FRG 1949-1969 Unification 1989/90

FRG, 1969-1989

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

Administration . Presidents 1969-1974 Gustav Heinemann (SPD), 1974-1979 Walter Scheel (FDP), 1979-1984 Karl Carstens (CDU), 1984-1994 Richard von Weizsäcker (CDU). Federal elections were held in 1969, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1983, 1987.

Foreign Policy
Detente . In 1969, the CDU under incumbent chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger regarded itself winner of the elections and expected to form the new government with junior partner FDP. This small liberal party, however, opted for the other option and joined the Social Liberal Coalition under chancellor Willy Brandt (SPD).
The new government, the first ever without CDU participation, entered a new course in foreign policy. Minister without portfolio Egon Bahr opened negotiations with the governments of the socialist countries of Easyern Central Europe, hitherto shunned by the CDU administration. This new policy was called Ostpolitik (Eastern Policy). Soon, treaties were signed with these countries' governments : the Grundlagenvertrag with Eastern Germany, avoiding to officially recognizing the legitimacy of that state, treaties with Czechoslovakia, Poland, the USSR.
The socialist governments of Eastern Central Europe - East Germany especially - were in need of credits in hard currency, which affluent West Germany then could provide. West Germany had a long list of wishes, many of them humanitarian in nature, such as family reunions. East Germany opened additional border crossing points (and charged every visitor with an obligatory currency exchange of DM 25,- per day), dismantled facilities disrupting West German TV broadcasts, permitted limited and controlled emigration.
West Germany's western allies, the US foremost, regarded Germany's Ostpolitik with scepticism. However, it had a number of obvious positive effects. The Warsaw Pact suddenly found it difficult to credibly paint West Germany as the imperialist capitalist enemy planning to invade the socialist countries. West Germans were perceived as the friendly visitors coming with cars of superior technology, bringing oranges and other rare goodies (the drivers often were relatives, too). The vast majority of East Germany switched to western channels to see the news. Watching the commercials in West German TV with interest, they developed the image of the Golden West.
Willy Brandt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971. Highly esteemed, he was reelected in 1972. When it became public that his secretary, Guenter Guillaume, was an East German spy, he stepped down in 1974. He was succeeded by Helmut Schmidt, also SPD.
During the Munich Olympic Games of 1972, East Germans vastly outmedalled their western countrymen and -women, leaving a strong impression. East Germany seemed to be more stable than ever. The socialist countries regarded the FRG's Ostpolitik as an opportunity to cash in, but did not seriously change their attitude toward the west. In 1975 the USSR responded to a suggestion of the west and joined the CSCE conference (Helsinki 1975), signing a document in which they recognized human rights.
East Germany continued to engage in espionage on a large scale, both politically and economically. However, the Oil Crisis of 1973 made East Germany even more dependent on West German credits. When a small group of radical students founded the RAF (Red Army Faction) and engaged in brutal terrorist acts directed against the West German state, East Germany provided them with aliasses and with safe havens.
Both German states simultaneously joined the United Nations, thus indicating an end of the policy of competition for international recognition.
Meanwhile, the Arms Race was continuing, and in the mid 1970es, the USSR set up SS 20 missile launching bases all over eastern central Europe (all of West Germany being in range) it was chancellor Helmut Schmidt who urged then US president Jimmy Carter to order the development of the Pershing Missiles. These were ready to be set up in 1982. By then, the grass roots peace movement had turned the majority of SPD members against those missiles. On a party congress, Helmut Schmidt and a handfull of loyals voted for the Pershings to be set up in Germany, with roughly 1000 votes against them. The SPD basically had decided not to follow the chancellor (who was a leading member) in a core policy. Only days later, foreign minister Hans Dietrich Genscher negotiated with opposition leader Helmut Kohl, and soon afterward, without general election, the Federal Republic had a new coalition government, led by new chancellor Helmut Kohl.
Hans Dietrich Genscher stayed in office as minister of foreign affairs. The CDU, who, while in opposition, vehemently had criticized the government's Ostpolitik, now continued it. East Germany continued to receive credits - East Germany was regarded a secret member of the European Community, as Germany treated the country as 'domestic territory'. In 1986, East German head of state Etich Honecker even was received on a state visit. Meanwhile, the numbers of East Germans who were permitted to emigrate officially (in return for the credits) had risen. The GDR was in an increasingly difficult economic position. But in both East and West Germany people had grown accustomed to Germany's partition and few kept on hoping for a unification following the economically induced collapse of the GDR.
Continued West-Integration . The FRG remained a loyal partner in NATO, where it formed the Alliance's second strongest member, and in the EC, which in 1975 was renamed EU (European Union). The FRG supported the extension of the EU, which took up new members, most notably the United Kingdom (against initial French misgivings) and Spain (also against initial French misgivings; Spanish agriculture was a serious competitor to French agriculture). The FRG clearly paid the largest share of the EU budget, and receiving much less than it paid, was called "the paymaster of the EU". By paying without complaint the FRG earned the respect and trust of the other members, especially of those who benefitted from EU payments.
The FRG continued a low-profile foreign policy, appearing as an economic superpower, yet a second-rate political power.
Domestic Policy . In 1969, the CDU under incumbent chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger regarded itself winner of the elections and expected to form the new government with junior partner FDP. This small liberal party, however, opted for the other option and joined the Social Liberal Coalition under chancellor Willy Brandt (SPD).
Among the mottoes of the Social-Liberal Coalition was 'Mehr Demokratie Wagen' (to dare more democracy); strong elements in the SPD dreamt of a Democratic Socialism. The government pursued a policy of establishing equality of chances in education - the number and size of universities was expanded (schooling and university education are free of charge and mostly state-run), grants were offered to students from poor families. The state's welfare expenses increased.
The Social-Liberal Coalition's foreign and domestic policies polarized German society. In the 1972 elections opposition candidate Helmut Kohl gained over 48 % of the votes - and lost the election, as SPF and FDP combined had over 49 %.
After it turned out that his personal secretary, Günther Guillaume, worked for the GDR's secret service, chancellor Willy Brandt resigned in 1974, succeeded by Helmut Schmidt (also SPD). Schmidt was a moderate Social Democrat, by some labelled a conservative within his party. Helmut Schmidt introduced a number of political changes - stopping the enlistment of migrant workers, introducing a policy of rigorously fighting inflation, at the expense of slowly increasing unemployment, promoting energy conservation.
Under Helmut Schmidt, a group of ex 1968ers turned terrorist, the RAF (Rote Armee Fraktion - Red Army Fraction), posed a serious threat to society by committing terrorist acts carried through with ruthless brutality - the hijacking of a Lufthansa plane to Mogadishu (where it was stormed by west German elite forces), the assassination of key figures in German society. The RAF became state enemy number one; yet police had a hard time to find and arrest RAF members. It later turned out that many of them were given asylum in East Germany, crossing in to the west only in order to commit their violent acts.

In 1984 the SPD general assembly voted against the installation of Pershing Missiles on German territory. The irony of the situation was that it had been SPD chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who, years before, had convinced the US administration that the Soviet SS 20 missiles were superior to NATO missiles and NATO had to respond - which it did by producing the Pershings. Helmut Schmidt now was forced to implement a policy he opposed.
Only days afterward, the coalition broke apart; FDP leader Hanns Dietrich Genscher contacted opposition CDU leader Helmut Kohl, both agreed on forming a new CDU-FDP coalition government. Parliament, with FDP votes declared non-confidence in chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who had to resign.

The Economy . The new CDU-FDP coalition continued the policy of Detente toward the countries of eastern Europe (despite the fact that it had opposed this policy vehemently during its years in opposition). The GDR's head of state, ERICH HONECKER, was received on a state visit in 1984. A considerable number of conservative voters, disappointed that the long-expected political WENDE (political-moral turnaround) did not come, were to vote for ultraright protest parties in the late 1980es.
While the inflation rate, admired by the rest of the world, was at 0.0 % in the years preceding unification and the FRG was the world's leading exporter, unemployment had reached the 10 % mark and showed no sign of decreasing. The FRG was a high-wage-country; industries which could not compete under such conditions moved elsewhere.
As a consequence of high wages, many advanced from 'worker' to 'specialized technician'. The SPD, traditionally a workers' party, significantly lost votes, from around 45 % to arouind 35 %. Regarding the large number of unemployed, the term Zweidrittelgesellschaft came up - meaning 2/3 of society, those with a job, are well-off, while those without a job or with a badly paid one, 1/3, suffer.
The Anti Baby Pill, introduced in 1964, had resulted in a dramatic reduction of the birth rate, which had remained low ever since. Signs of an Aging of German society had become apparent. The CDU-FDP coalition offered financial assistance for young families having babies, the so-called Erziehungsgeld (assistance paid for a parent who stays at home raising a child for the first two years of the baby's life).

The late 1960es were an important period of transition. First, the post-war economic boom showed first signs of a slowdown - while it continued in many sectors, the market in agricultural products (politically subventioned by the EC) showed signs of saturation, the EC still bought up surplus production, creating the "Milk Lake", "Butter Mountain" etc. Prices for agricultural products remained constantly low.
Coal mining faced a severe crisis, as overseas imports now were cheaper and many homeowners switched from coal to oil heating. While the Dutch government closed down its entire coal mining sector (1957), the German government formed the quasi-nationalized Ruhrkohle AG and subsidized it (they still do).
The construction of the Berlin Wall in 1969 had ended the influx of workers from East Germany. To provide the still growing industry with workers, Migrant Workers were brought in from countries such as Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia and Turkey. Yet the unemployment rate remained under 1 % (full employment). In the late 1960es the trade unions were in a strong bargaining position, achieving wage increases of around 10 % for several years in a row.
This posed a serious threat to the weaker sectors of the economy. The Arbeitsamt (employment exchange, state-run) advertised both housewives to take jobs, and for the industry to rationalize.

Then came the Oil Crisis of 1973; political events showed how dependent the heavily industrialized German economy had become on the import of oil. A number of steps were taken to address the problem : a number of No Drive Sundays were decreed, exceptions only for emergency vehicles; people took a stroll over the autobahns (highways). Cars with low gas comsumption were favoured fiscally, those with high gas consumption more heavily taxed. People who invested in insulating their houses in order to reduce heating fuel could deduce their investment from taxable income. More emphasis was laid on Nuclear Power Stations.
In 1975 the enlistment of foreign migrant workers was stopped. Unemployment had risen to 4.7 %, but the government was more concerned about inflation (around 5 %, caused by the high oil prices and wage increases), and made fighting inflation its major economic policy. With such a success that in the years preceding unification, Germany's inflation rate was at 0.0 %. The German Mark was internationally regarded as a Hard Currency; investors from abroad transferred savings into Mark, because they did not lose value due to inflation; in consequence, the exchange rate of the Mark continued to gain, especially in comparison with countries such as Britain, France and Italy, where governments tended to finance expensive policies by ordering the central bank to print money. According to the FRG constitution, the German Central Bank is free of government interference.
Smaller European countries such as Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium etc. realized that it would be best for them to follow Germany's financial policy. Wheneber the German Central Bank (Bundesbank) raised or lowered interest rates, their respective central banks would follow the next day. This phenomenon is called Währungsschlange. Thus the FRG became Europe's leader in financial policy; in the Maastricht Treaty of 1991 the European Ventral Bank would be shaped after Germany's.

The student demonstrations in 1969 and the rise to power of the Social-Liberal Coalition had resulted in a considerable rise in state expenses for welfare programs; the state established more universities, came up with a scholarship program for students coming from poor families (schools and universities are state-run and free of charge) etc. Dropping numbers of children - the baby-boom years had ended ca. 1965 - would have consequences, beginning with the closing-down of elementary schools in the early 1970es.
Political protest was directed against the construction of nuclear power stations and against storage facilities to recharge or store nuclear fuel, such as planned at Wackersdorf and Gorleben. All these facilities had been approved by politicians who were rather optimistic and had little knowledge about the technical side as well as the ecological consequences. The Green Party established itself as a political factor; political sentiment began to shift against nuclear energy.
With the begin of the First Gulf War (Iran-Iraq, 1980-1988), the oil prices sank and Germany's exports picked up. The inflation rate reached record lows (around 0 %); yet unemployement had, over the years, slowly increased, becoming one of the most pressing political topics.

Demography . The population of the FRG was 60.6 million in 1970, 61.5 million in 1980 [IHS p.4], 61.2 million in 1988 [StYB 1990-1991 p.533].

Cultural History . The FRG hosted the FIFA World Cup 1974. The German football team took third place in the World Cup in Mexico 1970, won the cup in 1974, took second place in Spain 1982 and in Mexico in 1986.
Munich (FRG) hosted the Summer Olympics in 1972. FRG athletes participated in the summer games of Munich 1972, Montreal 1976, Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988; the FRG boycotted the games held in Moscow in 1980. FRG athletes took 13 gold in Munich 1972, 10 gold in Montreal 1976, 17 gold in Los Angeles 1984 and 11 gold in Seoul 1988.
Germans B. Katz (1970), K. Ritter von Frisch (1973) and G.J.F. Kohler (1984) were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology, G. Herzberg (1971), E.O. Fischer (1973), G. Wittig (1979), J. Ch. Pohlanyi (1986), H. Michel and J. Deisenhofer (1988) the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, K. von Klitzing (1985), G. Binnig and E. Ruska (1986), J.G. Bednorz (1987), W. Paul (1988) the Nobel Prize for Physics, Heinrich Böll (1972) the Nobel Prize for Literature, Willy Brandt (1971) the Nobel Peace Prize.

Articles from Wikipedia : Elections in Germany : FRG, Willy Brandt, Helmut Schmidt, Helmut Kohl, Gustav Heinemann, Walter Scheel, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Karl Carstens, Richard von Weizsäcker, Günter Guillaume, Ostpolitik, Basic Treaty (1972), Four Power Agreement on Berlin (1971), Red Army Faction, Gorleben, West Germany at the 1972 Summer Olympics, West Germany at the 1976 Summer Olympics, West Germany at the 1984 Summer Olympics, West Germany at the 1988 Summer Olympics, Nobel Laureates by Country : Germany
Schleyer, Landshut og Stammheim - tre navne i efteraret 1977 (Schleyer, Landshut and Stammheim, three names in the fall of 1977), from Nu ! Internet, posted by Danmarks Journalisthøjskole, In Danish
(West) Germany, from the Oil Crisis History Site
REFERENCES Article Germany, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1970 pp.374-378, 1971 pp.354-361, 1972 pp.328-332, 1973 pp.326-329, 1974 pp.332-335 [G]
Article Germany, Federal Republic of, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1975 pp.325-327, 1976 pp.365-368, 1977 pp.367-370, 1978 pp.409-412, 1979 pp.402-405, 1980 pp.401-409, 1981 pp.404-407, 1982 pp.401-404, 1983 pp.397-400, 1984 pp.399-402, 1985 pp.529-531, 684-685, 1986 pp.523-526, 681-682, 1987 pp.495-497, 650-651, 1988 pp.450-453, 602-603, 1989 pp.452-454, 603-604, 1990 pp.467-470, 618-619 [G]
Deutschland in den 70er/80er Jahren, Informationen zur politischen Bildung 270, 2001 [G]
Article : Germany, West, in : The World in Figures 1st ed. 1976 pp.225-229, 2nd ed. 1978 pp.225-229, 4th ed. 1984 pp.225-229 [G]
Article : Germany, Federal Republic of (West), in : Statesman's Yearbook 1970-1971 pp.954-985, 1975-1976 pp.949-979, 1976-1977 pp.957-987, 1978-1979 pp.500-530, 1979-1980 pp.504-534, 1980-1981 pp.504-534, 1981-1982 pp.509-539, 1983-1984 pp.516-545, 1984-1985 pp.515-545, 1985-1986 pp.517-545, 1986-1987 pp.521-549, 1987-1988 pp.527-555, 1988-1989 pp.529-557, 1989-1990 pp.534-562 [G]
Article : Germany, in : Americana Annual 1971 pp.314-319, 1972 pp.306-311, 1973 pp.315-320, 1974 pp.264-269, 1976 pp.267-271, 1988 pp.251-257, 1989 pp.250-254, 1990 pp.246-250 [G]
Article : Germany, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Encyclopedia Year Book 1983 pp.170-173 [G]
Article : Germany, in : Yearbook on International Communist Affairs 1980 pp.153-160 (Eric Waldmann) [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on November 3rd 2007

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