German Reunification

By | October 11, 2021

German reunification, a political-historical term on the German question, describes the efforts to restore the state unity of Germany after the division from 1945/49.

The East-West conflict and its intensification during the Cold War, but also internal contradictions, led to the division of Germany in Europe after the Second World War and the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany and the GDR (1945–49). After the establishment of two German states, although the diplomatic efforts to establish German unity did not lead to any result (especially at the Berlin conference in 1954), reunification remained a central goal of the German policy of the Western powers and the Federal Republic of Germany (including a commitment to their responsibility in the Germany treaty at the Geneva summit conference in July 1955). Although the feasibility appeared more and more questionable in the 1960s and 70s, the Western powers and the Federal Republic of Germany stuck to the all-German objectives – with the integration of a reunified Germany into the Western system of values ​​and alliances. From 1955 the Soviet Union and the GDR switched to the two-state theory and, after the inner-German border was closed (August 13, 1961) and in the course of the new policy of “demarcation” under Erich Honecker (from 1971), increasingly demanded the recognition of the GDR as an independent state under international law. With the new Ostpolitik under Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt (1969–74), which was supposed to facilitate the coexistence of Germans and improve internal German relations, the Germans’ claim to peaceful reunification was nevertheless emphasized (“Letter on German Unity”, Moscow Treaty, 1970).

Democratic change in the GDR

At the end of the 1980s, social tensions increased in the GDR. The state and economic crisis in the GDR was articulated in the protest of the citizens’ movement. According to a2zcamerablog, the aim of the civil rights groups (Neues Forum, Demokratie Jetzt, etc.) was to democratize the GDR, not to abolish it. The dissatisfaction of the people with the effects of socialism in everyday life, the economic breakdown, the protest against further restrictions on freedom of travel and human rights were among the decisive triggers of the upheaval (Peaceful Revolution). The reforms initiated by CPSU General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union and in other countries of the Eastern Bloc (Glasnost and perestroika) made this development possible and promoted it.

The catalysts of the upheavals in the GDR were the direct opening of the Hungarian-Austrian border on September 10/11, 1989 and the mass exodus of thousands of citizens, first via Hungary, then via the ČSSR. The mass exodus was supplemented by mass protests – the demonstrations especially in Leipzig, Dresden and Berlin (East) (Monday demonstrations). The GDR went from a refugee crisis to a regime and finally a state crisis. The Wall fell on November 9, 1989. The daily number of emigrants and the enormous prosperity gap between East and West made a quick unification more and more likely. The protest had two goals: First, the SED regime should be overthrown and free elections won (“We are the people!”); after November 9, 1989 the movement demanded, first in Leipzig, “We are one people!”

Free elections to the GDR People’s Chamber on March 18, 1990

Party / electoral alliance 1) Votes in% Mandates
Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) 2) 40.59 163
Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) 21.76 88
Democratic Socialism Party (PDS) 16.32 66
German Social Union (DSU) 2) 6.27 25th
League of Free Democrats 3) 5.28 21
Alliance 90 4) 2.90 12th
Democratic Peasant Party of Germany (DBD) 2.17 9
Green Party / Independent Women’s Association 1.96 8th
Democratic awakening (DA) 2) 0.93 4th
National Democratic Party of Germany (NDPD) 0.38 2
Democratic Women’s Federation of Germany (DFD) 0.33 1
Action Alliance United Left (AVL) 5) 0.18 1
other 0.45
1) Official final result.2) Alliance for Germany electoral alliance without a common list.

3) Electoral alliance of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), Liberal Democratic Party of Germany (LDP) and German Forum Party (DFP).

4) New Forum Election Alliance, Democracy Now and Initiative for Peace and Human Rights.

5) Electoral alliance The Carnations and United Left.

The first free Volkskammer election in the GDR on March 18, 1990 resulted in a majority in favor of the Alliance for Germany and rapid unification with the Federal Republic of Germany. It was an anticipated plebiscite about the abolition of the GDR. The coalition government formed by Prime Minister Lothar de Maizière (CDU) pursued the goal of re-establishing a federal state structure in the GDR and, after negotiations, to prepare for unification on the basis of Article 23 of the Basic Law, old version, which enabled other parts of Germany to join. De Maizière insisted on the Federal Republic of Germany that certain rights and claims of the GDR citizens in a united Germany should be guaranteed. The creation of a currency, economic and social union (State Treaty of May 18, 1990) created the prerequisites for adopting the social market economy and committed the GDR to the goals of German monetary, fiscal, employment and foreign trade policy. The economic and monetary union came into force on July 1st, 1990. Finally, on August 23, 1990, the People’s Chamber declared its accession to the scope of application of the Basic Law in accordance with Article 23 of the Basic Law, old version, with effect from October 3, 1990.

The legal basis for the unification was laid in the “Treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic on the establishment of the unity of Germany – Unification Treaty” of August 31, 1990. It regulated the entry into force of the Basic Law in the GDR on October 3rd. (henceforth Day of German Unity) as well as the extensive application of federal German law in the accession area (East Berlin and five re-established states). The state symbols of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesadler, Deutsche Farben, Deutschlandlied), which had shown their unifying effect, were extended to all of Germany in their area of ​​application.

German Reunification