Divided Germany: The Federal Republic and the DDR 1949-63


Creation of West Germany and the DDR


  • FRG= Federal Republic of Germany (BRD)
  • Capital= Bonn
  • Recognised as soverign state in 1955. Full self government- Western allies stayed until 1989
  • Population= c.43million
  • Chancellor= Adenauer- CDU- Christian 
  • Democratic Union (1949-63)- CSU (new ZP)
  • Head of state= Presisdent Heuss (1949-59)
  • Minister of Economics= Erhard (1949-63)
  • Mayor= Willy Brandt (SPD)
  • Type of Gov= Parliamentaty, democracy, Federal republic with German regional states, Pro-liberal democracy& catholic conservation, heavily influenced by USA eager for Western integration.
  • Allied Powers= Truman, Eisenhower& JFK 
1 of 14

The Western Economy

Within ten years, West Germany had been transformed due to its economic success mainly due to the policies of Erhard.- The economic recovery helped provide political stability. As a result, Ardenauer remained in power from 1949-63.

Economic stability- ‘Economic miracle’

-removing price controls- this stimulated business by allowing free competition between private enterprises.

-removing controls over wages and production- allowing workers a role in management and decision making resulted in fewer strikes,ending inflation through currency reform

-reducing marginal tax rates so that those on higher incomes had more money to spend on goods as higher rates of tax were reduced

  • Erhard- developed the 'social market economy'combinbing government legislation and a capitalism to produce, ‘Prosperity for All.'
  • The Marshall Plan- provided generous funding to enable the BRD to rebuild e.g. building new factories with modern machinery – by 1951 the BRD had received $1.5 billion of $12.7 billion of European wide Marshall Aid. Helped rebuild industry via trade & training programmes. E.g ‘Americanisation’ of industrial management that was key to reduce social discontent & potential class warfare through reformist trade unionism. Drew W Germany closer to Western allies.
2 of 14

The Western Economy pt2

  • Cheap foreign labour – refugees + invited Turkish refugees; 3 million from DDR.
  • Good industrial relations with trade unions – Co-determination Law, 1951
  • The survival of much of West Germany’s industrial base after the war (not stripped of resources like East as part of Soviet’s reparations).- benefit of resources – coal and iron in the Ruhr
  • Fall in unemployment went from 8.1% in 1950 to 0.5% in 1965 – managed in spite of recession 1949-50- Industrial production grew resulting in higher wages; income went up 400% between 1949-63. Growth rates for GNP were about 8% in the 1950s.
  • Impact of the Korean War- increased the demand for goods the Ruhr could supply. This was helped by the fact other nations were unable to supply war materials, with the results that expots doubled.
  • Improving living standards – consumerism 
  • Magnet theory
3 of 14

the Basic Law and constitution of West Germany

April 1948: London Six-Power Conference; This parliamentary council provided the legal framework for the Basic Law – that formed the basis of the new constitution. Occupation Statute – USA, Britain & France oversaw FRG until became sovereign (in 1955).


1. Create a stable democracy that could not be overthrown.

2. New framework to safeguard against threats from the extreme left or right, with communism posing the greatest threat. Needed to avoid constitutional loopholes of the Weimar constitution that had enabled Hitler to ‘legally’ establish a dictatorship.

Banned parties –

  • Left wing:
  • 1950 – Free German Youth; later 10 more communist organisations & 1956 - Communist Party – gained 2.2% in 1953 elections so no representatives. (Long legal battle)
  • Right wing:
  • 1951 – SRP – Socialist Reich Party & 1953 – League of German Youth
4 of 14

the Basic Law and constitution of West Germany p

Main features:

1. Human & Civil Rights – ‘inalienable’ – so could not be suspended by the parliament.

2. Federal president – ceremonial role; reduced from 7 to 5yrs & can only serve two terms. Elected by the Bundestag & the Lander parliaments.

3. Structure – Bundestag & Bundesrat.

4. Chancellor – only be replaced via a constructive vote of no confidence, so alternative govt had to be supported by the majority.

5. Electoral system upheld pluralism & safeguarded against abolition of parties. Plebiscites & referendums banned to prevent manipulation used by Nazis. Mixed-member PR – 2 votes – 50% Bundestag seats from majority votes (1 st past the post); 50% from party nominations. 1953 – intro. 5% hurdle required 5% of national vote to help reduce smaller parties & aid coalition of larger ones.

6. Constitution court – duty to review judicial cases and rule whether constitutional.

5 of 14

The 1949 Election

August – 79% turnout 31% voted for CDU/CSU. 29% SPD Predominantly right wing.

Main political parties:

CDU/CSU; SPD; FDP; Communist (5.7%); 22% = splinter & regional groups. 6 parties gained seats with under 5% of the votes.

Adenauer ignored left-wing of CDU avoiding coalition with the SPD due to economic & FPolicy differences. Coalition with FDP & other smaller parties – 208/402 seats. Adenauer elected chancellor with majority of 1- including his vote!

Intro. of 5% hurdle Adenauer showed unwillingness to compromise – slim majority of coalition. Fragile hold of govt & faced significant problems.

6 of 14

Elections of 1953, 1957 and 1961

  • September 1953 86% turnout 45% voted for CDU/CSU 29% SPD Majority of 1 seat

Adenauer won 4 Bundestag elections 1953 – coalition with FDP; 5% hurdle reduced splinter groups.

  • September 1957 88% turnout 50% voted for CDU/CSU 32% SPD 

1957 – ‘No experiments’ slogan & increasing political stability. Gained majority. Increased public interest & involvement in elections. Larger parties proved to be more inclusive so extreme left & right wing voters drawn to them & smaller parties started to disappear.

  • September 1961 88% turnout 45% voted for CDU/CSU 36% SPD

SPD only party that could contest CDU/CSU but opposition to rearmament risked defencelessness against Soviet threat; nationalisation caused middle class fear, unwilling to risk economic recovery. Marxist rhetoric abandoned in 1959 & gradually SPD became more popular.

7 of 14

Konrad Adenauer

  • 1949 founder and chairman of the CDU
  • Popularity? 1933- removed as Mayor of Cologne/Koln. 1944- arrested and put into camp after JUly bomb plot- members of the CDU included Centre Party and Portestant politicians- that had been involved in the Kreisau Circle.

Adenauer’s CDU increased its support in elections in 1953 and 1957. In 1949 they had only moderate success, but Adenauer emerged as a dominant figure.

  • He linked West Germany closely to the Western powers. 
  • He kept a clear identify for West Germany by relentlessly opposing Communism and not pressing for reunification.
  • He presided over a period of unparalleled prosperity and growth.
  • He was an imposing and somewhat authoritarian personality who made a strong impression at home and abroad.
  • He maintained coalition government, even when the CDU gained a majority of votes in 1957, in order to emphasise democratic government.
  • He pursued a popular policy of rejecting the Nazi past but not burdening the Germans with excessive guilt about it.
  • His rival politicians provided limited challenge though most of the 1950s.
8 of 14

Western Integration

Adenauer was very successful reintegrating West Germany into Western Europe especially when compared to the period after WW1 where Germany was an outcast. Adenauer made sure to get rid of French fears of German recovery;

  • Oct 1949- WG joined the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC)-recieved Marshall Aid.
  • April 1951- joined ECSC- European coal and steel communtiy. Placed Franco-German production under a common authority and started european economic unity. This removed foreign control over West German industry and provided her with equal status help reconciliation with France.
  • 1957- ECC (later the EU) - WG a founder memer signed Treaty of Rome. Same year joined EURATOM sign of increased trust and success of Adenauer's policies. 
  • Military Integration; NATO established 1949 and West Germany joined 1955. NATO asked Germany to contribute forces to the Korean War, a sign of grownig trust, although this concerned France. Adenauer achieved German rearmament within Europe through NATO and NATO forces were placed on German soil. Adnauer made WG indispensible to the West and established her as an equal partner. Although failed to achieve improvement with the East.
  • Adenauer ignored all advances from Russia; however did visit Moscow in 1955 and negotiated return of former prisoners of war (POWs)
  • He did not recognise East Germany as a separate state and refused to have diplomatic relations with those who did. This is known as the Hallestien Doctrineand was not abandoned till the 1970s.
9 of 14

Social Changes and Adenauer's decline

  • Impact of the War; Cities had been damaged and property lost. Nearly 25% of the population were fatherless and women were forced out of work and back into home because cheap labour was available from the Eastern zones. Refugees from the East numbered 12-13million and guest workers provided cheap labour.
  • Adenauer was able to win support of those who lost their possessions in the war through 1952 Equalisation of Burdens Act. This introduced tax on property and funds not affected by the war and redistributed to those who suffered the most.
  • Affluence; Adenauer created an affluent society, but there was unequal distribution of wealth, resulted in social inequalities. 
  • Positive; there were housing improvements 430,000 houses were built by 1952, and 4million by 1957. Wages had risen 400% between 1949-63 many were travelling widely. Social welfare was available with pensions and an insurance based health and welfare system. These improvments ended any Communist appeal. 
  • The old elites still dominated. However by the 1960s new tensions emerged as economic growth lessened. There was growing electorial support for right-wing groups at a local level and unrest from the left, which was often led by the young who had new cultural ideas.
10 of 14

Berlin Wall 1961 and Der Spiegal Affair

Lack of effective parliamentary opposition from 1966.

  • Generational conflict increased. Student protests and left-wing politics.
  • 1959 Elections to the presidency – Theodor Heuss constitutionally bound to step down after 10 years.
  • Adenauer considered running (good to secure political influence and feared successful bid by SPD) but pulled out & harmed reputation as infallible, ruined his image. 

August 1961 – erection of the Berlin Wall.

  • Willy Brandt (SPD Mayor of West Berlin) appealed on behalf of freedom and democracy.
  • Adenauer failed to intervene. Ignored the situation – even postponed sympathy visit to West Berlin for two days whilst he fulfilled routine engagements in the West. Greeted with jeers on arrival.

Late 1962 – the Spiegel Affair

  • Der Spiegel - weekly news magazine, had published article critical of the readiness of West German defence forces. Franz Josef Strass, West German Defence Minister and CSU leader, misled Bundestag in replies to questions about the matter. Der Spiegel offices raided, some journalists arrested. Public outcry – Adenauer’s gov’t appeared to be trying to muzzle the press like an authoritarian dictatorship.
11 of 14

Reintegration of Former Nazis

  • Before the FRG was established reintergration had occurred quickly , so that by the late 1940s de-Nazification was meaningless.
  • The government compnsated those who had suffered, but exonerated most Germans from their crimes. The need to care for war victims and refugees was balanced against responsibilities to the survivors.
  • Employing Nazis; Former Nazi civil servants regained their lost jobs lost through Law131. As a result 40-80% of civil servants were ex-Nazis and continued working in the judiciary and uni's. Pensions could be claime for service to the Nazi state and this succeeded in avoiding alienating them.
  • Even Adenauer employed a former Nazi as his personal adviser. the policies ensured that few felt shame pr fear of retribution. However in 1958 an office to investigate possible war cimes opened.
12 of 14


1960s – underlying tensions rose to the surface in the FRG

  • Eichmann trial in Jerusalem; Auschwitz trials in Frankfurt & collusion with Nazism questioned.
  • Economic setbacks brought votes to neo-Nazi NPD in Land elections.
  • 1966-69 ‘Grand Coalition’ SPD and CDU & little space for parliamentary opposition & rise of extra-parliamentary opposition.

1969 Willy Brandt becomes SPD Chancellor: turning point?

  • Rapprochement with GDR
  • Former opponent of Nazism
13 of 14

The Berlin Wall

  • In the 1950s many travelled from East to West Berlin. This increased in 1956 when the Hungarian Uprising was crushed. many left the East to escape repression.
  • 1958; Khrushchev demanded that the Western powers recognise the GDR withdraw fro West Berlin and hand over access routes. The Soviets wanted to force the West to recognise them but the aliies ignored this.
  • The USA had poured large amounts of aid into West Berlin but the East was not prosperous many left from the East especially skilled workers attracted to its freedom, cinemas, shops and better living standards. The communists saw it as 'capitalist infection'. This had a severe effect on the economy of the East as well as undermining communism.


  • August 13th- barbed wire along border between East and West Berlin erected by East Geraman soldiers which ended free movement.
  • August 22nd- barbed wire replaced by concrete wall. All except Check Point Charlie.
  • October- US diplomats and troops crossed into the East to test Soviet reaction.
  • 27th Oct- Soviet tanks arrived Check point Charlie refused to allow access into East Berlin.

Consequences; Berlin was divided physically families separated, those who tried to escape were shot, economic progress in east improved, Kennedy refused proposals to pull down wall appeared weak, Khruschev failed to remove West from berlin appeared weak, increased tensions between East and West development of nuclear weapons.

14 of 14


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all Germany Democracy to Dictatorship resources »