2. Ostpolitik and German Unification
The division of Germany at the end of World War II was one of the great pivotal events in world history. The 'two Germanies' became front lines in the Cold War military and economic contest. In turn, the ending of this division in the 1989-1990 period would set into motion the conditions for a new, united Germany in a new Europe. During 1944-1945 much of German infrastructure and social organisation was destroyed, dislocated (for the desperate conditions of this period, see Bedurftig 1995). At the end of World War II the remains of the German state and Berlin were controlled by an allied Four-Power commission, with a slide into possible East-West confrontation in 1947-1949, especially over the blockade of West Berlin. By the early 1950s the virtual control of the Western sector by the US, France and Britain was recognized, as was Soviet control of the smaller section which came to be known as East Germany. Both sectors became de facto states, and then had limited sovereignty recognized respectively by the East and West in 1955 so that they could become front lines in the Cold War. Effective entry into NATO and the Warsaw Pact meant that both regions had to be treated as partly autonomous states. The GDR (The German Democratic Republic = East Germany) was at first one of the better economic performers of the Eastern Bloc, with special emphasis on heavy industry.
In summary, East Germany (GDR), though one of the most advanced industrial producers after Russia in the Warsaw pact, was a strictly controlled society which was rapidly declining in terms of real wealth. This industrial output was controlled by large combines with dated plant equipment - by the 1980's its productivity was low, with the ratio of capital investment per head of the work force less than half of the West German figure (Padgett in Smith et al. 1992, pp194-5). William Paterson and Gordon Smith have aptly described life in East Germany as a grey but relatively secure subsistence (Paterson & Smith, in Smith 1992, p10). In spite comparatively strong economic performance, began to suffer major difficulties from 1980 onwards (Brezinski 1992, p235).
Furthermore, East Germany suffered from close contact with the West, and many citizens had access to Western media, and from 1980's onwards, and regular travel to the West (Brezinski 1992, p239; Gepert 2002). This appeasement, however, was not effective. It merely highlighted the political and economic inequalities between East and West. Ironically, a Stasi (East German secret police) report shows a clear understanding of the real problems, though expressed in diplomatic language. Speaking of refugee problems, this report is summarised by Konrad Jarausch: -
According to a devastating Stasi analysis, "the great majority of [refugees] resent problems and deficiencies of social development, especially in the personal sphere and living conditions." Most important was "dissatisfaction with the supply of consumer products" and the lack of a thousand little necessities. People expressed much "irritation about inadequate service" in shops or restaurants. Equally widespread were complaints about "deficits in medical care and treatment." Many citizens disliked "travel restrictions within the GDR and abroad." Unsatisfactory working conditions and production problems also aroused unfavourable comment. "Inadequate [or] inconsistent implementation of performance principles" compounded "discontent with the progress of pay and salaries." There was much "anger about the bureaucratic behaviour of manager and state officials." Finally the Media policy of the GDR [generated] misunderstanding" because of what was