Germany - a truly united country?

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2003

16 Pages, Grade: A- = 1-


Table of Contents


The separated Germany

Germany after 1990
Political Developments
- The federal system
- The problem of right-wing extremism
- The challenge

Economic Developments
- Why the economy is in bad shape
- The economic trap
- The role of the economy

Cultural Developments
- One nation, two cultures
- The “Ostalgie-Welle”
- The cultural divide





The German reunification is a unique event in world history and heralded the downfall of the entire Communist Bloc. Understanding what happened in the unification’s aftermath is vital in order to develop future policies for Germany and Europe. This paper pinpoints and explains problems that result from the unification and prevent Germany from becoming a truly united nation. Current events like the IG-Metall strike of 2003 help to illustrate the immediate effects these problems have on German society. However, these political and economic issues are outweighed by a more profound problem, the unwillingness of both East- and West-Germans to search for compromises, for a mutual way into the future. Until this situation changes, Germany will continue to experience difficulties with completing the process of unification which might easier and faster be solved hand in hand. Either way, the process will take much longer than most people have initially expected.


“Ein Volk, das seine Vergangenheit nicht ehrt, hat keine Zukunft.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832)

The Berlin Wall between the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) fell on November 9th, 1989 and Germany was officially re-united in 1990. However, although politically united for almost 13 years now, many people argue that Germany still seems to be divided and that “‘walls in the minds of people’ supposedly supplanted the Berlin Wall” (Glaeser, 2001, p. 173).

This research paper will analyze important developments of the post-unification era and discuss the question whether Germany is truly united and the unification has been successfully completed. Because this can only be done appropriately when the developments are analyzed in a historical context, this paper will provide some short historical background information on the two German states and thereby build the framework for the subsequent analysis of the reunification and the political, economic, as well as cultural changes which have taken place in its aftermath. Phenomena like the growing right-wing extremism, the ‘Ostalgie-Welle’ and recent events such as the IG-Metall Strike in East-Germany will serve as examples to illustrate the problems Germany faces more than a decade after the unification. Finally, the analysis will lead to a conclusion which intends to answer to the question how these problems affect German society and whether Germany can be considered a truly united country.

The separated Germany:


„Zwischen der sozialistischen DDR und der imperialistischen BRD gibt es keine Einheit und kann es keine Einheit geben. Das ist so sicher und so klar wie die Tatsache, daß der Regen zur Erde fällt und nicht zu den Wolken hinauffließt.“

Erich Honecker (1912 – 1994), Head of the GDR from 1971-1989

The two German states were established shortly after the beginning of the cold war, the FRG on May 23, 1949 and the GDR on October 7, 1949. On August 13, 1961 the separation between the democratic FRG and the communist GDR culminated when the GDR started to build the Berlin Wall. During more than 40 years of separation two totally different cultures developed.

The FRG always had the reunification in mind, it was a constitutional obligation. The preamble of the Grundgesetz read: “’Das gesamte deutsche Volk wird aufgefordert, in freier Selbstbestimmung die Einheit und Freiheit Deutschlands zu vollenden’” (Schroeder, 2000, p. 92). Furthermore, the FRG did not even officially accept the GDR as a sovereign nation and expressed the so-called “Alleinvertretungsanspruch” for the whole German nation which exacerbated the relationship between East- and West-Germany even more. For the leaders of the GDR the reunification was out of the question (Görtemaker, 1999a). However, in the beginning of the 1970’s the tensions between the FRG and the GDR began to decrease as the German people got used to the existence of two German states. On December 21, 1972 the FRG and the GDR signed the “Grundlagenvertrag” which aimed at normalizing the inner-German relationship. It stated that the FRG and the GDR would develop a friendly and respectful relationship and that they accepted each other as sovereign states – the reunification was further away than ever before (Görtemaker, 1999b).


“Jetzt wächst zusammen, was zusammen gehört!“

Willy Brandt (1913 – 1992), Chancellor of the FRG from 1969-1974

The status quo remained until 1989 when it was unexpectedly changed. The SED (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands) started to lose control over the GDR and its citizens. Decades of economical problems and political repression had finally brought the GDR close to collapsing. In the summer of 1989 about 120,000 citizens of the GDR filed an application to emigrate to the FRG and when Hungary opened its borders to Austria, many East-Germans people started to flee this way. East-Germans who stayed in the GDR began to organize huge demonstrations such as the famous “Leipziger Montagsdemonstrationen”. On each, November 4 and November 6, 1989 more than half a million people demonstrated in Berlin and Leipzig for the right to travel into the West, for the right to possess Western currencies, for political reforms, and for more democracy. Egon Krenz and the other SED-leaders had already decided to partly give in to the call for the right to travel freely. They introduced the new “Reisegesetz” on November 6 in order to calm down the GDR’s citizens and stabilize the political situation. The Reisegesetz made it possible for citizens of the GDR to freely travel to other countries for the period of one month. “However, concessions only served to fuel public pressure for democracy” (Chandler, 2001, p. 88) and the demonstrating masses exclaimed: “’Zu spät, zu spät! […] Wir brauchen keine Gesetze – die Mauer muß weg!”

This eventually let to the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 when Günter Schabowski, the East-German Secretary of State for Information, announced that the GDR opened its borders and people were free to travel into the West. The decision had not yet been made officially; Schabowski by mistake released an internal SED communiqué. At the borders, the East-German soldiers had no instructions how to deal with the thousands of people who wanted to cross the border to the FRG and finally had to give in to the masses and opened the border – the fall of the Berlin Wall (Görtemaker, 1999c).

Politicians and citizens in East- and West-Germany sensed that the fall of the wall heralded the reunification. Immediately, Helmut Kohl introduced his “10-Punkte-Programm” which aimed at bearing down Germany’s separation. During 1990 the SED proved incapable of reversing the trend without the use of violence and fortunately, Mikhail Gorbachev, then President of the Soviet Union, reluctantly agreed to Germany’s reunification. On October 3, 1990 the GDR dissolved into the FRG according to article 23 of the West-German constitution and the FRG peacefully annexed the GDR (Görtemaker, 1999d). “Damit gilt dieses Grundgesetz für das gesamte Deutsche Volk” (Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 2001, Präambel).


Excerpt out of 16 pages


Germany - a truly united country?
International University in Germany Bruchsal  (Department of Sciences and Liberal Arts)
A- = 1-
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David Federhen (Author), 2003, Germany - a truly united country?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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