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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Royal Palace of Aranjuez

Palacio Real de Aranjuez is a former Spanish royal residence. It was established around the time Philip II of Spain moved the capital from Toledo to Madrid. Aranjuez became one of four seasonal seats of government, occupied during the springtime (from about holy week). Thereafter, the court moved successively to Rascafría, El Escorial and wintered in Madrid. Aranjuez Cultural Landscape is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After the Christian conquest, Aranjuez was owned by the Order of Santiago and a palace was built for its Grand Masters where the Royal Palace stands today. When the Catholic Monarchs assumed the office of Grand Master of the Order of Santiago, Aranjuez became part of the Royal estate. This fertile land, located between the Tajo and Jarama Rivers, was converted into the Spanish monarchy's most lavish country retreat: during Spain's Golden Age, Aranjuez became a symbol for the perfection of nature by mortal hands, as El Escorial was for art.

Such excellence was based on strong Renaissance foundations, as Charles V envisaged this inherited estate as a large Italian-inspired villa, a desire continued by Philip II who appointed Juan Bautista de Toledo to design leafy avenues that ran through the gardens and farming land. A series of dams was constructed in the 16th century to control the course of the Tajo River and create a network of irrigation canals.

The splendour of the estate was only enhanced by the Bourbon monarchs, who would spend the whole spring, from Easter to July, at the Palace. Phillip V added new gardens and Ferdinand VI designed a new system of tree-lined streets and created a small village within the estate, which was further developed by Charles III and Charles IV. As Ferdinand VII and Isabella II continued to visit Aranjuez during the spring, the splendour of this site was maintained until 1870.

The Royal Palace, built by Phillip II on the site of the old palace of the Grand Masters of Santiago, was designed by the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo –under whom construction began in 1564– and later Juan Herrera, who only managed to finish half the project. Although glimpses of the original layout still remain, the building itself is more characteristic of the classicism favoured by the Hapsburg monarchs, with alternating white stone and brick. The original design was continued by Phillip V in 1715 but not finished until 1752 under Ferdinand VI. The rectangular layout that Juan Bautista de Toledo had planned, and that took two centuries to complete, was only maintained for 20 years, since in 1775 Charles III added two wings onto the Palace.

Real Casa del Labrador

As the Prince of Asturias, Charles IV was a frequent visitor to the pier pavilions built by Ferdinand VI and grew up playing in the Prince’s Garden. When he became King, he decided to build a new country house at the far end of these gardens, known as the Casa del Labrador (the labourer's house) due to its modest exterior that was designed to heavily contrast the magnificent internal decor. It was built by chief architect Juan de Villanueva and his pupil Isidro González Velázquez, who designed some of the interior spaces. These rooms, developed in various stages until 1808, are the greatest example of the lavish interior decor favoured by this monarch in his palaces and country retreats. Highlights at this Site include the combination of different types of art and the luxurious textiles, in particular the silks from Lyon, as well as wealth of original works on the main floor, where Ferdinand VII added various paintings and landscapes by Brambilla.

King's Garden, the Island Garden, Parterre Garden and the Prince's Garden

Phillip II, a great lover of gardens, paid special attention to this feature of the Aranjuez Palace: during his reign, he maintained both the Island Garden, designed by the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo, and the King's Garden, immediately adjacent to the Palace and whose current layout was designed by Philip IV. The majority of the fountains on this island were commissioned by Phillip IV, while the Bourbons added other features such as the Charles III benches.

Phillip V made two French-style additions to the existing gardens: the Parterre Garden in front of the palace and the extension at the far end of the Island Garden, known as the Little Island, where he installed the Tritons Fountain that was later moved to the Campo del Moro park by Isabella II.

The Prince's Garden owes its name and creation to the son and heir of Charles III who, in the 1770s, began to use Ferdinand VI's old pier for his own enjoyment. He also created a landscaped garden in the Anglo-French style that was in fashion at the time and which was directly influenced by Marie Antoinette's gardens at the Petit Trianon. Both Juan de Villanueva and Pablo Boutelou collaborated in the design of this garden.