Occupied Germany
the west, 1945-1948
FRG 1969-1989

FRG, 1949-1969

Administration . Foreign Policy . Domestic Policy . The Economy . Demography . Cultural History

Administration . President Theodor Heuss (FDP) 1949-1959, succeeded by Heinrich Lübke (CDU) 1959-1969. Chancellor 1949-1963 Konrad Adenauer (CDU), 1963-1966 Ludwig Erhard (CDU), 1966-1969 Kurt Georg Kiesinger (CDU). Federal elections were held in 1949, 1953, 1957, 1961, 1965, 1969. Capital Berlin (nominal), seat of government Bonn. The Federal Republic of Germany claimed to be the only legitimate successor state of the German Reich in the borders of 1937.

Foreign Policy . The Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Germany, abbreviated FRG) was founded in the early stages of the Cold War. It claimed to be the sole legitimate successor state of the German Empire in its borders of 1937 (see FRG constitution).
Chancellor Konrad Adenauer pursued a policy promoting integration into the western alliuances : in 1951 the FRG joined the ECSC, in 1957 it became a founding member of the EC. In 1955 the FRG joined NATO and rearmed - since 1945 and 1955 both the FRG and the GDR did not have any army/armies.
The FRG invested a lot of effort into improving its relations with its neighbours. Voluntarily, the FRG made payments, especially to France and to Israel, in recognition of crimes committed by Germans against foreign and German victims of Nazi brutality. Cross-national contact on local level was promoted, in form of city partnerships, Europe-wide sports and song contests etc. Soon, the FRG, necause of its strong, booming economy became the 'paymaster of the EC', the FRG paying more into the Brussels treasury than it received in return. Beneficiaries were the countries with a strong agricultural basis, and less developed regions within the EC.
The FRG was described as an economic superpower (the world's third largest economy), yet politically a second rate power. For the time being, the FRG was satisfied with this position, aware that Europe's other nations were unwilling to see a German government play a dominating role in European politics. The Axis Paris-Bonn (the latter being the FRG's provisorical seat of government) was emphasized by both the French and the FRG government. It gave the French additional political weight. Yet the FRG did not merely follow French policy. When France withdrew from the military structure of NATO, and promoted the WEU (west European Defense Union) instead, the FRG joined the latter with a token force, but remained in NATO, now the Alliance's second strongest member.
Towards the East, the Adenauer-administration and its Christian Democratic successors pursued a policy of non-recognition. Technically, East Germany was treated as territory the population of which at present was hindered from joining, but the GDR was not recognized. East Germany was treated as inland, all East Germans, if they claimed an FRG passport or benefits from any FRG law, could not be refused these.
As hundreds of thousands of easterners crossed into the west in Berlin in search for a better life, as both governments claimed to be the solely legitimate successor of the German Empire, as the respective ideologies were hostile, so was the climate between the two governments.
Yet there were areas, such as the Olympic Games, where both Germanies were represented by a unified team - that is until Tokyo 1964; in Mexico 1968, for the first time two German teams appeared.
Both German states were separated by the Iron Curtain; persons who tried to cross risked stepping on mines, being hunted down by German shepherd's dogs trained to kill, or being shot. There were fatalities. Yet, it was possible for west Germans to visit their east German relatives, if they were willing to endure strict border controls and accept east German regulations.
The FRG government expected the East German political system and economy to collapse, and unification to follow. Yet the GDR lived longer than expected, and over time west Germans got used to the existence of the FRG.
The USSR had held back the German P.O.W.s until 1955; many of those who returned had already legally been declared dead, as there had been no communication for years. In the same year, the USSR offered German unification if the FRG pursued a policy of political neutrality; the Adenauer administration declined the offer and chose NATO membership instead.
In 1957 the population of the Saarland, in another plebiscite, voted to rejoin the Federal Republic.
The two Germanies had learned to live with each other, the capitalist democratic Federal Republic and socialist one-party-state GDR. An intense competition between the two, however, continued, a competition for international recognition - the Federal Republic provided economic assistance only to such third world states which did not recognize the GDR - and, from 1964 onward, in the field of sports.

Domestic Policy . In the west the currency reform had put a sudden end to the black market. Everybody had been given a 'starting money' of DM 40,-; assets in the Reichsmark were exchanged at a rate of 1.000,- RM = 1 DM. While savings were virtually wiped out, jobs now were paid well. Demand for almost everything was high. The jobless rate dropped quickly, and many inhabitants of the Soviet zone crossed into the western zones searching for a better life, the begin of massive inter-German migration.
In 1949, in the three western zones (without Berlin's three western sectors) a 'Constitution Giving Assembly' met, adopting the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany' established soon afterward. The new republic consisted of 9 states (Bundesländer). From the start, the Federal Republic was regarded a provisorium. It claimed to be the only legitimate successor state to the German Empire (it it's borders of 1937) and expected the other states of Germany to join later. Federalism was stressed, as many state authorities were spread over the country, the Bundesbank seated in Frankfurt, the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe etc.
In 1957 the population of the Saarland, in another plebiscite, voted to rejoin the Federal Republic.
In the late 1940es, political sentiment in western Germany tended toward socialism. The Ahlen Program of the CDU demanded the nationalization of key industries. Yet the quick economic recovery led to a shift in political sentiment.
Government was dominated by the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) which turned into a conservative-liberal party, and their regular junior partner, the Free Democrats (FDP, liberals). They promoted a Social Market Economy, a free market economy with the government establishing the frame in which the economy could operate, and with strong elements of a welfare state.
The FRG became a model democracy. The constitution is highly regarded; since 1949, until today it has been amended only two times (one such amendment resulting from unification in 1989). Amendments require a two-thirds majority, impossible without participation of the opposition. Four political parties - Social Democrats (SPD), Christian Democrats (CDU), Bavarian Christian Socialists (CSU) and Liberals (FDP) dominated the political landscape; the communist KPD was outlawed in 1957 (because of its radical positions, hostile to the state); reestablished as DKP, it always remained under 1 % of the votes.
The Gundgesetz (the FRG basic law, a provisorium replacing a constitution West German politicians did not want to draft without the participation of their compatriots from the east) emphasises the balance of powers and the rights of the states.
In the 1960es a new generation had grown up, in an affluent society, knowing about the war only from textbooks and their parents' tales. Many were dissatisfied in a political environment where the same two parties had governed for 20 years; so far, the SPD had formed governments only on state basis. In 1966 CDU and SPD formed a Grand Coalition Government, robbing many of the illusion of political change. The result was twofold - an increase in (protest-) votes for the ultraright nationalist NPD, and the formation of the APO (Ausserparlamentarische Opposition, outside-of-parliament opposition). The latter claimed to speak for a rising number of demonstrating students and others, many of them sympathising with socialist ideas, although not with Soviet-style socialism.
In 1968, such demonstrations were directed against the state visit of Shah Reza Pahlevi of Iran, against US intervention in Vietnam etc. The German establishment reacted with consternation, having difficulties to understand the young. The demonstrators accused the older generation of having either participated in Nazi crimes or having done nothing to stop them; the older generation had lost much of parental authority.

The Economy . The currency reform in 1948 performed wonders. The black market collapsed immediately, cigarettes were used for smoking again. In the shops, the shelves were filled again.
After 6 years of war, there was a seemingly unsatiable demand for everything. In the new Social Market Economy (Soziale Marktwirtschaft), high wages were paid. The workers thus were able to afford to buy things, and industry was given a strong incentive to produce.
Production expanded quickly, the unemployment rate shrank rapidly and by 1957 had reached a number below 0.5 % - full employment. There were a number of booms - the eating boom (after years of malnutrition), the construction boom (after years of having to share your apartment with other families), the electric apparel boom (have an electric oven, a vacuum cleaner, a refrigerator), the transportation boom (have a motorcycle, later a car), the tv boom and the vacation boom - spend two or three weeks on the beach or in the mountains. In the past, only the better off could afford that, now it became popular culture.
To West Germany's economic miracle, the Marshall Plan contributed (although West Germany received less Marshall credits than other countries). But there were other factors - Germany was destroyed, but it's pool of brainpower - engineers, craftsmen, skilled workers - were still there, and highly motivated, eager to forget those 12 years of Nazi oppression and to enjoy the profits of decent work. While the workers in France, Italy and Britain frequently went on strike, German workers were more disciplined. Again, Made in Germany stood for quality products. While West Germany's car industry began with models ridiculed even in those days, the Volkswagen Beetle found its market niche and outsold the legendary Ford T, becoming the world's most sold model of all times.

Demography . The population of the FRG was 50.7 million in 1950, 56.1 million in 1961, 60.6 million in 1970 [IHS p.4]. By 1960, the unemployment rate had fallen to 1.3 %, would remain below 1 % from 1961 to 1966 and from 1969 to 1971 - despite having integrated more than 10 million refugees and despite a constant influx of 200.000 - 250.000 countrymen from the East, coming in via Berlin (until the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961). To make up for the influx of East German workers, German authorities invited foreign migrant workers - at first from Italy and Spain, later from Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey etc. to come to work in Germany : the Gastarbeiter (literally guest workers).

Cultural History . Until Tokyo 1964, both German states sent one combined team to the Summer Olympics; from Mexico City 1968 onward, teams representing the FRG and GDR competed separately. German athletes did not participate in London 1948, won 24 medals, none of them gold, in Helsinki 1952, 6 gold in Melbourne 1956, 12 gold in Rome 1960, 10 gold in Tokyo 1964, While the FRG outnumbered the GDR 3:1 in population, West German athletes won 5 gold in Mexico City 1968, as compared to the GDR's 9; the GDR was on her way to develop into an athletic power.
The German football team won the World Cup in 1954, defeating Hungary in the final 3-2.
Germans Kurt Alder and Otto Diels (1950), Hermann Staudinger (1953), Karl Ziegler (1963) and Manfred Eigen (1967) were awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, Walther Bothe and Max Born (1954), Rudolf Mössbauer (1961), J.H.D. Jensen and M. Goeppert-Mayer (1963) the Nobel Prize in Physics, H.A. Krebs (1953), Werner Forssmann (1956), K. Bloch and F.F.K. Lynen (1964), Max Delbrück (1969) the Nobel Prize in Physiology, Hermann Hesse (1946) the Nobel Prize in Literature, Albert Schweitzer (1952) the Nobel Peace Prize.

Articles from Wikipedia : Federal Republic of Germany, Elections in Germany : FRG, Konrad Adenauer, Ludwig Erhard, Kurt Georg Kiesinger, Theodor Heuss, Heinrich Lübke, Hallstein Doctrine, Social Market Economy, Grand Coalition
Nobel Laureates by Country : Germany, Germany at the 1952 Summer Olympics, Germany at the 1956 Summer Olympics, Germany at the 1960 Summer Olympics, Germany at the 1964 SummerOlympics, West Germany at the 1968 Summer Olympics
Biography of Konrad Adenauer, from CNN.com
50 Jahre Deutschland, from Bild Online, in German, several files for every year
West Germany : The Party System in 1950-1956 and 1957-1962, in : Kenneth Janda, Political Parties : A Cross-National Survey
1968 Volkswagen 1500, from SIA Drive Report
David R. Henderson, German Economic "Miracle", from The Concise Encyclpedia of Economics
The Economic Miracle, from German Culture
Biography of Konrad Adenauer, from CNN.com
DOCUMENTS From Ron Wise's World Paper Money : Trizone, 1 Mark banknote 1948; FRG 5 Mark banknote, 1960
Time Magazine : Konrad Adenauer, man of the year 1953
REFERENCE Chapters 2 : The Old Man on the Rhine, pp.12-25; 3 : Pressures in the Federal Republic, pp.26-40, in : John Gunther, Inside Europe Today, NY : Harper & Bros. 1961 [G]
Article Germany, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1950 pp. 318-323, 1951 pp.322-326, 1952 pp.314-317, 1953 pp.311-315, 1954 pp.310-314, 1955 pp.359-362, 1956 pp.298-301, 1957 pp.359-361, 1958 pp.294-297, 1959 pp.295-298, 1960 pp.292-296, 1961 pp.299-303, 1962 pp.291-295, 1963 pp.405-410, 1964 pp.390-395, 1965 pp.386-390, 1966 pp.342-348, 1967 pp.371-374, 1968 pp.373-377, 1969 pp.368-372 [G]
Article : Germany, in : Americana Annual 1957 pp.318-324, 1961 pp.302-308, 1962 pp.304-310, 1963 pp.278-285, 1964 pp.275-282, 1965 pp.296-300, 1967 pp.307-312, 1968 pp.299-304, 1969 pp.315-320, 1970 pp.317-322 [G]
Article : Germany, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1952 pp.180-182, 1961 pp.134-138 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 3rd 2007

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