Modern Germany

Following the surrender Germany was divided into four zones, American, British, French and Russian. Berlin, although it was within the Russian area, was also divided into zones. Nazi war criminals were brought to trial at Nuremberg in November 1945. Soon the Russians and the western powers drifted apart and it became clear that Germany was not going to be reunited. The Russians stripped East Germany of its resources but the Americans gave aid to West Germany and the rest of Western Europe. This aid was called the Marshall plan and it was paid from 1948 to 1952. Meanwhile in 1948 the three western powers introduced a new currency into their zones. The Russians responded by blocking all land routes to West Berlin (which was occupied by the western powers). The western allies flew in supplies for the next 11 months until the Russians relented. In the west a new state called the Federal Republic of Germany was formed on 23 May 1949. At first the new state had to cope with high unemployment. However in the 1950s and 1960s West Germany went through an ‘economic miracle’. The devastation caused by World War II was repaired and the economy boomed. However by the mid-1970s the miracle had ended and Germany was mired in recession. Meanwhile, in 1955, West Germany was allowed to join NATO and rearm. Then, in 1957, West Germany was one of the founder members of the EEC (forerunner of the EU). However in East Germany things were very different. It was called the German Democratic Republic. Of course, it was anything but democratic and soon a full communist regime was imposed.

In 1953 there was a wave of strikes in East Germany. The Russians responded by sending in tanks and killing many civilians. Not surprisingly many people in East Germany fled to a better life in the west. In 1961, alarmed at the number of skilled workers leaving East Germany, the government built the Berlin Wall. Afterwards anyone who tried to leave was shot. However the communist tyranny collapsed in 1989. On 9 November 1989 the Berlin Wall was opened. Following the collapse of communism Germany was reunited on 3 October 1990. Germany then faced the task of raising living standards in the east to the same level as those in the west.

Today Germany is a wealthy country with a high standard of living. Germany is famous for making plastics, paints and pharmaceuticals as well as cars, electrical goods and computers. Germany is also famous for its exports of wine, beer and sausages. Like other nations Germany suffered in the recession of 2009 but the economy is now recovering. Meanwhile Germany joined the euro in 1999 and in 2005 Angela Merkel became Germany’s first woman Chancellor.

By Tim Lambert

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