East and West Germany 1949-1991

East and West Germany 1949-1991

The Division of Germany into East and West

  • After World War II, Germany was divided into 4 zones controlled by the UK, US, France, and USSR. This led to the creation of two separate states in 1949: the Federal Republic of Germany (known as West Germany) under Western Allies, and the German Democratic Republic (known as East Germany) under Soviet control.
  • This division marked the beginning of the Cold War in Europe, with Germany at its epicentre.

Life in East Germany (GDR)

  • East Germany was a one-party state, dominated by the Socialist Unity Party (SED). The state controlled the economy and suppressed any forms of perceived dissent.
  • Important state organizations included the Free German Youth (FDJ) and the Stasi, the notorious East German secret police, tasked with preventing any opposition to the regime.
  • Despite having a centrally controlled economy focussed on heavy industry, supply problems and long-term shortages on basic goods were common, leading to dissatisfaction.

Life in West Germany (FRG)

  • West Germany was a parliamentary democracy and had a market-driven economy, known as the “Social Market Economy”. This approach led to rapid economic recovery, known as the “economic miracle” (or Wirtschaftswunder).
  • The FRG was firm in its alignment with the West and became a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
  • Political affairs were dominated by the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

The Berlin Wall

  • The Berlin Wall, erected in 1961, symbolised the physical and political division between East and West. It was set up by the East German government to prevent people fleeing to West Germany.
  • During its existence, over 100 people were killed attempting to cross it.

Fall of the Berlin Wall and Reunification

  • Dissatisfaction and protest against the East German regime peaked in 1989 leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989.
  • The fall of the wall was followed by the Reunification of Germany on October 3, 1990, marking the end of the Cold War in Germany.
  • Helmut Kohl- the Chancellor of the FRG at the time- led the reunified Germany.

Remember- understanding the profound social, economic, and political differences between the East and West Germany, along with the reasons for these differences, is key for this section.