German History

More than 2,000 years ago a tall and fair-haired people roamed Europe. The ancestors of these fierce Teutonic warriors may have come from Northern Europe. The Romans later called them the Germani. As these Germanic tribes migrated south- and westward, they clashed with the Romans. In 113 BC German tribes--the Cimbri and Teutoni--began invading the Mediterranean regions. The Roman general Gaius Marius defeated them in 102 and 101 BC.

To discourage further invasions, Julius Caesar crossed the Rhine in 55 and 53 BC. After the Germans under Arminius destroyed Quinctilius Varus' army in AD 9, Augustus decided not to conquer Germany. The Romans built a line of fortifications, called the Limes Germanicus, from the Rhine to the Danube. When Roman power weakened, waves of German tribes migrated to various regions of the empire. The Franks crossed the Rhine into Gaul (now France). The Goths migrated to the Balkans. The Alemanni moved into the Rhineland and the Burgundians and Vandals into the Main River valley.

In the 4th century AD Huns from Asia swept into Europe. They conquered the Ostrogoths, or East Goths, and drove back the Visigoths, or West Goths. They invaded the Rhineland and Gaul.

By the beginning of the Middle Ages, German barbarians occupied the western part of the Roman Empire. These tribes accepted Christianity and adopted much of Roman culture.

Between present-day Netherlands and Denmark were the Frisians. Between the Rhine and Elbe rivers were the Saxons. In central Germany were the Thuringians. On the upper Rhine in Swabia were the Alemanni and on the lower Rhine the Franks.

In 486 at Soissons, Clovis extended Frankish rule over northern Gaul. Under Charlemagne the kingdom covered most of Western Europe, including Germany to the Elbe. In 800 the pope crowned Charlemagne emperor of the Holy Roman Empire

Charlemagne died in 814. The Treaty of Verdun in 843 divided his empire into three parts. Louis the German acquired the eastern part, which became Germany. Charles the Bald ruled the west, which became France. Lothair obtained the middle part. With the rise of feudalism Germany was cut into five tribal, or Stamm, duchies--Saxony, Franconia, Bavaria, Swabia, and Lorraine

In 911 the Carolingian rule of Germany ended. Conrad I of Franconia was the first German king. The Saxon House began with the rule of Henry I from 919 to 936. The strongest Saxon king was Otto I the Great (936-973). He revived the Holy Roman Empire, which did not include France.

Religious Conflicts; Rise of Prussia

In 1024 the Franconian (Salian) House was elected to rule. Soon the empire was torn by the Investiture Controversy begun between Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII. Of the Hohenstaufens, from 1138 to 1254, the chief rulers were Frederick I (Barbarossa) and Frederick II.

Wars and feudalism weakened the empire. The duchies were split into hundreds of smaller powers. Some cities became free cities. Many formed powerful groups such as the Hanseatic League. This was a group of increasingly independent and powerful north German towns and commercial groups who defended their own trade concessions

The decline of the Holy Roman Empire resulted in the Great Interregnum, from 1254 to 1273, when the electors could not agree on an emperor. Then Pope Gregory X forced the electors to name Rudolph of Hapsburg emperor. In 1356, Charles IV issued a proclamation, known as the Golden Bull, that gave to seven electors the right to elect the emperor.

During the rule of Charles V, Martin Luther led the Reformation, the religious revolt against the Roman Catholic church. The Peace of Augsburg in 1555 gave each German prince the right to choose Catholicism or Lutheranism. The religious struggle continued in the Thirty Years' War, which devastated Germany. The Peace of Westphalia made the empire a loose confederation of princes.

During the war Prussia began its rise to power under the Hohenzollern family. Frederick William I created a military state. His son Frederick II the Great made Prussia a leading power of Europe. After he seized Silesia from Austria in the Seven Years' War, from 1756 to 1763, he annexed part of Poland.

Napoleon victoriously carried his wars into Germany. After he formed the Confederation of the Rhine, the Holy Roman Empire collapsed. The French crushed the Prussians at Jena in 1806. Prussia then undertook reforms. Its leaders abolished serfdom, organized local self-government, and established universal military training.

Later Prussia helped defeat Napoleon at Leipzig in 1813. At the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) the several hundred German states were reduced to 39 and grouped into a loose German Confederation. After Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo in 1815, Austria and Prussia struggled to control the Confederation. In 1848 a revolutionary movement failed to unify Germany under a democratic government.

Bismarck Creates the Second Reich

Otto von Bismarck finally unified Germany. Known as the Iron Chancellor, he served during the reigns of Emperors William I and Frederick III. In 1864 Prussia and Austria occupied the Danish provinces of Schleswig and Holstein; after Bismarck maneuvered Austria into the Seven Weeks' War in 1866, Prussia annexed the two provinces, as well as Hanover and other north German states. Bismarck reorganized Germany and excluded Austria. The states north of the Main River united with Prussia in 1867 in the North German Confederation.

In 1870 Bismarck tricked France into declaring war. Defeated, France was forced to cede Alsace-Lorraine, a humiliation that France sought to avenge in 1914. The south German states joined Prussia in a new German empire. The king of Prussia, William I, was proclaimed emperor (or kaiser) of the Second Reich in 1871 at Versailles.

Bismarck built up Germany's industries. He also laid the foundation for a colonial realm in Africa (Togoland, Cameroon, German Southwest Africa, German East Africa), China (Jiaozhou Bay in Shandong Province), and the Pacific (Kaiser Wilhelm's Land, Bismarck Archipelago, Caroline Islands).

William II succeeded Frederick III in 1888. He dismissed Bismarck and built the country into a military nation. In 1914 Germany backed Austria against Russia and launched World War I. Defeat came in 1918, however, and William II abdicated. Under the Treaty of Versailles, Germany ceded land to France, Belgium, Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, and Czechoslovakia. It also lost its colonies.

Weimar Republic

The German people in 1919 elected a national assembly. At Weimar it drew up a constitution for a democratic republic, and Friedrich Ebert was elected the first president. Unemployment and hunger mounted. In the Treaty of Rapallo Treaty of 1922, the new Soviet Union waived war reparations, but the following year France occupied the Ruhr when reparations lagged. Inflation soared until a thousand billion marks equaled one prewar mark.

In 1924 the Allies aided Germany with the Dawes Plan on reparations. The following year President Ebert died, and Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg succeeded him. Germany signed a nonaggression pact at Locarno, Switzerland, and in 1926 joined the League of Nations. The Young Plan in 1929 fixed the amount of reparations to less than one third of the original amount.

Germany's prosperity remained unsound. It was based too much on foreign credit. The stock-market crash in 1929 plunged the whole world into a severe depression. It was only a one-year moratorium on debts in 1931 that saved Germany from bankruptcy.

Dictatorship Under Hitler

During the depression Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party rose to power. Hindenburg was reelected president in 1932, but the next year he appointed Hitler chancellor.

When the Reichstag building burned in a mysterious fire (probably started by the Nazis themselves), Hitler blamed the Communists. He forced through the Enabling Act, which provided a constitutional basis for his dictatorship. The Lander, or states, lost their powers, and the Nazi party was the only political party allowed.

In a blood purge of 1934 many party leaders were executed for an alleged plot against Hitler. When Hindenburg died, Hitler abolished the office of president and took the title Fuhrer, or "leader."

The totalitarian police state increased in power. Heinrich Himmler was chief of the Gestapo, or secret police. Joseph Goebbels directed the propaganda ministry. Cultural institutions, including the press, theater, and arts, were regimented. Schools and the Hitler Youth indoctrinated young people.

The Nazis persecuted both Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, and the infamous Nuremberg Laws of 1935 deprived Jews of citizenship. The infamous Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) in 1938, during which many Jews and their property were brutally attacked, ushered in a new and more violent phase of their persecution, and the Jewish property that was left undestroyed was confiscated.

Hitler talked peace but prepared for war. In 1933 Germany withdrew from the League of Nations. It repudiated the Treaty of Versailles in 1935 and began rearming. Universal military training was restored.

Hitler denounced the Locarno Pact in 1936 and marched into the Rhineland. Germany formed a Berlin-Rome Axis with Italy. During the Spanish Civil War, Germany aided Francisco Franco and tested its new weapons. By 1938 Hitler had the most powerful mechanized army and largest air force in the world.

Great Britain and France followed a policy of appeasement. They offered no opposition in 1938 when Hitler annexed Austria. They signed the Munich Pact to bring "peace in our time." The treaty gave the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia to Germany. In 1939 Hitler took Memel from Lithuania and all of Czechoslovakia. Hitler next demanded the return of Danzig, but Poland refused. Britain and France pledged aid to Poland. Hitler concluded a nonaggression pact with Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union, which removed the danger of a second front.

Hitler Launches World War II

The German army then invaded Poland and began World War II. After crushing the Poles, Hitler subdued Norway, Denmark, Belgium, and The Netherlands. France fell in 1940.

Hitler's plan to invade Britain was foiled when the German Luftwaffe, or air force, lost the air battle of Britain. When Italy's invasion of Greece and Africa failed, Hitler seized the Balkans and North Africa.

The Nazis imported "inferior races" from conquered countries to relieve the manpower shortage. Those who resisted were herded into concentration camps. About 12 million persons, including about 6 million Jews, were exterminated.

Hitler next invaded the Soviet Union. He swept on to many victories. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, he declared war on the United States. Hitler's defeat at Stalingrad (now Volgograd), in the Soviet Union, marked the turning point of the war. The Allies drove the Nazis out of Africa, Italy, and the Soviet Union. Germany became a battleground as the Allies closed in from east and west. In 1945 Germany surrendered unconditionally. Just before defeat came, Hitler committed suicide.

Allied armies occupied all of Germany. They found it a wasteland. Allied bombers had almost pulverized the large cities. Thousands of civilians had died in air raids. Some 3,250,000 German soldiers had been killed.

The war left Germany shrunken in size. In early 1939, it had been a country of 183,000 square miles (474,000 square kilometers) with a population of about 60,000,000. In 1945 it was reduced to 144,000 square miles (373,000 square kilometers) and was also reduced by several million inhabitants. The Soviets annexed northern East Prussia. Poland administered southern East Prussia, Pomerania, and Silesia, and Germany's eastern border was pushed back to the Oder and Neisse rivers.

Allied Nations Occupy Germany

Pending a peace treaty, Allied leaders met at Potsdam in 1945 and divided Germany into four occupation zones--French in the southwest, British in the northwest, American in the south, and Soviet in the east. Berlin, deep in the Soviet zone, was also divided into four sectors

The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg tried Nazi leaders as war criminals. The trial ended in 1946 with 19 convicted, of whom ten were hanged. Goering escaped hanging by taking poison. Civilian courts held denazification trials. Convicted Nazis were banned from public office and imprisoned.

The division of Germany into occupation zones made possible the future development of two separate German states. The breakdown of the alliance between the Western powers and the Soviet Union--which became known as the Cold War--further led to the partition of Germany. In 1947 the American and the British merged their zones for economic purposes, and the Germans were allowed to set up state parliaments in all three Western zones. These moves laid the foundations for the emergence of the West German state. In 1948 the Soviets showed their unwillingness to cooperate with the Western occupation powers in a reform of the German currency and in the joint administration of Berlin. A blockade of the Western-controlled sectors of Berlin by the Soviet occupation forces led to the organization of a massive airlift of supplies to those sectors by the United States and Britain. By the spring of 1949 the blockade had been abandoned by the Soviets along with attempts to force West Berlin to become part of a Soviet-controlled city.

The merger of the French zone of occupation with the other Western zones, along with the adoption of a constitution by representatives of the states forming the occupation zones, resulted in the proclamation on May 23, 1949, of the Federal Republic of Germany, or West Germany. On October 7 of the same year, the Soviet zone was proclaimed as the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany.

West Germany

The first federal elections in 1949 resulted in the victory of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). Konrad Adenauer, the leader of the CDU, formed a coalition government with other smaller parties and became the first chancellor of the new state. Adenauer was one of the great political personalities of postwar Europe. He was a strong believer in an alliance with the United States and the Western powers and hoped for an eventual united Europe based on the federal principle. At the same time he hoped for a reunification of Germany--but only as a democratic state free of Communist control.

Adenauer was faced with pressing problems. One of the most urgent was caused by the arrival of thousands of refugees from the Polish-occupied areas of eastern Germany and former East Prussia as well as from East Germany. The assimilation of these refugees presented both economic and social problems, but as the economy began to improve they found jobs and in fact contributed greatly to the country's revival. As the refugees were mostly anti-Communist, they tended to support the more right-wing parties and ultimately formed a party of their own, which agitated strongly against the partition of Germany and against the annexation by Poland of German territories in the east.

Other problems were a result of the Allied occupation. Because the Ruhr region had been the main producer of German armaments as well as the economic heart of the country, some Western governments, led by the French, thought that the region should come under international control in order to prevent uncontrolled German industrial expansion. This naturally displeased the Germans. The international control authority that was set up was a weak organization that was abolished in 1952 when the European Coal and Steel Community was established.

The status of the Saar and its coal mines became a major concern for Adenauer. The Saar was part of the French occupation zone. After World War I the French had attempted to obtain control of the Saar permanently. They had been forced to hand the territory over to the control of the League of Nations, who in 1935 gave it back to Germany. After World War II the French were determined that they would not lose control again. The French detached the region from their own zone, joined it in a customs union with France, and gave it its own currency. A government was elected that gave France a 55-year lease on the coal mines. Adenauer opposed these moves strongly and argued that no former area of Germany could be transferred permanently to another state. The position of France was weak, and it needed United States aid too much to oppose American and British wishes to see a healthy West German economy. Relations between Germany and France were also improved by personal contacts between Adenauer and the French leader, Charles de Gaulle. In 1957 the Saar was returned to the Federal Republic of Germany.

Controls lifted. On May 5, 1955, the occupation powers lifted the controls that they had placed on Germany's political and economic development. The Federal Republic was now completely free to develop its own policies. In 1953 Adenauer had been reelected and was ready to lead West Germany into a period of economic prosperity. He proved to the Germans that democracy could bring success, an idea that helped to counter any pro-Communist sympathy among the population. The poor performance of East Germany strengthened pro-Western feelings, and in 1956 the Communist party was declared illegal in West Germany. In spite of Adenauer's successes, there was criticism of his policies--especially from the Social Democratic party, which formed the largest group in opposition to the government. The Social Democrats were unhappy with the continued employment in the government of people who had been Nazis. Education, especially at the universities, was still largely for a small elite, and in general society had changed little since the 1930s except for the political system.

The Social Democrats fought the rise of a new German army, but in 1953 the government received the necessary support from the two legislative houses to proceed. In 1955 West Germany joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and in 1957 was an original member of the European Economic Community (EEC), or Common Market. It therefore became one of the leaders of Europe along with France and Great Britain.

End of Adenauer era. Adenauer was reelected chancellor in 1957 and again in 1961. In the latter election, however, his party lost seats in the Bundestag, or West German parliament, and many hoped he would resign. He did so in 1963 and was succeeded by Ludwig Erhard. As chancellor, Erhard was not as strong as Adenauer and was under constant criticism from Adenauer, who remained a member of parliament and party leader. Erhard was reelected in 1965 but resigned the following year.

The economy was in difficulties, and there was no strong political leadership. The Free Democrats withdrew from the coalition cabinet in 1966 to protect their political future, and a new chancellor, Kurt Kiesinger, was chosen. He formed a coalition government with the Social Democrats; Willy Brandt, a leading Social Democrat, became vice-chancellor and foreign minister. This coalition lasted only three years. During this period an attempt was made to improve relations with Eastern Europe, but this policy of detente was curtailed by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

The Social Democrats won the 1969 elections, reflecting a trend toward the left. Willy Brandt became chancellor and formed a coalition with the Free Democrats. His political strength lay largely in the fact that during the war he had actively opposed the Nazis while in Norway and Sweden. His main interest was foreign policy; he was less successful in dealing with domestic matters. He revived the pursuit of East-West detente, termed Ostpolitik (eastern policy), which he had begun as Erhard's foreign minister, and hoped for better relations with East Germany and Poland. At the end of 1970 he signed a treaty with Poland that recognized Poland's rights to the German territories Poland had annexed after the war. Brandt also visited Moscow that year to sign a treaty with the Soviet Union in which Germany agreed to respect the frontiers and territories of all states in Europe. By this act Germany renounced all claims to Polish and Czechoslovakian territory and recognized the boundary between West and East Germany. Brandt still refused to recognize fully the claim of East Germany to be a sovereign, independent state, as this would put the stamp of approval on the partition of Germany. Both Germanys, however, joined the United Nations separately in 1973.

Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev paid a visit to Bonn in 1973, an event welcomed by some as a sign of the end of Soviet-German hostilities and of the Cold War. But Soviet approaches to West Germany were prompted more by a desire to obtain German technology than by a desire for friendship. The Soviet Union in turn offered German industry raw materials and energy supplies, particularly oil and natural gas.

This period of seemingly improved relations with the Eastern bloc was brought to an end in 1974 by the revelation that one of Brandt's personal staff was an East German spy. Brandt accepted full responsibility for the mistake and resigned as chancellor.

The new chancellor was Helmut Schmidt, a well-educated man who also spoke good English. He was practical, well organized, and a good speaker. In 1976 his position as chancellor was confirmed by an election in which the Social Democrats won by a narrow margin.

The new government faced a new element in German politics, namely terrorism. Starting with bombings of government offices, embassies, and military bases and offices, by the mid-1970s people--including judges, politicians, business people, and bankers--were being shot or kidnapped. In 1977 a West German airliner was hijacked and taken to Mogadishu in Somalia, where the passengers were rescued by a special team of German police.

Another problem arose from the decision by the government to develop nuclear power in order to reduce petroleum imports and to diminish air pollution from the excessive use of coal. Fear of nuclear accidents caused public opposition to those plans, and demonstrations and blockades took place at nuclear plants and proposed construction sites. Much opposition came from the ranks of the ruling Social Democratic party, but a new party devoted to the protection of the environment arose. Known as the Greens, it won a surprising 43 seats in the Bundestag in 1987. Dissension among party ranks, however, and diminished interest among voters in western Germany contributed to the Greens' loss of all but seven seats in the 1990 all-German elections.

In 1981 the international economic recession began to affect West Germany, and unemployment rose sharply to a peak of more than 10 percent in 1983. The problem of the 2 million foreign workers--mainly Turks and Yugoslavs--became acute as many lost their jobs. Schmidt introduced a three-year program to reduce unemployment but had to cut spending on social welfare. At the same time friction developed with the United States over high interest rates, which were seen to be hindering Western European economic recovery, and over United States sanctions against Poland, with which Schmidt did not agree.

In 1981 Schmidt visited East Germany in an attempt to improve relations between the two states. When the four Free Democrats in his cabinet resigned over the question of economic policy in 1982, the coalition government collapsed.

Christian Democrats return to power. Helmut Kohl of the Christian Democratic party was chosen as chancellor, and in March 1983 he was given a clear mandate when his party was returned to power. (He was reelected in 1987, but his party lost some of its seats.) The United States government was particularly pleased with Kohl's policies, but the chancellor did not neglect the problem of relations with East Germany. In return for East Germany's lifting some currency restrictions on Western visitors, Kohl arranged for East German credits from West German banks.

Winds of change. West Germany marked its 40th anniversary during 1989. East-West relations dominated the political and economic scene throughout the year, with the main focus on the upheaval in East Germany. West Germany's embassies in Budapest, Warsaw, and Prague were flooded with East German refugees trying to flee to the West. The huge numbers that streamed into West Germany after East Germany opened its borders caused a shortage of housing and a fear of unemployment. Kohl promised to provide more than 3 billion dollars in economic aid to finance democratic reform in East Germany. On May 18, 1990, East and West German finance ministers signed a state treaty that would merge the two economies. Kohl and the newly elected East German prime minister, Lothar de Maiziere, named July 1, 1990, as the day for economic and social union, a step toward political union. The government invested 70 billion dollars to boost East Germany's battered economy, and on July 1, the West German mark became the sole legal tender.

East Germany

In May 1949 a constitution establishing the government of an East German state was adopted by the legislative body that became the Volkskammer (People's Chamber), or parliament. The new government was headed by Otto Grotewohl, with Wilhelm Pieck, a Communist, as president. In order to control the other political parties, in particular the Social Democrats, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany had been formed in 1946. This party assumed power. It consisted mainly of Social Democrats and Communists, with the latter dominating all party decisions. A Soviet-style Politburo controlled the party, with Walter Ulbricht, another veteran Communist, as the party's general secretary.

The period from 1949 to 1953 was marked by great unrest within the Socialist Unity party and the country because of what was labeled spy fever. Many people who were thought to be politically unreliable were expelled from the party, and some were imprisoned. At the same time the government was preparing for future economic development with a Soviet-style five-year plan to begin in 1951. This plan stressed the construction of new heavy industry and gave a low priority to consumer goods industries. In 1952 East German authorities began the collectivization of agriculture. From 1952 to 1954 about 700,000 people left for the West, a loss of workers that hampered the planned development of farming and industry.

The political upheavals and the low standard of living caused many people to leave for the West. Unrest among workers who remained led in 1953 to strikes in a number of cities, including East Berlin. These strikes were put down with the aid of Soviet armed forces. This was followed by another purge in the Socialist Unity party, whose leaders realized that they had little following among the workers whom they represented.

The Berlin Wall that separated East and West Berlin was built in 1961 and marked a turning point. Not only was the country more easily protected against the infiltration of Western agents, but the exodus of badly needed skilled workers and others was halted. At the same time economic reforms that eased central planning controls were introduced. Industrial production increased rapidly, more consumer goods began to appear in stores, and a mood of optimism began to spread through the population. By the mid-1960s the standard of living was higher than in most other Soviet-bloc countries. In 1968 the rise of a more liberal regime in Czechoslovakia alarmed the Soviet and East German governments. East German military units took part in the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. In spite of this development, relations with West Germany began to improve.

End of the Ulbricht era. In 1971 Ulbricht resigned and was replaced by Erich Honecker. Although 20 years younger than Ulbricht, his successor was another hard-line Communist. One of Honecker's first acts was to nationalize all the remaining private enterprise. Attempts were made to counter the influence of West German television--easily received in many parts of the country. The unique nature of East Germany and its culture was stressed, and loyalty to the state was firmly emphasized.

By the 1970s the economy was one of the most industrialized and successful in Eastern Europe, but shortages of labor and natural resources began to occur. A serious food shortage developed in 1982. East Germany had meanwhile been building considerable debt to Western banks, and problems arose with the repayment of interest and capital. The Soviet Union sharply criticized these foreign loans. The regime was also embarrassed when 55 of its citizens sought asylum in the West German diplomatic mission in East Berlin. They left only when assured that they would be given permission to leave for the West. From 1984 to 1985 only 40,000 East German citizens were allowed to move to West Germany.

Winds of change. The totalitarian East German government at first ignored--and then opposed--the gradual political liberalization that was occurring in the Soviet Union. In 1988, when there were changes in the leadership of other Warsaw Pact states, Honecker pressed for even tighter ideological control.

East Germany celebrated its 40th anniversary as a separate Communist nation on Oct. 6-7, 1989. While Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev noted that the Honecker regime was free to choose its own course, his anniversary speech also described the advantages of Soviet-style reform. On the nearby streets of East Berlin, and in all the other major East German cities, enormous pro-democracy demonstrations and marches were simultaneously taking place.

Honecker was removed from office on October 18, and his hard-line protege, Egon Krenz, assumed all three of his posts. On November 7 the East German cabinet resigned and a reformer replaced Willi Stoph, the chairman of the Council of Ministers. The culmination of the premier's promise for freer East-West travel was the opening of the Berlin Wall two days later. Honecker and several of his associates were placed under arrest on December 5, and revelations of corruption inside the Communist party forced the resignation of the entire Politburo and the party's central committee. Krenz resigned as chairman of the Council of State on December 6. His replacement, Manfred Gerlach, was the first non-Communist to hold the post. As membership rapidly declined, the party scrambled to save itself by changing its structure and its name and by promising a program of democracy, greater openness, and other reforms. The Communist-led government formed a coalition, with pro-democracy parties in the minority, but was forced to form an interim coalition cabinet, give up its majority, and move up elections to March 18, 1990.

East Germans voted overwhelmingly on March 18 for a conservative alliance that proposed quick reunification with West Germany. More than 93 percent of some 12 million eligible voters cast ballots in the elections. The newly elected parliament met for the first time on April 5 and began dismantling the Communist system that had ruled for 40 years.

The Alliance for Germany--a coalition of the Christian Democratic Union, German Social Union, and Democratic Awakening--received more than 48 percent of the vote and 193 seats in parliament. Lothar de Maiziere, head of the Christian Democrats and the designated prime minister, formed a 24-member coalition cabinet that also included the Social Democratic party, the German Social Union, the Democratic Awakening, and the Liberals, but not the Party of Democratic Socialism, the renamed Socialist Unity party. The parliament abolished the old Council of State and created the ceremonial head of state post of president. Sabine Bergmann-Pohl was elected to serve as both the president of parliament and acting head of state.

German Reunification

The unification treaty was signed by West German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schauble and East German State Secretary Gunther Krause on Aug. 31, 1990. It declared that unification would officially take place on Oct. 3, 1990, that Berlin would be the new capital, and that elections would be scheduled for Dec. 2, 1990.

Because of East Germany's ruined economy and its outdated industries many West German companies were hesitant to invest there. Nearly half of the East German work force was unemployed and nearly three quarters of the businesses failed by the end of 1990. Poland expressed concern that the country might not accept post-World War II borders. Eventually, however, Germany stated that it would respect the borders with Poland.

On Sept. 12, 1990, some further issues were resolved during the "two-plus-four" negotiations (a phrase referring to the four Allies and the two Germanys). It was ultimately decided that the postwar occupation of Germany by these four powers would formally end on Oct. 1, 1990. Furthermore, Germany signed a commitment that it would never again become a threat to world peace. It was agreed that the new Germany would be a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) but that no NATO forces would be stationed on what was East German territory for three to four years after reunification. Also, Soviet, American, British, and French troops agreed to withdraw from what was East German territory and Berlin by the end of 1994. Germany, in turn, agreed to pay the Soviet Union about 7.5 billion dollars to finance the withdrawal of its troops and to build housing for them upon their return home. In addition, Germany agreed to cut the size of its armed forces from more than 600,000 to 370,000 troops.

On Dec. 2, 1990, former West German chancellor Helmut Kohl, representing the Christian Democratic Union party, was elected Germany's new chancellor in the first free all-German parliamentary elections to be held in 58 years. Kohl was reelected in 1994, but his popularity declined throughout the 1990s. His efforts to integrate Germany into the European community, specifically through membership in the European Union, led to the introduction of harsh fiscal measures in order to bring the country's economy in line with those of other European countries. That effort was rewarded in May 1998, when Germany qualified for entry into the EMU, but Kohl's 16-year reign as Germany's chancellor came to an end later that year, when the Social Democrats were victorious in national elections.

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