Bundesrepublik Deutschland
Federal Republic of Germany

Flag of the Saar Protectorate
1949–1990 Flag of Germany
Flag of Germany Coat of Arms of Germany
Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
Das Lied der Deutschen
Third stanza
Location of West Germany
Ruhr Flag of ECSC
Government Republic and parliamentary democracy
- 1949-1959Theodor Heuss
- 1959-1969Heinrich Lübke
- 1969-1974Gustav Heinemann
- 1974-1979Walter Scheel
- 1979-1984Karl Carstens
- 1984-1994Richard von Weizsäcker
- 1949-1963Konrad Adenauer
- 1963-1966Ludwig Erhard
- 1966-1969Kurt Georg Kiesinger
- 1969-1974Willy Brandt
- 1974-1982Helmut Schmidt
- 1982-1998Helmut Kohl
Legislature Bundestag
May 23, 1949Established
October 27, 1956Saar Treaty
November 9, 1989Fall of the Berlin Wall
October 3, 1990Unification
EU accessionMarch 25, 1957
NATO accessionMay 9, 1955
Area248,577 km²
- 199063,254,000
GDP1990 (PPP)
- TotalUS$ 945.6 billion
- Per capitaUS$ 14,950
CurrencyDeutsche Mark
C-Pennant Occupied Germany
Flag of the Saar Protectorate Saar
Unified Germany Flag of Germany

The Federal Republic of Germany was established in 1949 and until 1990 it was synonymous with West Germany. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, the communist regime in East Germany collapsed and it was replaced by a democratically elected government. On October 3, 1990 the German Democratic Republic disestablished itself in order to unite with the federal republic.

Background Edit

At the end of World War II (), Germany was a defeated nation occupied by foreign powers. It had lost its national sovereignty, and the world saw it as a pariah, guilty of crimes without parallel in history. In addition to rebuilding their shattered country in a physical sense, most leading German politicians saw their main goals in the coming decades as restoring their country's reputation, regaining its sovereignty, and becoming once again a member in good standing in the community of nations.

The figure who dominated West Germany's politics in its first two decades was Konrad Adenauer, a politician totally committed to restoring his country to an honored place among nations. He saw little likelihood that the Soviet occupation of East Germany would soon end; hence, he sought to build a strong West Germany firmly attached to the Western community of parliamentary democracies. As president of the Parliamentary Council, Adenauer had played a leading role in the process of finalizing and passing the Basic Law in 1949.

Even before he participated in fashioning the country's constitution, Adenauer had had a long and eventful political career. Born in 1876 in Cologne, he studied law and economics and became active in local politics. As a member of the Catholic-based Center Party, he became the mayor of his home town in 1917. The National Socialists deposed him in 1933, and, after the attempt on Hitler's life on July 20, 1944, he was arrested and imprisoned for four months. After the war, the United States reinstalled him as mayor of Cologne. The British military authorities, however, fired him from this position because of alleged incompetence. In March 1946, Adenauer became chairman of the CDU in the British occupation zone and, after having shown extraordinary leadership in the deliberations on the Basic Law, became the first chancellor of the newly formed state.

One of Adenauer's main goals was regaining his country's sovereignty. Although the Basic Law gave full legislative, executive, and judicial powers to the new Federal Republic of Germany and its Länder , certain powers were reserved for the occupying authorities. The Occupation Statute, drawn up in April 1949 by the foreign ministers of the Four Powers (), gave the occupation authorities the right to supervise the new state's foreign policy, trade, and civil aviation, as well as the right, under special circumstances, to assume complete control over their own occupation zones.

By means of another statute, the Ruhr Statute, likewise concluded in April 1949, the administration of the resources and industrial potential of the Ruhr area was also kept under foreign control. In the past, the area had been a key element in the building of Germany's military machine. France, in particular, sought safeguards against future threats to its national security by arranging the creation of the International Authority for the Ruhr, which, under the direction of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, controlled the distribution of the area's resources.

Although the Ruhr Statute was designed to prevent Germany from ever again becoming a threat to its neighbors, it later served as the first instrument of economic cooperation for the region. In conformity with the Petersberg Agreement of November 1949 with the Western Allies (), West Germany became a member of the International Authority for the Ruhr and was granted the right to establish consular relations with foreign countries. Furthermore, the dismantling of German industrial plants in the Ruhr area was largely stopped, and Germany was allowed to again build merchant ships. The winning of these important concessions was Adenauer's first major success as chancellor.

In the spring of 1950, French foreign minister Robert Schuman recommended the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) to revive European economic cooperation and prevent future conflict between France and Germany. According to Schuman's plan, countries willing to place their coal and steel industries under an independent authority could join.

Once again, Adenauer seized the opportunity to further integrate West Germany into Western Europe. Against the SPD's strong opposition, West Germany entered into negotiations with France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Italy on the formation of the ECSC. Negotiations were successfully concluded in June 1952. The ECSC superseded the International Authority for the Ruhr and laid the foundations of the future European Community (|). Adenauer's conciliatory but resolute foreign policy also secured the admission in 1951 of West Germany into the Council of Europe, a body established in May 1949 to promote European ideals and principles.

Another important step for West Germany on its path toward re-entry into the community of nations was Adenauer's unwavering position on restitution to the victims of Nazi crimes. Of particular significance was the normalization of relations with Israel and with the Jewish people in general. Although the terrible atrocities that had occurred during the war could not be undone, material restitution could at least improve the lot of the survivors. In 1952 a reparations agreement with Israel was arranged that called for the payment of three billion D-Marks to the Jewish state over the next twelve years. Additional agreements with Jewish organizations provided for restitution to Jewish victims throughout the world. Through such actions, West Germany sought to meet its obligations as the legal successor to the German Reich, a position it had accepted since West Germany's founding.[1]

European Defense Community Edit

The outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 convinced Western leaders of the growing threat of international communism. The United States began to encourage the Europeans--West Germany in particular--to contribute to their own defense. For Germany, five years after having lost the most devastating of all wars, this meant forming an army, a step unthinkable for many Germans. Germany's rearmament was also anathema to some of its neighbors, especially France. As the Korean War () continued, however, opposition to rearmament lessened within West Germany, and China's entry in the war caused France to revise its negative position toward German rearmament.

To contain a newly armed Germany, French officials proposed the creation of the European Defense Community (|) (EDC) under the aegis of the NATO (NATO). Adenauer quickly agreed to join the EDC because he saw membership as likely to increase his country's sovereignty. The treaties establishing the EDC were signed in May 1952 in Bonn by the Western Allies and West Germany. Although the Bundestag ratified the treaties, the EDC was ultimately blocked by France's parliament, the National Assembly, because it opposed putting French troops under foreign command. The French veto meant that a new formula was needed to allay French fears of a strong Germany.

The negotiations surrounding the planned rearmament of West Germany and the creation of the EDC provoked a Soviet countermeasure. After a second East German proposal for talks on a possible unification of the two Germanys failed because of West Germany's demands for free elections in East Germany, the Soviet Union put forth a new proposal to the Western Allies in March 1952. The Soviet Union would agree to German unification if the Oder-Neisse border were recognized as final and if a unified Germany were to remain neutral. If the proposal were accepted, Allied troops would leave Germany within one year, and the country would obtain its full sovereignty.

Although the offer was directed to the Western Allies, its content was aimed directly at the West German public and aroused lively discussion about the country's future. Adenauer was convinced, however, that even if the Soviet proposal were serious, an acceptance of the plan would mean Germany's exclusion from the community of Western democracies and an uncertain future. Together with the Western Allies, which did not wish to act without his consent, Adenauer continued to demand free elections supervised by the United Nations (UN) in all of Germany as a precondition for negotiations. The Soviet Union declined and abandoned its proposal. Adenauer was harshly criticized by the opposition for not having seized this opportunity for unification. As his impressive victory in the Bundestag elections of 1953 clearly demonstrated, however, Adenauer had acted according to the wishes of the overwhelming majority of West Germans.

Adenauer's decision to turn down the Soviet proposal was convincing evidence that West Germany intended to remain firmly anchored in the Western defense community. After plans for the EDC had failed because of the French veto, negotiations were successfully concluded on the Treaties of Paris in May 1954, which ended the Occupation Statute and made West Germany a member of the WEU and of NATO. On May 5, 1955, West Germany declared its sovereignty as a country and, as a new member of NATO, undertook to contribute to the organization's defense effort by building up its own armed forces, the Bundeswehr.

West Germany contributed to NATO's defense effort by building up the Bundeswehr, an undertaking that met with considerable opposition within the population. For many, the memories of the war were still too vivid. To avoid separating the army from the country's civilian and political life, as was the case during the Germany, laws were passed that guaranteed civilian control over the armed forces and gave the individual soldier a new status. Members of the conscription army were to be "citizens in uniform" and were encouraged to take an active part in democratic politics. Although West Germans generally remained less than enthusiastic about their new army, the majority accepted the responsibility of sharing the burden of defense with the United States and the other members of NATO.

By 1955 the Soviet Union had abandoned efforts to secure a neutralized Germany, having become convinced of West Germany's firm position within the Western Alliance. Following the Four Power Conference in Geneva in July 1955, Chancellor Adenauer accepted an invitation to visit Moscow, seeking to open new lines of communication with the East without compromising West Germany's firm commitment to the West. In Moscow in September, he arranged for the release of 10,000 German war prisoners. In addition, without having recognized the division of Germany or the Oder-Neisse line as permanent, West German negotiators also established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union had recognized East Germany as a state in 1954, and the two countries maintained diplomatic relations with one another. West Germany had not, however, recognized East Germany. And to dissuade other countries from recognizing East Germany, Adenauer's foreign policy adviser, Walter Hallstein, proposed that West Germany break diplomatic relations with any country that recognized East Germany. The proposal was based on West Germany's claim, as a democratic state, to be the only legitimate representative of the German people. The Hallstein Doctrine was adopted as a principle of West German foreign policy in September 1955 and remained in effect until the late 1960s.

Another important development in West Germany's relations with its neighbors was that the Saar rejoined West Germany in 1957. After World War II, France had attempted to separate this region economically and politically from the rest of Germany. In 1947 the Saar received its own constitution and was virtually autonomous. During negotiations leading to the Treaties of Paris, West Germany and France agreed, in the Saar Statute, that the Saar should become a territory under the control of the Council of Europe. However, in the referendum of October 1955, which was supposed to confirm the Saar Statute, Saarland voters rejected the statute by a two-thirds majority, an indication that they wished their region to become part of West Germany. On January 1, 1957, the Saarland became a West German Land .

In addition to his success in building a close and firm relationship with the United States, another of Adenauer's great foreign policy achievements was reconciliation with France, with which Germany had been locked in rivalry and conflict for centuries. In spite of remaining disagreements on the areas of European integration and NATO, a basis for the development of more normal relations between their two countries was forged upon a good personal understanding between Adenauer and French president Charles de Gaulle, who had assumed the French presidency in 1958.

The German-French Friendship Treaty (Élysée Treaty), which went into effect in January 1963, called for regular consultations between the two governments, semiannual meetings of the chiefs of state, and a youth exchange program. The treaty was seen by many as a positive step in the history of a difficult relationship between the two countries. Of greater importance to the majority of West Germans, however, was the country's relationship with the United States and its secure place within the Western defense community.[2]

Ostpolitik Edit

West Germany's relations with the East European states had virtually stagnated since the establishment of the Hallstein Doctrine in the mid-1950s. In 1970, in an attempt to lessen tensions in Europe, Brandt and his FDP minister for foreign affairs, Walter Scheel, agreed to negotiate with the communist bloc. For the first time since 1948, the top politicians of West Germany and East Germany held talks, with Brandt and the East German prime minister, Willi Stoph, meeting in Erfurt in East Germany and Kassel in West Germany. Although the talks produced no concrete results because Brandt refused to recognize East Germany as a sovereign state (|), communication lines were reopened.

After coordinating policy goals with the United States, West Germany also entered negotiations with the Soviet Union on a treaty normalizing relations, in which both countries renounced the use of force. West Germany agreed to make no territorial claims, and it recognized de facto the Oder-Neisse border and the border between West Germany and East Germany. West German negotiators, however, insisted that such agreements did not alter the West German position on future reunification of the country and that the responsibilities of the Four Powers in Germany remained unchanged by the treaty. They also linked the signing of the treaty to a Soviet promise to open talks on normalizing the Berlin situation. After the Soviet Union had agreed to these conditions, the Treaty of Moscow was signed in August 1970. The agreement opened the road to negotiations with other countries of the Soviet bloc.

In December 1970, after ten months of complicated negotiations, West Germany and Poland signed the Treaty of Warsaw. The treaty contained essentially the same points as the Treaty of Moscow on the question of Poland's western border, the renunciation of territorial claims by West Germany, and the ongoing responsibilities of the Four Powers. In return, Poland agreed to allow ethnic Germans still in Poland to emigrate to West Germany. During the subsequent debates on the ratification of the two treaties, the CDU/CSU and part of the FDP made their consent contingent on the formulation of a strong statement by the Bundestag (|) underscoring Germany's right to reunification in self-determination and of the Allies' responsibilities for Germany and Berlin.

Concurrent with the negotiations on the treaties of Moscow and Warsaw, the Four Powers undertook to end disagreement about the status of Berlin in talks that ultimately led to the Four Power Agreement (also known as the Quadripartite Agreement) of September 1971. The talks, which began in March 1970, got off to a difficult start because the Western Allies and the Soviet Union were deeply divided over their basic interpretation of the "status of Berlin." After they "agreed to disagree" on this point, progress was finally made, and all sides concurred that the status quo of Berlin should not be changed unilaterally.

The Soviet Union made two very important concessions: traffic to and from West Berlin would be unimpeded in the future, and the existing ties of West Berlin to West Germany were given de facto recognition. Soviet officials, however, insisted that West Berlin was not to be considered a territory belonging to West Germany and therefore was not to be governed by it. Furthermore, the Soviet Union made the conclusion of the agreement among the Four Powers contingent on the signing of the Treaty of Moscow between West Germany and the Soviet Union, which was still under negotiation. They thereby established the same linkage that West Germany had demanded, but in reverse.

The Four Power Agreement charged the governments of West Berlin and East Germany with negotiating an accord that would regulate access to and from West Berlin (|) from West Germany and secure the right of West Berliners to visit East Berlin (|) and East Germany. The Transit Agreement of May 1972 arranged these matters and also secured the rights of East German citizens to visit West Germany, but only in cases of family emergency.

Following the negotiations on traffic between West Germany and East Germany, both sides recognized the feasibility of arriving at a more comprehensive treaty between the two German states. Talks began in August 1972 and culminated in December 1972 with the signing of the Basic Treaty. In the treaty, both states committed themselves to developing normal relations on the basis of equality, guaranteeing their mutual territorial integrity as well as the border between them, and recognizing each other's independence and sovereignty. They also agreed to the exchange of "permanent missions" in Bonn and East Berlin to further relations.

After the bitterly contested approval of the Basic Treaty by the SPD-FDP-controlled Bundestag in May 1973, a political decision that the CDU/CSU had warned against for decades became a reality: West Germany's de facto recognition of East Germany as a separate state. To many conservatives, the Basic Treaty represented the failure of the Hallstein Doctrine and a final blow to the possibility of Germany's reunification. Bavaria filed a suit in the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe to prevent the treaty's implementation, but the court held the treaty to be compatible with the provisions of the Basic Law. As a result of the treaty, West Germany and East Germany became members of the UN in June 1973.

Among the states to the east, Czechoslovakia remained the only neighbour with which West Germany had not yet normalized diplomatic relations. Negotiations with this country proved to be considerably more difficult than those with the Soviet Union or Poland. The main obstacle was a difference in interpreting the Munich Agreement of September 1938. On the one hand, West Germany maintained that the accord itself had to be considered legally valid but that the occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 had voided its provisions. Czechoslovakia, on the other hand, insisted that the accord be considered void from the very beginning. Both sides finally agreed that the accord was to be considered void, but that all legal proceedings in the occupied territory between 1938 and 1945 were to be upheld. Once this basic understanding had been reached, the treaty with Czechoslovakia, known as the Treaty of Prague, similar in content to the Treaty of Warsaw, was signed in December 1973, and diplomatic relations were established. Shortly thereafter, West Germany exchanged ambassadors with Hungary and Bulgaria.[3]


  • Theodor Heuss () (May 23, 1949 - September 12, 1959)
  • Heinrich Lübke () (September 12, 1959 - June 30, 1969)
  • Gustav Heinemann () (June 30, 1969 - June 30, 1974)
  • Walter Scheel () (June 30, 1974 - June 30, 1979)
  • Karl Carstens () (June 30, 1979 - June 30, 1984)
  • Richard von Weizsäcker () (June 30, 1984 - June 30, 1994)


  • Konrad Adenauer () (May 23, 1949 - October 16, 1963)
  • Ludwig Erhard () (October 16, 1963 - December 1, 1966)
  • Kurt Georg Kiesinger () (December 1, 1966 - October 21, 1969)
  • Willy Brandt () (October 21, 1969 - May 7, 1974)
  • Helmut Schmidt () (May 7, 1974 - October 1, 1982)
  • Helmut Kohl () (October 1, 1982 - October 27, 1998)


Germany After World War II


  1. The Library of Congress: Germany - A Country Study, Chapter2
  2. The Library of Congress: Germany - A Country Study, Chapter2
  3. The Library of Congress: Germany - A Country Study, Chapter2