Economic Change and the National Question in Twentieth-Century Europe

By Alice Teichova; Herbert Matis et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
The economy as a pushing or retarding force in the
development of the German question during the second
half of the twentieth century
Jörg Roesler

INTRODUCTION

The so-called German question is one of the most important features of German history during the last 200 years. 1 It began to develop in the first half of the nineteenth century, when the Germans became aware that they were lagging behind their neighbours, especially France and Great Britain, in the progress of nation building. 2 For the second half of the twentieth century the German question was about the future of Germany after it had been split up into two states economically and politically after the Second World War. 3 To the solution of the German national question there existed two alternative choices: to re-establish unity or to confirm the separation into two independent states, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in the west and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in the east. It seemed to be that the latter option had been narrowly avoided, 4 when Germany in 1990 once again had one government and one economic system (the market economy of the Federal Republic). Only later did East and West German politicians and social scientists learn that the so-called 'inner unification' ('innere Wiedervereinigung'), 5 which could be reached only after the 'demolition of the wall in the minds' that separated East and West Germans, was a task that would last up to the end of the century or even longer.

There exist numerous scholarly works about the latest period of Germany's division into (two) different states, its origins, the attempts of both German states and of their main protective powers (USSR and USA) to avoid or to deepen the split, to develop or to hinder the progress of mutual relations and finally the circumstances of reunification. This chapter is limited to the twenty-five experts' reports on the political and psychological problems of German division and unification policy between 1945 and 1990, 6 ordered by the 'Enquete Commission for the research of history and consequences of the SED (Socialistische

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