German Electoral Politics: A Study of the 1957 Campaign

German Electoral Politics: A Study of the 1957 Campaign

German Electoral Politics: A Study of the 1957 Campaign

German Electoral Politics: A Study of the 1957 Campaign

Excerpt

The history of Germany over the last hundred years has been a series of bewildering upheavals. A collection of kingdoms and principalities united only in 1871, she had become a world power by 1914. Defeated by the Allies in the first world war, she was stripped of her colonies, her frontiers were pushed back in Europe, and her most important industrial centres occupied by foreign troops. Twenty years later she was more powerful than ever: she conquered all Europe from the Black Sea and the Pyrenees to the Arctic Circle and resisted the combined war potential of the United States, the Commonwealth, and Soviet Russia. By 1945 she had collapsed for the second time: a twelfth of her population had been killed, 9 million were driven out of the territories taken over by Poland and Russia, her political system was destroyed, and her former leaders executed as criminals against humanity. Yet only twelve years later, at the time of the election which this book sets out to describe, Western Germany had achieved a political stability and a rate of economic progress that were the envy of her victorious neighbours.

Certainly she was favoured by factors beyond her control. Opposition speakers never tired of insisting that she owed this third swift rise in her fortunes to the deepening division of the world. Eighteen million Germans were forced to take a different road. Germany, like Korea, was divided by the thin deep line that separates the domains of the two great power blocks: and while thousands fled westward every week across the zonal frontier, two hostile German armies faced each other on key squares in the game of world strategy.

What then was the reaction of West Germans to the turbulent events of their recent history? For five years they had been taught to think of war as an instrument of national renewal; then for five years they fought, first victoriously and afterwards on to complete disaster; for the next five years out of their own bitter experience they embraced pacific ideals; and now they were again to be armed by the same victors who had made the permanent demilitarization of Germany one of their principal war aims and had lectured them on the wickedness of war. It was hardly surprising that after so . . .

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