German Reunification Term Paper

Pages: 23 (7928 words)  ·  Style: Chicago  ·  Bibliography Sources: 7  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Drama - World

¶ … Reunification on the German State and People Today

The physical Berlin Wall may be gone, but some observers suggest that it remains in the minds of many older Germans that lived with a divided Germany for most of their adult lives. Indeed, many people were surprised at just how quickly the Berlin Wall fell when it finally did, but the fallout from this event has not gone away and in many ways has become even more pronounced in recent years. To help understand the current situation in Germany today, this paper provides an overview of the reunification of East and West Germany, the process that led to it, and the political opposing forces that emerged in response. The focus of the paper will be the opposition to the reunification, comprised mainly of Great Britain, France, and Poland. The paper begins with the situation in East Germany in the late 80s, covering the Montagsdemonstrationen organized by Christian Fuehrer, heading on to the "Einigungsvertrag" and the integration of the GDR into Western Germany, followed by an analysis of the political concerns evinced by France, Poland, and Great Britain. A summary of the research and salient findings are presented in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion: Diplomatic Difficulties during the German Reunification Process

I. The Political Situation in Germany and the U.S.S.R. during the Late 1980s.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on German Reunification Assignment

A. Social Insecurities after Perestroika and Glasnost Fail to Save USSR. It happened so quickly that many observers were taken by surprise. The events that ultimately led to the collapse of the former Soviet Union were characterized by half-measures and false starts that created the conditions needed to fuel further social unrest and political discord. According to Niven and Thomaneck, the fact that former GDR leader Erich Honecker's attempt at political crisis management and linguistic "democracy" propaganda had failed became clear in the autumn of 1989, when the working people of Germany reminded him: "We are the people." These authors report that, "Whereas the Polish free trade union Solidarity movement did not in any noticeable way capture the mood of the working people in the GDR, the policy shifts announced by Mikhail Gorbachev after his appointment as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985 triggered a new political discourse in East Germany" (57). At the time, Gorbachev recognized that the system of "actually existing socialism" simply could not endure in its existing form, either in the Soviet Union or in the Eastern bloc as a whole (Niven & Thomaneck 57).

In response, Gorbachev launched his program of openness (glasnost), reform (perestroika), together with a political philosophy that embraced non-interference in other aligned countries as outlined in his 'Political Report of the CPSU Central Committee to the 27th Party Congress' on 25 February 1986 (Niven & Thomaneck 57). A growing credibility gap also affected the ability of the former Soviet leadership to keep their critics at bay. According to these authors, "The intellectuals, managers, and ordinary people of East Germany saw Gorbachev and his policies as a panacea for the ills of the GDR regime. The new socialist theory exposed the contradictions in the GDR body politic and increased the awareness of an intolerable gap between the officially propagated image and actual existing reality" (Niven & Thomaneck 57).

The GDR regime was not only aware of its economic plight, it was also fully aware of the impact of Gorbachev's new policies on the citizens of its state. It appeared unable to make up its mind how to react to this impact. In an interview with the West German illustrated weekly Der Stern, the GDR chief ideologue Kurt Hager stated on 9 April 1987 in respect of Gorbachev's reforms: 'Would you, when your neighbour puts new wallpaper up in his flat, feel obliged to put up new wallpaper in yours?' Hager's statement, with the politburo's backing, was printed in Neues Deutschland the following day, and triggered a wave of protest letters within the GDR, not least from the SED [the GDR's Socialist Unity Party] basis itself" (Wolle 1998, 292 cited in Niven & Thomaneck at 57).

B. USSR is Weakened. After the successful revolutions in Poland and Czechoslovakia, people in other Soviet states were also encouraged on their paths to independence. The impact of the events on the pace of events throughout the rest of Eastern Europe was profound. According to Kahn (2000), the relationship between the former East German regime and the Soviet leadership was strained but close, and the GDR had placed all of its political eggs in the Soviet basket. "The GDR was a satellite state," Kahn notes, "linked to the Soviet Union. Up to the very end, the GDR openly declared that its existence depended on the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union established the GDK, Soviet troops assured the continued existence of the GDR, and Soviet wishes and the Soviet example determined everything" (85). In reality, Ronald Reagan simply outspent the Soviets to win the Cold War, and the economic toll this exacted on the former Soviet empire, combined with the gathering clouds of social unrest, spelled the end of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, and the Brandenburg Gate once again stood in the middle of a unified German state.

II. Early Stage.

A. Situation in the GDR.

1. Montagsdemonstrationen in East Germany Occurs, First in Leipzig, Then Entire State. In an unexpected attempt to accommodate the new vision of glasnost, the SED allowed and even officially accompanied a massive peace demonstration in September 1987, when the official East German 'Peace Council' and the Free German Youth Movement joined peace-committed and reform-minded groups of Christians on the Olof-Palme peace walk from Ravensbruck to Sachsenhausen memorial sites for World War II concentration camps (Niven & Thomaneck 2001). The reformers carried placards demanded "Free contacts to East and West," "Peace education instead of defence studies" and "Swords to ploughshares"; the public demonstration was the first such event to be officially allowed in the GDR and its implications were not lost on the media: "New possibilities have opened up," wrote the editors of the samisdat newspaper Umweltbl tter in October 1987, "possibilities which must be built on by the peace movement" (Niven & Thomaneck 2001, 57).

After reconsideration, though, the GDR's Socialist Unity Party shifted position and became determined to resist all of these demands for reform, not to enter into dialogue with reformers, and to silence the critical elements; however, in retrospect, it quickly becomes clear that this decision was the wrong one because discontent in the East had already reached critical mass levels (Niven & Thomaneck 2001). According to Niven and Thomaneck, in November 1987, the Stasi invaded the Zionskirche rooms of the Environment Library and arrested several of the people responsible for publishing the critical periodical, "Grenzfall"; following the protest by about 200 people against these arrests, these demonstrators were also arrested (Niven & Thomaneck 2001, 58). Yet another group of new protesters emerged to assume their place, though, and the authors report that when the Western media took interest in the conflict, the East German authorities were forced to back down and release those imprisoned (Niven & Thomaneck 2001).

The Environment Library 'affair' caused a number of disgruntled GDR citizens (including exit visa applicants), to congregate in the Zionskirche, and for 17 January 1988 (the date of the official commemoration of the murder of the distinguished communist leaders Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht), members of the GDR opposition and exit visa applicants planned to conduct a common protest by taking part in the demonstration with their own banners and placards calling for glasnost, peace, and increased tolerance; as a result, 120 demonstrators were arrested (Niven & Thomaneck 2001). Furthermore, in late January, 1988, more than 1,500 people in the Gethsemanekirche in East Berlin took part in a prayer service for those arrested and just a week later, the number of religiously minded supporters had reached 2,000 (Niven & Thomaneck 2001).

Still another example of the 'redoubling' effect of any attempt to stifle social discontent in the former GDR came later in the year when 37 schoolchildren at the Carl-von-Ossietzky School in Berlin affixed their signatures to a petition calling for an end to military parades on the GDR's National Holiday; these children were subjected to enormous pressure from GDR authorities to withdraw their names from petition but five continued to refuse and on 14 October 1988, these children were expelled (Niven & Thomaneck 2001). According to Niven and Thomaneck, "On 19 November 1988, the SED banned the Soviet publication Sputnik, which had helped to convey some of the ideas of Gorbachev. There then followed on 20 November a GDR-wide action, initiated in the Berlin Church Erlserkirche, in protest at the expulsion, and calling for more pluralism and democracy" (2001, 58). These and other like events clearly reflected not only the growing social discontent that was bubbling to the surface in the GDR, but also suggests that the citizenry was becoming more forthright, committed and outspoken in… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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