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Germany's way to democracy. After World War II German military leaders' unconditional surrender in May 1945 sovereign authority passed to the victorious Allied powers end of the war: “zero hour” Americans, British, French, and Soviets divided Germany into four zones

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germany s way to democracy
Germany's way to democracy
  • After World War II
    • German military leaders' unconditional surrender in May 1945
    • sovereign authority passed to the victorious Allied powers
    • end of the war: “zero hour”
    • Americans, British, French, and Soviets divided Germany into four zones
    • the American, British, and French zones together made up the western two-thirds of Germany, while the Soviet zone comprised the eastern third

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Germany‘s way to democracy
  • Berlin, the former capital, was placed under joint four-power authority but was partitioned into four sectors for administrative purposes
  • an Allied Control Council was to exercise overall joint authority

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Germany‘s way to democracy
  • In the western zones the Allies permitted a market economy
  • The emergence of a free and pluralistic press was also fostered
  • The Soviets subjected the press and all other means of communication in their zone to increasingly close censorship
  • In the economic sphere they nationalized most industries without compensation for the previous owners

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Germany‘s way to democracy
  • the Federal Republic of Germany was established with its provisional capital in the small university city of Bonn
  • the occupying powers soon approved the formation of regional organs of self-administration called Länder or “states”
  • by 1947 those Länder established in the western zones had freely elected parliamentary assemblies.
  • institutional developments followed a superficially similar pattern in the Soviet zone

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Germany‘s way to democracy
  • the Federal Republic of Germany came into being in May 1949
  • in October 1949, following the formation of the Federal Republic, a constitution ratified by the People's Congress went into effect in the Soviet zone, which became the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), with its capital in the Soviet sector of Berlin

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Germany‘s way to democracy
  • in 1954 Moscow proclaimed East Germany a sovereign state
  • in 1955 East Germany became a charter member of the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet bloc's military alliance
  • in 1961 the flow of refugees to West Germany through Berlin increased dramatically, bringing the total number of East Germans who had fled since the war to some three million

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Germany‘s way to democracy

On Aug. 13, 1961, the East German government surprised the world by sealing off East Berlin from West Berlin, first by barbed wire and later by construction of a concrete wall through the middle of the city.

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Germany‘s way to democracy

No one was permitted to go to the West through the tightly guarded crossing points without official permission. East Germans who sought to escape by climbing over the wall risked being shot by East German guards under orders to kill, if need be, to prevent the crime of “flight from the republic.”

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Germany‘s way to democracy

Two major reasons for the building of the Wall:

  • 1. Economics: too many well-educated people moved from East Germany, and some worked in West Berlin and lived in East Berlin (it's cheaper there), so DDR lost money on this
  • 2. Political: the West side interfered with the East side (the Russian sector)

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Germany‘s way to democracy

In 1963, J.F. Kennedy delivered his famous speech in Berlin, finishing with the words „Ich bin ein Berliner“. Read his speech or listen to it.

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Germany‘s way to democracy

In June 1987, in a speech outside the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, Reagan addressed Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, memorably saying, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.“ (Read complete speech, or listen to and see Reagan on the Internet).

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Germany‘s way to democracy
  • With the rise of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the USSR in the late 1980s, the Soviet-backed regimes of Eastern Europe began to lose control over their people. East Germany’s Communist government fell in 1989, an event that profoundly altered relations between the two Germanys.
  • With the fall of the Berlin Wall and other emigration barriers, more than 200,000 East Germans streamed into West Germany.

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Germany‘s way to democracy

The reunification of Germany was one of the greatest events in world history. (Los Angeles Times;Times) It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for many to witness such a humanitarian effort toward peace and prosperity. The following images capture just a few of the celebrations of the reunification and the stories they have to tell.

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Germany‘s way to democracy

Citizens Chipping Away at the Berlin Wall

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Germany‘s way to democracy

German Military Removing the Berlin Wall

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Germany‘s way to democracy

Celebration at the Brandenburg Gate

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Germany‘s way to democracy

West Germany and East Germany merged their financial systems in July 1990, and in October East Germany dissolved and all its citizens became citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The final obstacle to reunification was removed in July 1990 when Kohl prevailed upon Gorbachev to drop his objections to a unified Germany within the NATO alliance in return for sizable (West) German financial aid to the Soviet Union.

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Germany‘s way to democracy
  • A unification treaty was ratified by the Bundestag and the People's Chamber in September and went into effect on Oct. 3, 1990.
  • With a few segments preserved as a monument, the wall was completely removed by the summer of 1991.

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Germany‘s way to democracy

Problems after Reunification:

  • Reunification promised to quickly alleviate forty years of East German Socialism by means of tax money, which proved wrong.
  • Reunification promised to bring "social freedom" by ignoring the crimes of former Socialist party leaders.

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Germany‘s way to democracy

Effects of Reunification:

The cost of reunification has been a heavy burden to the German economy and has contributed to Germany's inability today to be the locomotive of the European economy that it had been in the past. The costs of reunification are estimated to amount to over 1.5 trillion Euro.

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Germany‘s way to democracy

Effects of Reunification:

Following reunification, Germany followed the social policies of Geschichtsaufarbeitung (working through history) and Vergangenheitsbewältigung (mastering the past) to deal with their violent history.

Since unification, hundreds of thousands of former East Germans have continued to migrate to western Germany to find well-paying jobs.

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