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

Kommern Open Air Museum

The Kommern Open Air Museum (LVR-Freilichtmuseum Kommern) is one of the largest open air museums in Europe, covering an area of over 95 hectares and displaying around 67 historic buildings from the Prussian Rhine Province. Around 67 buildings, including farmyards, wind mills, workshops, village community buildings like schools, bakehouses, dancing halls and chapels, all of which originated on the territory of the former ...
Founded: 1961 | Location: Mechernich, Germany

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.

The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.

The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.

The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.

Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.

At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.

In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.