Post Wwi Government In Germany Essay, Research Paper
The post World War I government of Germany was called the Weimar Republic and reigned from 1919 to 1933. It attempted to establish a peaceful, liberal democratic regime. This government was eventually doomed by economic problems and the weaknesses due to the inflation of the early 1920s, the world depression of the 1930s, and social unrest. The National Socialist, or Nazi, party gained support quickly in the 1930s. It stressed nationalist themes and promised to put the unemployed back to work. The party, led by Adolf Hitler, blamed many of Germany s problems on alleged Jewish conspiracies. In January of 1933, Hitler was asked to form a new government as Reich Chancellor. After President Paul Von Hindenburg died in 1934, Hitler assumed the role as President of Germany as well. Once in power, Hitler and his party abolished democratic institutions and opposition parties. They attempted to remove all non-German people in Germany by forced migration and, ultimately genocide. Hitler restored Germany s economic and military strength, but his ambitions of power led Germany into World War II. World War II resulted in the destruction of Germany s political and economic structures, led to its ultimate division, and left a humiliating legacy (U.S. Dept. of State, 1997). Forty million people were dead and Europe lay in ruins. Germany surrendered unconditionally on May 8, 1945. Hitler committed suicide. Germany was occupied and the administration controlled by Russia, Britain, France, and the United States. Germany was zoned into four sections and each country exercised supreme authority in their respective zones. The commanders-in-chief acted together on questions affecting the country as a whole. The four controlling powers agreed that Germany would be treated as a single economic unit with some central administrative departments.The Greater Berlin Area, which was 340 square miles, was divided into four sectors also–one for each of the Allied Powers. The eastern part went to the Russians. The western portion went to France, Britain, and the U.S. This arrangement reflected the Allied solution for the rest of country as well. In 1948, Russia withdrew from the Four Power governing bodies and blockaded Berlin, certain that West Berlin would eventually fall to them under the intimidation. West Berlin was kept alive only by airlift supplies. Previous underlying tensions between the Russians and the western powers re-emerged. The period, known as the Cold War, was and to some point still is the struggle between communist Russian beliefs and the ideals of free western democracy. What emerged was an East and West Berlin and an East and West Germany (Hofmann, 1990).West Berlin had ties with West Germany, known as the Federal Republic of Germany. The United States and Britain worked toward establishing a government in their two zones. The Basic Law, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany, went into effect in May 1949. It expanded the size and power of the German Economic Council, provided a West German assembly, a statute governing relations between the Allies and German authorities, and merged the French zone in with the British and American zones. (U.S. Dept. of State, 1997) Although it was miles away from West Germany, and bound by strict regulations, West Berlin began to rebuild its city from the devastation of WWII. It was given special help from West Germany and the Allies. Its survival became important as a symbol of Western commitment against Soviet communism. Industries were revived, a university, called Free University, was built, and money was pumped in. West Berlin cleaned up the war destruction and grew and prospered, though not as quickly as West Germany (Hofmann, 1990).West Germany quickly moved forward toward full sovereignty and built ties with its European neighbors. It was accepted into, NATO, and the Western European Union. The Allies stationed troops within West Germany for NATO defense purposes. Political life in West Germany remained stable and orderly. All governments from 1949 to present have been democracies. In 1982, Chairman, Helmut Kohl was elected Chancellor and still holds that position today.East Berlin became the capital of East Germany, known as the German Democratic Republic. East Germany was ruled by Russia and its people were forced to merge with the Communist Party. Under Russian direction, in October 1949, a constitution was adopted. The Soviet Union and its East European allies immediately recognized the GDR, but it was not recognized by most non-communist countries. The GDR, or East German government, established the structure of a single party, centralized, communist state. Fourteen districts were established. All government control was by Soviet Russia and all important positions were held by Soviet Russian members. The constant stream of East Germans fleeing to West Germany made tensions grow between East and West Germany in the 1950s (U.S. Dept. of State, 1997). A massive exodus of East Germans happened in June of 1961 when a head of the communist party said in an interview that rumors of the government building a wall was false. Everyone knew it was coming for sure then. The Wall was constructed in August of 1961 as protection against West German fascism and American capitalist imperialism. Actually it was to stop the flood of East German refugees, many of them highly skilled and highly trained.After the wall was built some East Germans escaped but they were few. People disguised themselves as Russian officers, dug tunnels, flew homemade airplanes, hid in bumpers of cars, and packaged themselves as cargo. Those who were caught were shot and killed.West Germans were outraged by the building of the Wall. The Wall ran 27 miles long and divided Berlin, a city that belonged together. It cut families apart and ruined lives. Willy Brandt, then mayor of West Berlin, was surprised that the Western Allies did nothing to stop the Wall from being built. He decided that it was impossible in the long run to just turn away from East Germany. He began an open dialogue with the Russians and began tying the East to the West through commerce, loans, grants, credits, and cultural exchanges. He deserves major credit for opening up the East to the West (De Witt, 1995).The West Germans are well off. They have money in the bank. The national reserve is second only to Japan. They have great social services. They can hardly by fired. Most have six weeks of vacation. A woman can have a baby and come back to the same job six months later, receiving full pay all the time. They have flexible job arrangements and good health care. They have cars, vacation and travel extensively. West Berlin also shared in this wealth largely because it was supported by West Germany. West Berlin stayed alive through hope and prospered by enhancing art and culture in its city. East Germany was not as well off but was made to support East Berlin anyway. Devastation left from the war was not cleaned up nor restored unless it was a historical place or on a tourist route. East Germans couldn t go to the store and buy the things they needed because the items simply weren t there. Sometimes people stood in line for things just because there was something to stand in line for, often without knowing what it was. People would buy houses in hopes of fixing them up but waiting lists for building materials would be years. People had to have children in order to get housing. There was a monetary reward system to people for having children. Most women worked and did the tedious job of waiting in line for the items they needed. There was free medical care but it was not of good quality. East Germany was also riddled with secret police or Stasi. The Stasi maintained their own telephone system, used mainly for listening in on conversations of its citizens. Every area of life was under their scrutiny and citizens were coerced to work for them as spies in every phase of life, right down to kindergarten.The world watched in horror as people attempting to cross over the Berlin Wall faced certain death. The Berlin Wall became an obstacle in negotiations to end the arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. It served as a powerful propaganda piece to remain ever vigilant against communist forces (Docherty, 1994).With the arrival of Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev in the mid-1980 s and his programs of glasnost and perestroika, or openness and reform, the beginning of the end of the Cold War seemed at hand. Rapid changes came about in East Germany in the summer of 1989. Hungary decided not to use force to stop East Germans who wanted to immigrate to the West. Many left through Hungary. In later years, many also left through Poland and Czechoslovakia. Many other East Germans staged sit-ins at diplomatic buildings in other East European capitals. Mass demonstrations continued to grow. Communication between groups was not extensive and opposition leaders were in constant trouble with the authorities. On October 7, 1989, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev urged the East German leadership to pursue reform. Still no one thought the wall would come down.East German head of state, Erich Honecker, wanted to intervene using military force to stop the demonstrations, but instead he was forced to resign in October of 1989. On November 4th a demonstration in East Berlin drew as many as 1 million East Germans wanting government reform and freedoms (Munoz, 1997). On November 9, 1989, communist East Germany announced that its citizens could travel or emigrate freely and that it was opening its borders to the West. Confronted by mounting political crisis that put the ruling Communist Party s very existence at stake, officials were instructed to grant permission without delay for people to leave the country freely. Troops were ordered to allow free passage of citizens from East Berlin into West Berlin.As the word spread, hundreds of East Berliners poured into West Berlin. For most, it was their first visit ever to the western half of a city that had been divided for 28 years by a 13-foot high concrete wall. Enormous crowds gathered in West Berlin at the crossing points to enthusiastically welcome the East Berliners. Scores of young West and East Germans climbed to the top of the wall to greet each other and celebrate. On November 10, 1989, citizens began to tear down the wall. In the days that followed East Germans looked, gaped, shopped, and visited relatives they had not seen for many years. Most returned back home but many stayed (McCartney, 1989). On November 28, West Germany s Chancellor Kohl outlined a 10-point plant for the peaceful unification of the two Germanys based on free elections in East Germany and a unification of their two economies. In December all of the East German government leaders resigned and the formation and growth of several political parties marked the end of the communist regime. The Stasi was disarmed. The extent and depth to which they controlled the population is just now coming to light. On March 18, 1990, the first free elections were held in East Germany. A government led by Lothar de Maiziere of the Christian Democratic Union was elected and formed a policy of swift unification with West Germany. On July 1, the two Germanys entered into an economic and monetary union. In September of 1990, the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany was signed in Moscow. It stated that the Four Powers would terminate their rights to Germany as a whole, that the Soviets would withdraw of all their forces by 1994, that the German borders were final and definitive, and it specified the right of a united Germany to belong to NATO. Formal political union occurred on October 3, 1990. On December 2, 1990, the first all-German elections were held since 1933 and Berlin was named as Germany s capital (U.S. Dept. of State, 1997).The sixteen million people in East Germany were essentially absorbed into the existing sixty-three million population of West Germany. The initial elation was soon overcome by reality. The East Germans wanted their standard of living to match that of the West at a much quicker pace than was possible. The West Germans felt they were supporting the East through high taxes. The dismal situation of the East German economy and the disastrous ecological effects of its socialist mismanagement was quickly discovered. The East German production industries, once thought to be the most efficient and productive, failed before the scrutiny of western economist as being overstaffed, technologically backward, badly managed and totally non-competitive in today s world.Whatever achievements and advantages lingered in the eyes of many former communist citizens could not be preserved and were not impressive enough to serve as a model for a united Germany. This explains why reunification had no significant impact on social and political life in West Germany. Instead, the full weight of the transformation process was borne almost entirely on the West.Kohl s political and economic fight continues as his proposals to halt the growing budget deficit are met with protests from labor unions and the opposition Social Democratic Party. Attacks on foreigners became a growing problem for Germany during the reunification process. In 1994, the government approved harsher penalties for racially motivated attacks and statements that denied the history of the holocaust.The German economy continues to reflect a slight downward trend, but according to a recent economic report, there are signs of gradual stabilization. For example, while output from manufacturing continues to be sluggish, the industry itself is seeing an increase in new order from abroad. And a positive sign from the retail side is emerging an indicator that faith in the economic plan could be building (Sontheimer, 1997).The peaceful unification of East and West has given Germany an opportunity to play a larger role in the European community and in the international arena. By the end of the century the government heads and most federal ministries will have relocated from Bonn to Berlin. The ongoing process of unification will continue to reshape Germany for years to come.