West Germany

Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany)

The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) was created in 1949 from the British, French and American zones of occupation in Germany. At the same time the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was established from the territory occupied by the Soviet Union.

Konrad Adenauer became the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany).He held power for the next fourteen years and during that time played an important role in restoring good relations with France and the United States. However, he refused to recognize the legal existence of the German Democratic Republic.

The Federal Republic of Germany joined the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1952. It was agreed that the six countries that signed the Treaty of Paris (West Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands), would pool its coal and steel resources.

In 1955 the Federal Republic of Germany became a sovereign state and joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In response the government of German Democratic Republic signed the Warsaw Treaty of Friendship Cooperation and Mutual Assistance with Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and the Soviet Union.

The Federal Republic of Germany joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1958. Under the ECC attempts were made to achieve harmonization. This included measures in areas such as indirect taxation, industrial regulation, agriculture, fisheries and monetary policies.

Willy Brandt became Foreign Minister in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1966. He developed the policy of Ostpolitik (reconciliation between eastern and western Europe). In 1969 Brandt became Chancellor of West Germany. He continued with his policy of Ostpolitik and in 1970 negotiated an agreement with the Soviet Union accepting the frontiers of Berlin. He also signed the Basic Treaty with the German Democratic Republic.

With the collapse of communism in 1989 the two German republics were united.

Primary Sources

(1) Konrad Adenauer, speech on 31st January, 1951.

The Federal Republic is threatened by the aggressive imperialism of Soviet Russia as is proved by the systematic expansion of Soviet power in all parts of the world since 1945. The increasingly active policies of the Russian zone government in the last few months lead to the inescapable conclusion that we cannot expect this Soviet imperialist expansionism to stop at the Elbe. If Soviet Russia succeeds in forcing the Federal Republic of Germany, with a minimum of damage, into the Soviet sphere of influence, Russian war potential would be equal to that of the United States. At the same time Russia would prevent the unification of Western Europe for the defence of the Western world. In all probability Soviet policy would thereby also succeed in increasing American isolationism sufficiently to make the United States withdraw from the continent of Europe.

(2) Konrad Adenauer, Memoirs 1945-53 (12th July, 1952)

Disagreement between Soviet Russia and the free peoples was, I felt, bound to grow. America too had a vital interest in the creation of a strong Western Europe. For this Germany was indispensable. A country in shackles is not a real, full partner. I therefore thought that our fetters would gradually fall away.

As John Foster Dulles once put it: America was not pursuing a German or a French policy in Europe, but an American policy. That was a very true saying. The foreign policy of a country is always inspired by its own real or imagined interests. It was in the interest of the United States that Germany should become strong once more. Therefore the many examples of discrimination, such as the Ruhr Statute, the Occupation Statute and the provisions regarding the rearming of Germany, could only be of a transitory nature. In the long run the German people could not be a perfect partner of the peoples whose interests were parallel to ours unless there was equality. These were the guiding principles of my policy toward the Western powers during all the years when, as Federal Chancellor, I had to determine the guidelines of our policy.

(3) George Brown, In My Way (1971)

Brandt has done things which require physical, mental and moral courage to an extent which few men could sustain. He inherited a German Social Democratic Party with very outdated traditional thinking, and requiring super-human energy and understanding to reform and revive. Like others, he had little in the way of natural advantages with which to do it. He was, of course, lucky in his colleagues but even so it was Brandt who saw the way through, not only to leading the Social Democratic Party to victory but towards uniting Europe. He is a man of shining courage - doing things which to everybody else it seemed impossible to ask a German politician to undertake. Thanks to Willy's courage and imagination, Germany may yet bring about the beginnings of a genuine détente between East and West.