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Deutsche Wiedervereinigung: The German Reunification

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany was “a third transformation [that] occurred that was not imposed by force, but was instead largely achieved through peaceful means. (Wilkinson, page 549)

Germany was split in 1949. West Germany was territory monitored by the United States, France, and Britain after WW2. The Soviet territory became East Germany. Berlin was split in half. West Germany was a reflection of the West while the East was more representative of the Soviet Union. Thus, in the 1950’s, many thousands of highly educated East Germans fled to the West daily. To resolve this loss of manpower, Erich Honecker came up with a plan. In a matter of a few days, the East Berlin Wall was built. Both West and East Germans were stunned. No one was allowed to cross the Wall without proper permission. The Berlin Wall became a physical symbol the Cold War.

As the Cold War started to thaw with Soviet Mikhail Gorbachev, discussions with the West began. The Soviet Union was struggling to advance (or at least catch up with the West) in various areas (technology, medical, and education). Gorbachev’s reforms, known as perestroika, set the stage for the reunification of Germany among other changes. Gorbachev reduced military commitments, undertook new arms control agreements with the United States, and withdrew troops from Afghanistan. In 1989, most of the Soviet satellites declared independence from Communist rule. The Cold War was indeed thawing. Helping the thaw was Hungary; borders were opened to Austria and thousands applied for visas. Many traveled to Hungary and left the East via Austria. Hungary made is a point of not asking questions.

At this time, both West and East Germany began working together. Speculation was made that their strength, economically, was becoming Western Europe’s lead. Chancellor Kohl saw an opportunity for reunification. Unlike Konrad Adenaur, he did not view East Germany as a separate entity. In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. With the physical destruction of the Wall, the end of the Cold War became a reality. Berlin, again, became the capital of the Federated Republic of Germany. October 3, 1990, all five federal states of East Germany joined West Germany. In the next month, the German government signed a treaty with Poland. This treaty finalized borders and denounced any claim to areas that were previously East Prussia.

While Germany is unified, many former East Germans continue to migrate to Western Germany. Unemployment in the East is extremely high. Many industries that were supported by the former East German government were dissolved or dismantled.

An interesting video from ABC News can be watched on www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnYXbJ_bcLc

Julia Thieschafer (thie0048)
Julie Koch (koch0190)
Meghan Anderson (ande3607)

Wilkinson, James and H. Stuart Hughes. Contemporary Europe: A History.