Cold War and Separation

History of Germany between 1946 - 1989

As a consequence of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, Germany was split between the two global blocs in the East and West, a period known as the division of Germany. Germany was stripped of its war gains and lost territories in the east to Poland and the Soviet Union. Seven million prisoners and forced laborers left Germany, most of whom died either during their emigration of starvation, due to harsh conditions, or because they were worked to death. The total of German war dead was 8% to 10% out of a prewar population. Over 10 million German-speaking refugees arrived in Germany from other countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Many German POWs became forced laborers to provide restitution to the countries Germany had devastated in the war and some industrial equipment was removed as reparations.

At the Potsdam Conference, Germany was divided into four military occupation zones by the Allies and did not regain independence until 1949. The Cold War divided Germany between the Allies in the west and Soviets in the east. Germans had little voice in government until 1949 when two states emerged; the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) was a parliamentary democracy with a capitalist economic system and free churches and labour unions. The other new state was the smaller German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany), a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship with its leadership dominated by the Soviet-aligned Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) in order to retain it within the Soviet sphere of influence.

West Germany (Bonn Republic)

In 1949, the three western occupation zones (American, British, and French) were combined into the Federal Republic of Germany. At all points West Germany was much larger and richer than East Germany, which became a dictatorship under the control of the Communist Party and was closely monitored by Moscow. Germany, especially Berlin, was a cockpit of the Cold War, with NATO and the Warsaw Pact assembling major military forces in west and east. However, there was never any combat.

West Germany enjoyed prolonged economic growth beginning in the early 1950s. Industrial production doubled from 1950 to 1957, and gross national product grew at a rate of 9 or 10% per year, providing the engine for economic growth of all of Western Europe. Labor union supported the new policies with postponed wage increases, minimized strikes, support for technological modernization, and a policy of co-determination, which involved a satisfactory grievance resolution system as well as requiring representation of workers on the boards of large corporations. The recovery was accelerated by the currency reform of June 1948, U.S. gifts of $1.4 billion as part of the Marshall Plan, the breaking down of old trade barriers and traditional practices, and the opening of the global market. West Germany gained legitimacy and respect, as it shed the horrible reputation Germany had gained under the Nazis.

West Germany played a central role in the creation of European cooperation; it joined NATO in 1955 and was a founding member of the European Economic Community in 1958.

Willy Brandt (1913–1992) was the leader of the Social Democratic Party in 1964–87 and West German Chancellor in 1969–1974. Under his leadership, the German government sought to reduce tensions with the Soviet Union and improve relations with the German Democratic Republic. Relations between the two German states had been icy at best, with propaganda barrages in each direction. The heavy outflow of talent from East Germany prompted the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961, which worsened Cold War tensions and prevented East Germans from travel.

East Germany

In 1949 the Soviet zone became the "Deutsche Demokratische Republik" under control of the Socialist Unity Party. Neither country had a significant army until the 1950s, but East Germany built the Stasi into a powerful secret police that infiltrated every aspect of the society.

East Germany was an Eastern bloc state under political and military control of the Soviet Union through her occupation forces and the Warsaw Treaty. Political power was solely executed by leading members of the communist-controlled Socialist Unity Party. A Soviet-style command economy was set up; later the GDR became the most advanced Comecon state. While East German propaganda was based on the benefits of the GDR's social programs and the alleged constant threat of a West German invasion, many of her citizens looked to the West for political freedoms and economic prosperity.

Walter Ulbricht (1893–1973) was the party boss from 1950 to 1971. In 1933, Ulbricht had fled to Moscow, where he served as a Comintern agent loyal to Stalin. As World War II was ending, Stalin assigned him the job of designing the postwar German system that would centralize all power in the Communist Party. Some 2.6 million people had fled East Germany by 1961 when he built the Berlin Wall to stop them — shooting those who attempted it. Ulbricht lost power in 1971, but was kept on as a nominal head of state. He was replaced because he failed to solve growing national crises, such as the worsening economy in 1969–70, the fear of another popular uprising as had occurred in 1953, and the disgruntlement between Moscow and Berlin caused by Ulbricht's détente policies toward the West.

The transition to Erich Honecker (General Secretary from 1971 to 1989) led to a change in the direction of national policy and efforts by the Politburo to pay closer attention to the grievances of the proletariat. Honecker's plans were not successful, however, with the dissent growing among East Germany's population.

In 1989, the socialist regime collapsed after 40 years, despite its omnipresent secret police, the Stasi. Main reasons for the collapse include severe economic problems and growing emigration towards the West.

References: Wikipedia

Popular sites founded between 1946 and 1989 in Germany

Romano-Germanic Museum

The Roman-Germanic Museum (Römisch-Germanisches Museum) has a large collection of Roman artifacts from the Roman settlement of Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, on which modern Cologne is built. The museum protects the original site of a Roman town villa, from which a large Dionysus mosaic remains in its original place in the basement, and the related Roman Road just outside. In this respect the museum is an ...
Founded: 1974 | Location: Cologne, Germany

German Tank Museum

The German Tank Museum is an armoured fighting vehicle museum in Munster, Germany, the location of the Munster Training Area camp (not to be confused with the city of Münster). Its main aim is the documentation of the history of German armoured troops since 1917. The museum displays tanks, military vehicles, weapons, small arms, uniforms, medals, decorations and military equipment from World War I to the present ...
Founded: 1983 | Location: Munster, Lower Saxony, Germany

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie (or 'Checkpoint C') was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War. GDR leader Walter Ulbricht agitated and maneuvered to get the Soviet Union"s permission for the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 to stop Eastern Bloc emigration westward through the Soviet border system, preventing escap ...
Founded: 1961 | Location: Berlin, Germany

Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall was a barrier that divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989, constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off (by land) West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin until it was opened in November 1989. Its demolition officially began on 13 June 1990 and was completed in 1992. The barrier included guard towers placed along large ...
Founded: 1961 | Location: Berlin, Germany

Stuttgart Cathedral

Stuttgart Cathedral or St Eberhard"s Cathedral has been since 1978 the co-cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, whose main cathedral is Rottenburg Cathedral. The parish dates back to the Medieval era while the current building was completed in 1955, eleven years after it was mostly destroyed by Allied air raids in 1944. Liudolf erected a small church around 950 and remnants of the old coll ...
Founded: 1955 | Location: Stuttgart, Germany

Treptow Soviet Memorial

Three great Soviet memorials were erected in Berlin after the war, which not only serve as memorials, but also as war cemeteries. The facility in the Treptower Park is the central memorial and with 100,000 square metres the largest of its kind in Germany. The facility, also serving as cemetery for 5,000 Soviet solders, was built between 1946 and 1948 on the site of a large playing and sports field. Memorial slabs and fres ...
Founded: 1946-1948 | Location: Berlin, Germany

Kaiserpfalz Museum

In 1963 demolition of houses damaged in World War II led to the sensational discovery of the Carolingian Königsplatz, the palace where Charlemagne held the first Frankish assembly on Saxon lands in 777 AD. The museum exhibits the remains of palace and early history of Paderborn.
Founded: 1978 | Location: Paderborn, Germany

Lehmbruck Museum

Lehmbruck Museum is devoted for Wilhelm Lehmbruck (1881-1919) and his sculptures make up a large part of its collection. However, the museum has a substantial amount of works by other 20th-century sculptors, including Ernst Barlach, Käthe Kollwitz, Ludwig Kasper, Hermann Blumenthal, Alexander Archipenko, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Henri Laurens, Jacques Lipchitz, Alexander Rodtschenko, Laszlo Péri, Naum Gabo,  ...
Founded: 1964 | Location: Duisburg, Germany

Detmold Open-air Museum

The Detmold Open-air Museum (LWL-Freilichtmuseum Detmold) was founded, together with the Hagen Open-air Museum, in 1960, and was first opened to the public in the early 1970s. Over 100 historic, rural buildings were transported and reconstructed from across the state, including schools, farmhouses, thatched cottages, and windmills. The large bucolic fields and ponds are available for horse-drawn carriage ri ...
Founded: 1960 | Location: Detmold, Germany

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.