Unifying separate countries offers varied unique opportunities for growth but also gives way to complex challenges. For this module, write a one page paper explaining why the unification of Germany into one country (combining East and West Germany) proved to be more of a burden to the German people than expected. Base comments on what you’ve learned so far in your lecture notes and other sources you find helpful. Cite sources in proper APA format.
Module 03 – German and Russian Political Relations
Acronyms for Germany
Germany specializes in acronyms – for political parties, groups, labor unions, even East and West Germany. For easy reference, click here to print a copy of the German acronym table.
Germany Today – Moving Beyond Memory
People today who remember, are still influenced by their World War II experience. Veterans and war movies may not be as ubiquitous on television as they once were, but cable channels bring us nearly everything. As the last members of America’s “greatest generation” die, they still influence the impressions held by baby boomers and their children. The fascination with the evil image of Adolph Hitler can still be found in junior high school history classes and some fringe political groups.
The Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. provides a chilling experience for those too young to recall the death camps. If that were not enough, most of us have memories of the Berlin Wall. Some of us have friends who, as children went on family “picnics” in Berlin before 1961, packing only what would fit in the picnic basket to take into an exile of freedom in the West. These are powerful images. They may be helpful in partially explaining how Germany got to where it is today. On the other hand, they are not too helpful in explaining how Germany functions today. Somehow, if we are going to deal with the reality of a working, liberal democracy in Europe’s largest, richest state, we will have to get beyond the images that fill our collective cultural memories.
Change in Political Culture
Political culture is probably one of the most appropriate ways to approach a study of Germany. The anthropologist’s vision of culture is of a rather stable, slowly evolving nearly organic entity. However, the last century of German political history offers an example of political culture that has changed dramatically three or four times (depending on how you wish to classify changes). It’s also worth noting that at the present time, the change has led to remarkably positive results.
Leadership for a New Germany
Leadership is another element of politics that can be enlightened by the German example. If we can point to De Gaulle in France as a pivotal figure of modern French politics, we must count several post-war leaders in Germany as similarly critically important. Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl are in the first rank, but Willy Brandt and a number of other important figures stand just behind them.
The economic miracle of rebuilding West Germany, thanks in large part to the Cold War-inspired Marshall Fund investments, must be part of the story as well. It certainly plays a part in understanding the different paths followed by West and East Germany toward 1989. Here’s a place to attempt to measure the consequences of economic success on political stability. As messy as that may be (because of the differences in the functioning of the states in East and West Germany) it’s worth a look. The East Germany state may have been repressive and authoritarian, but the strivings of individual souls within that political culture had a lot in common with that of the West. How else does one explain the flood of refugees before the Berlin Wall was built, or the hundreds of escape attempts in the first years of that wall’s existence, or of the huge rallies and marches, led by religious leaders, in the late 1980s demanding democracy from some of the world’s most undemocratic Communist leaders?
The economic and leadership issues were jointly relevant to politics in Germany in 2005. The slowing of economic growth and the perceived lack of leadership by Chancellor Schröder led to his party’s losses in local elections in the spring of that year. He called for elections to be held in September. Elections were held, and Angela Merkel, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader and also a woman who grew up in East Germany, became the new leader of Germany.
Finally, in Germany, we see not only the interventionist state that has offered a progressive social welfare program since the late nineteenth century, but we see corporatist arrangements between the government, businesses, and unions that appear to have led to social stability, high economic productivity, some of the world’s highest wages, and social benefits nearly unrivaled anywhere in the world. How do political scientists explain those factors in a world of global pressures, economic liberalization, and European Union?
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