German Democracy: From Post-World War II to the Present Day

German Democracy: From Post-World War II to the Present Day

German Democracy: From Post-World War II to the Present Day

German Democracy: From Post-World War II to the Present Day

Synopsis

When the former allies of World War II divided Germany into two provisional states, no one would have predicted that this would last for nearly half a century and that, sixty years later, Germany would emerge as a key player in Western politics. Gert-Joachim Glaessner explains this historic transformation. Themes covered include the development of the FDR and GDR during the Cold War, the politics of Westernization, the controversies of West Germany's role in NATO and European integration. Demonstrating how Germany went from political pariah to a model of modern liberal democracy, Glaessner offers a concise overview of the German political system in the post-war period.

Excerpt

Sixty years after the end of World War II, Germany has become a solid democratic state and a universally accepted member of the commonwealth of Western democracies. The second German democratic state – despite difficult conditions at the outset, the extraordinary circumstances of the Cold War and its divided nation status – did not take the same route as the first, unsuccessful German experiment with democracy, the Weimar Republic, which lasted only fifteen years.

The central question of this book is how West Germany managed to develop into a stable democracy despite the pressures it had to withstand as part of a divided nation. Unlike other modern democracies, such as those of Great Britain, the United States or France, West German democratic elites had to cope with a series of disadvantages and shortcomings which resulted from recent history. First and foremost, the unprecedented crimes of the Nazi dictatorship had not only made Germany a pariah among civilized states, but also cut all links to the positive elements of national history. Second, democracy had no roots in many sectors of German society; many, if not most, Germans had supported National Socialism without great reservations. Last but not least, a democratic system had to be established under difficult international conditions. The very idea of a German national state was discredited by the hubris of the Wilhelmine Empire and 'National' Socialism. Germany was divided into two political systems, which developed on the basis of widely differing fundamental principles. In the West a democratic political order emerged, while in East Germany a 'new type' of political system developed, which relied upon the ideology of the Marxist-Leninist Party. That is why this book not only deals with West Germany but also considers the developments in East Germany up to and after 1989.

The Federal Republic in the West and the German Democratic Republic in the East owe their forty-year existence from 1949 to 1989 to the confrontation and constant regime clash between East and West. Germany, which lay on the brink of the East–West conflict, was an exposed playing field for the enemies in the Cold War. Both German states were involved in this conflict in an exceptional way. As products of the Cold War, they were adversaries and, at the same time, dependent upon one another. Both were directly dependent on the political developments and atmosphere of the enemy camp. Both defined themselves through disassociation from the other. Their eventual and unexpected reunification was the result of an international political constellation in which the Soviet Union was no longer prepared or able to continue its hegemonic control over Eastern and Central Europe through military force while popular revolutions were breaking out on all sides.

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