After the Second World War, Germany was in a state of devastation not known in Europe since the Thirty Years War. Millions of people were on the move; in most cities half the housing had been destroyed; the average calorie intake was half the normally accepted minimum level. A German exile returning from the USA in 1947, saw
a nation irremediably maimed in its biological structure-with a longterm sharp decline in its population inevitable-morally ruined-without food or raw materials-a nation whose social fabric has been destroyed by mass flight, mass emigrations, -a country where, amid hunger and fear, hope has died. (Stolper 1947)
Although his prognosis proved incorrect, his description of Jahr Null (year zero) was valid. But, within a few years, West Germany was to experience the most rapid recovery in modern European history. Economic growth (per capita) continued at a level above the OECD average until the 1980s. In 1985 it was at the top of the league of European economies-apart from the Scandinavian countries and Switzerland (see Table 5.1). Moreover, even though it was still some 25 per cent behind the US, it was clearly ahead of the US in terms of 'public goods' (public transport, environmental quality, crime rates etc.) and in the extent of poverty: the 'problem districts' of West German cities do not begin to compare with those of US (or British) cities.
The 'economic miracle' of the early years was assisted by a change in the
Table 5.1 GDP per head, 1985, US$ at purchasing power parities