protect the constitution and had powers to settle disputes between the federal government and the Länder.

Party Politics

  • SPD – (Social Democratic Party) Continuity from 1875.
    • Espoused a programme calling for public ownership & a planned economy.
    • Committed to reunification and opposed European integration in the 1950s. In 1959 at Bad Godesberg
    • Officially renounced its Marxist roots.
  • Christlich Demokratische Union (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) – Formed in June 1945.
    • Represented a break from the pre-1933 parties and amalgamated the constituency of the old Centre Party with a number of centre-right groups
    • Based on the principles of Christian Socialism
    • Stood for free market economics
    • Opposed social democracy.
  • Freie Demokratische Partei (Free Democratic Party, FDP) - Founded in Dec. 1948
    • Stood for individualism and liberalism
    • Appealed to those who were alienated by the socialism of the SPD & the Clericalism of the CDU
    • Despite its small size & limited electoral strength it wielded considerable power & influence, often acting as ‘kingmaker’
    • Members of the FDP served in nearly every federal coalition between 1949 & 1990, and it provided 2 of West Germany’s 5 Presidents.

The 1949 Bundestag Elections

  • Party
  • %
  • deputies
  • 31,0%
  • 139
  • SPD
  • 29,2%
  • 131
  • FDP
  • 11,9%
  • 52
  • 5,7%
  • 15
  • DRP
  • 1,8%
  • 5
  • DP
  • 4,0%
  • 17
  • BP
  • 4,2%
  • 17
  • Centre
  • 3,1%
  • 10
  • Others
  • 9,1%
  • 16
  • Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, Economics Minister Ludwig Erhard and
  • President TheodorHeuss, 1949

Election Results, 1949-89

Why were extremist parties not successful?

  • Allied control: parties needed concession of High Commissioner.
  • SRP banned in 1952 by Federal Constitutional Court.
  • KPD banned in 1956 by Federal Constitutional Court.
  • Right wing parties as Bund der Heimatvertriebenen und Entrechteteten (BHE) absorbed by CDU/CSU.
  • Nationalist takeover of Liberal party (FDP) prevented by Allies (arrest of leaders).
  • Economic success story.

Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967)

  • Born in Cologne
  • Devout Catholic and passionate Rhinelander
  • Pragmatic & authoritarian he has been compared to Bismarck and Stresemann.
  • Determined to integrate Germany into Western Europe
  • Did little to address the problems of the recent past
  • 1917-33: Served as mayor of Cologne.
  • 1921-33: Chairman of the Prussian Council of State.
  • 1934: Imprisoned by the Nazis.
  • 1948-49: Chairman of the Parliamentary Council.
  • 1949-63: Chancellor of the FRG

Chancellor Democracy

Ludwig Erhard (1897-1977)

  • Economics Minister (1949-63)
  • Chancellor (1963-66)

The Wirtschaftswunder (‘economic miracle’)

  • Dramatic economic growth after 1949
  • Reasons for ‘economic miracle’:
    • Introduction of the Deutschmark halted inflation.
    • US investment through the Marshal Plan ($4.4 million).
    • Large, adaptable workforce (partly made up of refugees from Eastern Europe).
    • German determination to pull together for the national good – few disputes between labour and capital.
    • Germany had fewer burdens on her exchequer than other powers – no overseas commitments, colonial wars etc.
    • The Korean War (1950-53) increased demand for industrial goods and removed reluctance to buy German goods – exports boomed.
  • Unemployment fell from 1.9 million in 1950 to 200,000 in 1961.
  • GNP trebled during the 1950s, annual growth averaged just under 8%
  • Gap between rich and poor widened, but standards of living rose across the board – average income for industrial workers rose by 250% between 1950 and 1962.

The Social Market Economy

  • Advocacy of the free market wedded with a corporate framework
  • The role of the state to pick up the slack left by the market and introduce welfare measures to cancel out the inequalities caused by capitalism.
  • General agreement that the state should provide a safety net to make sure that citizens did not fall below a certain standard of living.
  • Equalization of Burdens Law (1950): transferred wealth from the well off to provide for those who had lost everything during the war.
  • 1957: Pensions increased & index-linked so they would keep pace with cost of living.
  • Increased prosperity due to the economic miracle was slow to filter through to ordinary Germans. But, by the end of the 1950s the population was growing, the working week had been reduced to 45 hours, and ownership of consumer goods had increased.


  • Defeat and division wrought profound changes in German society:
    • The old Prussian Junker class had lost their economic and political power
    • The ‘Ruhr Barons’ who had dominated German industry were in decline.
    • Gradual increase in social mobility and a ‘levelling out’ of German society.
  • Women outnumbered men due to war-time losses, and under the Federal Republic there were changes in gender roles:
    • The Basic Law guaranteed equal rights for women
    • Law of Equality of the Sexes (1957) extended property rights
    • More employment opportunities with economic growth
    • But women still earned 40% less than men on average
  • Nevertheless, West German society in the 1950s and 60s was still conservative and patriarchal.
    • ‘The Natural Order’

Dealing with the Nazi Legacy

  • Measures to confront the Nazi past limited in the 1950s.
  • Moves to compensate victims of National Socialism, extremist parties banned by the Constitutional Court.
  • Many former Nazis in the civil service such as Hans Globke, head of the Chancellors Office (1953-1963). Globke drafted Nazi anti-Semitic legislation in the 1930s.
  • The judiciary reluctant to censure sadistic Nazi judges.
  • Damaged Germany’s reputation abroad & led to a feeling that the Germans had buried their heads in the sand rather than confronting the legacy of National Socialism.
  • Hans Globke (1898-1973)

Foreign Policy

  • Adenauer’s aims:
    • International recognition via economic cooperation, cultural integration, and democratisation
    • Reconciliation with France
    • Close relationship with United States – essential for security in bipolar international system (Soviet Threat)
  • Aims of the Western Powers:
    • Defeat German militarism and idea of revenge by integration.
  • Factors which helped rehabilitation:
    • Perceived Soviet Threat: especially after 1949 (Soviet Atomic Bomb) – German participation needed, good bargaining position for Adenauer: concessions.
    • Korean War (1950-1953).

Foreign Policy

  • 1951: Signing (in Paris) of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).
  • 1952: Signing (in Paris) of the European Defense Community (EDC). The ‘Stalin note’ offering a united neutral Germany.
  • 1954: Signing of the Paris Agreements. FRG/BRD is invited to join NATO permitting West German rearmament and Italy and the FRG/BRD accede to the Western European Union (WEU).
  • 1955: Full sovereignty returned to the Federal Republic.
  • 1957: The Treaty of Rome is signed establishing the European Economic Community. The Saar returns to Germany as a Land (to be followed in 3 years by economic reintegration).
  • 1963: French-German Friendship Treaty is signed in Paris.

The Spiegel Affair (1962)

  • The affair tested limits of freedom of the press and showcased the development of democracy in the Federal Republic
  • News magazine Spiegel had reported the Bundeswehr’s limited readiness for conflict with Russians.
  • Spiegel offices were occupied by police, Augstein arrested, as well as the article’s author.
  • Popular demonstrations began to free Augstein; beginnings of widespread protest culture?
  • Copies of Der Spiegel being confiscated from
  • the magazine’s offices.

West Germany after Adenauer

  • 1965-69: Grand Coalition.
  • 1969 election: CDU = 46.1% of vote, SPD = 42.7%, FDP = 5.8% - SPD-FDP Coalition formed under Willy Brandt.
  • 1969-72: Ostpolitik = attempts to normalize relations between the two German states.
  • 1972: Basic Treaty – German states agree to develop good relations, settle disputes without force & respect one another’s independence.
  • Wide-ranging reforms: marriage & family law modernized, welfare reform & educational reform. A response to growing unrest in the 1960s.

Warsaw Ghetto, Dec 1970

  • Brandt pays tribute to the uprising that lasted from April to May of 1943

West Germany after Adenauer

  • 1974: Brandt forced to resign in spy scandal.
  • 1982: SPD & FDP unable to agree on a budget – vote of no-confidence brought the CDU’s Helmut Kohl to power.
  • 1983 election: CDU won nearly 50% of the vote, the Green Party emerges as a national political party with 5.4% of the vote & 27 deputies in the Bundestag.
  • A move to the right in the 1980s, accompanied by efforts to cast off the stigma of Nazism & take pride in being German.


  • The Federal Republic became a stable parliamentary democracy aided by economic recovery and the spread of prosperity.
  • There was continuity with the past, particularly under Adenauer.
  • West Germany ‘a viable democracy with a distinctly conservative colouration.’ (Carr)
  • Konrad Adenauer (CDU)
  • 1949-1963
  • Ludwig Erhard (CDU)
  • 1963-1966
  • Kurt Georg Kiessinger (CDU)
  • 1966-1969
  • Willy Brandt (SPD)
  • 1969-1974
  • Helmut Schmidt (SPD)
  • 1974-1982
  • Helmut Kohl (CDU)
  • 1982-1998
  • Gerhard Schröder (SPD)
  • 1998-2005
  • Angela Merkel (CDU)
  • 2005-Present

Download 15.28 Kb.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright ©sckool.org 2023
send message

    Main page