East vs. West Germany - Essay Example

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The scale of devastation in Europe at the end of the Second World War meant that the task of rebuilding societies demanded a great deal of investment both in terms of money and in terms of time. Many cities and most industries were destroyed, and “Europe was faced with the awesome task of reconstructing a continent in ruins.”…
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East vs. West Germany
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History and Political Science Case Study: East vs West Germany The scale of devastation in Europe at the end of the Second World War meant that the task of rebuilding societies demanded a great deal of investment both in terms of money and in terms of time. Many cities and most industries were destroyed, and “Europe was faced with the awesome task of reconstructing a continent in ruins.” (Perry et al, 2009, p. 267) which meant that economic recovery was a priority, so that the affected countries could begin to help themselves out of the unemployment and hunger that plagued their people. Apart from the physical devastation, there was also a huge cultural and moral gap in Germany, caused by the defeat of Nazism and the arrival of the Allied powers to take control of the defeated nation. From the earliest days in 1945 the Allies wanted to avoid the mistakes of the Treaty of Versailles, which had humiliated the German people and had enforced crippling reparations that caused resentment for generations. This time a plan of partition into zones, and a generous package of aid which came to be known as the Marshall plan were adopted as strategies to manage German recovery.
In the parts of Germany controlled by Britain, France and America there was a focus on de-Nazification and the building of a democracy that would ultimately fit into the emerging NATO alliance of Western Powers. The political structure which was adopted there was based on western style multi-party democracy, with a constitution that protected basic human rights and prevented the rise of another dictatorship like the Hitler regime. Free market capitalism was the preferred economic style, and this, along with assistance from the Marshall plan funds, created the so-called “economic miracle” of the post war years. West Germany became a republic with 11 regions, and grew into a strong and stable democracy.
The Soviet Union, on the other hand, was keen to integrate the Eastern part of Germany, including its historic capital Berlin, into the network of Socialist states that became known as the Soviet bloc. The economic style was very different, and based on the principles of Socialism, where state owned collectives ran industry rather than private enterprises. When the Western allies declared the West German mark to be separate from the East German mark, the differences in economic performance became even more marked. A wall was built by the East German authorities to prevent a wholesale emigration of citizens from the East to the West in search of a better standard of living. Winston Churchill’s statement that an “iron curtain has descended across the continent” in a speech in 1946 (Perry at al. 2009, p. 300) turned out to be an accurate assessment of the increasing distance between East and West. A single party political system was introduced, and throughout the Cold War, East German citizens were prevented from travelling to the West or hearing about events there. Socialism provided subsidized housing and high levels of employment, for women as well as men, but many of the social freedoms enjoyed in the West were limited by the repressive regime in the German Democratic Republic.
Perry, M., Berg, M. and Krukones, J. (2009) Sources of European History: Since 1900. Boston, MS: Wadsworth CENGAGE. Read More
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