Germany since 1945

Germany since 1945

Germany since 1945

Germany since 1945

Synopsis

Defeat and unconditional surrender: these were the foundations on which post-war Germany was built. The overall impact, however, was not apathy, but a mentality which was down to earth, pragmatic, and forward-looking. Democracy, economic liberalism, and European integration were the signposts to the future. Even though the old ruling elite with their power base in the agrarian East had been swept away by the end of the war, the social and industrial fabric of Germany society did not crumble altogether. Crucial structures survived and contributed to West Germany's phenomenal recovery, while the East was forced to submit to a ruthless Soviet leadership. Now, however, following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the aftermath of German reunification will be long and painful, for never have two economies and societies been fused together which had grown as far apart as West and East Germany. Lothar Kettenacker's book offers a fascinating survey of the fortunes and features of East and West Germany - how the two states drifted apart; the differences between their economies, politics, and cultures; and the problems and events surrounding their unification.

Excerpt

May 1945 marked the most important caesura in German history since the initial formation of a nation state. A generation later historians were to debate its true significance. Was it zero hour (die Stunde Null) or did more remain than met the eye? On the face of it only a political regime had collapsed, not the crucial fabric of society: the industrial base, an entrepreneurial middle class, a skilled and well-organized work-force, a competent civil service in control of regional and local government, an efficient banking system (though no currency worth mentioning), to name but the most important elements. It is true to say that all these forces had fuelled the Nazi war machine and had largely remained in place when it was finally crushed. No far-reaching reforms were undertaken as part of an overall cleansing process. Only the chief perpetrators and their henchmen were purged and punished. The occupation powers, at least the Western Allies, did not see fit to instigate a complete overhaul of the institutional framework. Nor were they sufficiently in agreement as to what was to be done. The obvious need for physical reconstruction did not allow for additional upheavals. Everybody seemed to cling to what he had saved, be it possessions, skills, or entitlements. This was particularly true of the civil service, which fought tooth and nail for the retention of its status. There did not seem to be any real alternative, at least not in the Western zones, to getting on with the immediate task of making homes and towns habitable again.

Moreover, the break with the immediate past was convincingly stark: the Wehrmacht and Nazi Party, the day before in total control, had now been disbanded, arrested, and hunted down; the whole of the country was occupied by foreign troops; chaos and paralysis everywhere; finis Germaniae in the sense that the Reich had gone under like a huge battleship, in an atmosphere of sauve qui peut. Of Führer, Volk und Reich only the people had survived, though in a state of shock and disarray.

Nor had German society and its value system remained intact. After all, the revolution of 1918 was a job half finished in that the . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.