Political Life: German Re-Unification and its Consequences (Die Wiedervereinigung und ihre Folgen)

Political Life: German Re-Unification and its Consequences (Die Wiedervereinigung und ihre Folgen)

General Understanding of ‘Die Wiedervereinigung und ihre Folgen’

  • ‘Die Wiedervereinigung und ihre Folgen’ translates to German Reunification and its Consequences in English.
  • This refers to the process in which the German Democratic Republic (GDR or East Germany) reunited with the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG or West Germany) on October 3, 1990.
  • The event marked the end of the Berlin Wall that had divided East and West Germany since 1961 and put an end to nearly forty years of division during the Cold War.

Timeline of the Reunification Process

Fall of the Berlin Wall

  • On November 9, 1989, the East German government announced that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin.
  • Enormous crowds formed at the Wall, and the guards, overwhelmed, let people cross freely.
  • This unexpected announcement and subsequent crossing marked the end of the Berlin Wall, which had stood as a symbol of Cold War division.

Path to Reunification

  • Following the fall of the Wall, negotiations were initiated between East and West Germany, along with the four World War II Allied powers: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union.
  • On July 1, 1990, the economies of the two German states were merged, the Deutschmark (West German currency) became the official currency of East Germany, and social systems were aligned.
  • On October 3, 1990, the German Democratic Republic was dissolved, and the reformed five Eastern German states joined the Federal Republic of Germany, marking the official date of German reunification.

Consequences of Reunification

Economic Impact

  • After reunification, the East German economy struggled due to aged infrastructure, inefficient industries, and a lack of competitive products and services.
  • Massive investment was put into modernising eastern Germany’s infrastructure and businesses, funded by a ‘solidarity surcharge’ tax on West Germans that still exists today, albeit in a reduced form.
  • The process of economic and social unification was tumultuous and resulted in socioeconomic disparities between what was former East and West Germany, which persist today.

Political Changes

  • Following reunification, the parliamentary system of the Federal Republic was extended to the whole of Germany with changes to the electoral law.
  • The political landscape of Germany was realigned with the dissolution of Socialist Unity Party (SED) in East Germany, eventually leading to the formation of Die Linke (The Left) party.

Social Impact

  • The end of division brought about a sense of national identity for Germans, replacing the previous separate identities of East and West Germans.
  • However, the transition was difficult, with high unemployment and significant cultural differences leading to feelings of resentment and alienation for many East Germans, a phenomenon referred to as Ostalgie (nostalgia for East Germany).