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The German post-war Chancellors

German guy

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An American pen pal asked me to write him a few things about the past German Chancellors. Since I've written it already, I thought I'd post it here too, as maybe some of you are interested.

I try to be really fair about the different Chancellors, mention both their good and bad decisions, although you might notice I have a preference for the center-left. Here it goes:

Here is a chart about the votes of the different parties since 1949:

chart_2471175.png


You can see that the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU -- black) became the strongest party in most elections. But due to proportional representation, that doesn't mean they'll always get the government: When smaller parties agree on a coalition encompassing more than 50% of the seats, they can well get the government too. It's the alliance that matters, not one party alone.

The center-right CDU/CSU governed from 1949 to 1969, again from 1982-1998 and again since 2005 (most of the time with the libertarian FDP as junior partner).

The center-left SPD governed from 1969-1982 (with the FDP as junior partner) and from 1998-2005 (with the Greens as junior partner).


Here short portraits of the Chancellors:


Konrad Adenauer (center-right CDU) 1949-1963:

AP6512010320.jpg


Adenauer was perhaps the closest person to a "Founding Father" the Federal Republic had. After the horrors of Nazi rule and WW2, he was the first Chancellor in a new, democratic (West-)Germany and had to win over the people for the new free system.

He was very old already (73 when he assumed office, 87 when he left it!) and thus had a natural authority spanning generations -- senior 10 years even to Hitler and already active in the Kaiserreich in the 1900s (mayor of Cologne). His entire attitude was very authoritarian too, so many old Nazis were won over to embrace democracy. He was extremely conservative and running on a very anti-communist platform during the Cold War. For example, his government refused to acknowledge East-Germany and kept calling it "Soviet Zone", and they would break diplomatic relations with all countries that recognized East-Germany.

At the same time, he took many very important decisions for West-Germany, such as the integration of the country into the West: During his rule, Germany joined UN and NATO, and the European Community (the precursor of the EU). He took many efforts to reconcile Germany with Western enemies of WW2, especially France (he became a close friend of French President DeGaulle) and offered reparations to Israel.

He was very popular, because during his time, there was an economic boom ("the wonder") in West-Germany and most Germans became more wealthy than they had ever been before.

But especially towards the end of his chancellorship (he was in office for 3.5 terms), younger people were very fed up with him, they saw him as a dinosaur from the past, because of his very authoritarian attitude, and also, because he hardly ever mentioned the Nazi past -- during his rule, it was more or less an unwritten rule not to talk about the war. Many of his supporters were former Nazis who had exchanged their anti-semitic slogans with Catholic slogans, and who would rather mourn about the German victims of WW2 than admitting guilt.

His junior partner were the moderate libertarians of the FDP most of the time.


Ludwig Erhard (center-right CDU) 1963-1966:

He had been minister for the economy in Chancellor Adenauer's conservative government from 1949 to 1963. As economy expert, he was most popular, people loved him, because they felt he had greatly contributed to the "economic miracle" of the 50s. But it turned out that he wasn't suited as Chancellor. He didn't have the nerves for that office, made a few gaffes and the economy got worse too. So he resigned after 3 years.

Kurt-Georg Kiesinger (center-right CDU) 1966-1969:

erhard_kiesinger1966.jpg

Erhard (left) and Kiesinger (right)

Kiesinger is perhaps best remembered for the fact he had been a low-rank Nazi party member until 1945. When that was revealed, many protested against him. A young woman even gave him a slap in the face in front of running cameras, calling him "Nazi". That caused some uproar. In the end, Kiesinger could present Nazi documents that revealed his superior Nazis considered him "unreliable", because he "sabotaged anti-Jewish actions". That more or less saved him -- but not in the eyes of the libertarian FDP, which turned towards the SPD, and not in the eyes of the voters, who diselected him narrowly in 1969.


Willy Brandt (center-left SPD) 1969-1974:

willy_brandt_wdr_friedrich_gr.jpg


Brandt was the first post-war Chancellor from the left, and in some regards, the left counterpart to Adenauer. Some called him "the German Kennedy", because he was the dream candidate of the younger generation. He was very charismatic. His style was very modern and much less authoritarian, and he finally accepted German guilt: When visiting the Warsaw memorial in Poland, he fell on his knees (many on the right called him a traitor because of that). Also, he had a moral integrity his predecessors were lacking, because he had been in exile in Sweden during the Nazi time, where he was engaged in socialist anti-Nazi actions.

He also tamed the previous anti-communism and opened diplomatic relations to the East Bloc and East-Germany, following the policy of detente towards the East the US under Kennedy had started. That brought many improvements for families that had been cut apart by the Berlin Wall.

He also made many domestic reforms, his slogan was "let's dare to be more democratic!". He reduced legal discrimination of women, an abortion compromise was found (legal within the first trimester), homosexuality was no longer punished with prison, and democratic institutions were enacted at schools and universities. Worker and employee rights were improved too.

All this made him very popular, and thanks to him, his center-left SPD became strongest party in the 1972 elections for the first time. But he left office with a dark spot: Soon, there were rumors in the press about various extramarital affairs. But worse, it was revealed in 1974 that one of his closest confidents was a spy for the communist East. Because of that, he resigned.

His junior partner was the libertarian FDP too -- their social liberal left-wing was dominant during the 70s.
 

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Helmut Schmidt (center-left SPD) 1974-1982:

schmidt36_v-contentgross.jpg

For someone from the left, he was rather conservative, very disciplined and unsentimental. He said, responding to questions about left-wing ideals: "He who has visions should go to see a doctor." Nothing remarkable happened during his time, so he was more like a very apt administrator than a decider -- with one big exception:

During his time, there was a left-extremist terror organization in Germany, called "Red Army Faction" (RAF), that committed many crimes, including bank robberies and kidnappings of conservative officials. In alliance with Palestinian terrorists, they would hijack an airplane and force it to land. They kept the passengers as hostages, wanted to exchange them for the release of imprisoned terrorists. Chancellor Schmidt then ordered a special command of the Germany army, the anti-terror force GSG9, to storm that airplane and release the hostages. Schmidt later said had this mission resulted in a bloodbath, he would have resigned. But it was successful. So Schmidt has the image of being rather cool and tough too, with strong nerves.

His government's dealing with this terrorist threat was a fine example how a democratic government can act strongly and decisively, without throwing constitutional values out of the window. Also, Schmidt decided in favor of American nuclear weapon rearmament on West-German soil against the Soviets, which was not popular on the left and gave the newly founded Green Party a push.


Helmut Kohl (center-right CDU) 1982-1998:

Kohl_1986_imago_990_m.jpg

Kohl is best known as the "Chancellor of Reunification": When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, his government was very diligent at diplomatically arranging the Reunification of East-Germany and West-Germany (technically, the East joined the West and its 1949 Constitution). He was very apt on foreign policy, a very reliable ally of the US and is considered a great patriot.

But apart from that, his legacy is mixed: Before the Wall fell in 1989, he had already been in office for 7 years and was expected to lose the next elections. He was not very good at rhetorics, made many gaffes, didn't keep his promise of a "moral change" after the leftist 70s, so many on the right thought he was "not conservative enough". The Fall of the Wall saved him. Thanks to that, he won two terms more (a total of 4 terms).

In the second half of his chancellorship after Reunification, 1990-1998, he was accused of not managing the economic part of the Reunification well, unemployment exploded in the East and the economy stagnated because of a lack of reforms.

Also, Kohl increasingly lost touch with the people: His public statements were more and more arrogant and self-absorbed, and in 1998, he decided to run again in the elections for a fifth term(!), although his prospects were very bad. He even fought with his "crown prince" about it, because he had promised him to let him run, but broke this promise.

After he was diselected in a landslide, it was revealed that he had accepted illegal donations from businessmen, which was the biggest corruption affair in post-war Germany. But Kohl didn't even show the slightest remorse, he publicly claimed that his word not to reveal the donators was more important than the law.

Again, his junior partners were the moderate libertarians of the FDP. The pro-Thatcher and pro-Reagan market liberals dominated that party since the 80s.


Gerhard Schröder (center-left SPD) 1998-2005:

schroeder.jpg


Schröder was the first Chancellor from the left after 16 years. For the first time, he governed with the Greens as junior partner. During his rule, there were a couple of liberal reforms made: Homosexual civil unions were introduced in 2001, and the share of regenerative energy sources was increased from 2% to 20%. The government decided in favor of a nuclear power phase-out too.

But ironically, Schröder is best remembered for rather "conservative" decisions (Only Nixon could go to China ;) ): In 1999, he was the first Chancellor to lead Germany into a war (against Serbia), which had been a taboo ever since WW2 and caused many protests on the left. He also joined the US in Afghanistan 2001, but got in a fight with George Bush, because Schröder opposed the Iraq war.

And most important, Schröder reformed the bloated unemployment support system. It was streamlined and the handouts were reduced tied to strict conditions. The left ran amok against him -- imagine an American Republican President legalized abortions and banned guns, and you get an idea what the left in Germany thought of these reforms. Many economy experts said that these reforms were most helpful and cured Germany's lagging economy, unemployment dropped to less than a half over the next 5 years -- but Schröder didn't get the fame. He was diselected in 2005 because these reforms were so unpopular with his own voters. His party SPD took a dive and has still not recovered, up to today.

He placed the country before his own carreer and before his own party, but he wasn't rewarded for it.
 

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Helmut Schmidt (center-left SPD) 1974-1982:

View attachment 67166890

For someone from the left, he was rather conservative, very disciplined and unsentimental. He said, responding to questions about left-wing ideals: "He who has visions should go to see a doctor." Nothing remarkable happened during his time, so he was more like a very apt administrator than a decider -- with one big exception:

During his time, there was a left-extremist terror organization in Germany, called "Red Army Faction" (RAF), that committed many crimes, including bank robberies and kidnappings of conservative officials. In alliance with Palestinian terrorists, they would hijack an airplane and force it to land. They kept the passengers as hostages, wanted to exchange them for the release of imprisoned terrorists. Chancellor Schmidt then ordered a special command of the Germany army, the anti-terror force GSG9, to storm that airplane and release the hostages. Schmidt later said had this mission resulted in a bloodbath, he would have resigned. But it was successful. So Schmidt has the image of being rather cool and tough too, with strong nerves.

His government's dealing with this terrorist threat was a fine example how a democratic government can act strongly and decisively, without throwing constitutional values out of the window. Also, Schmidt decided in favor of American nuclear weapon rearmament on West-German soil against the Soviets, which was not popular on the left and gave the newly founded Green Party a push.


Helmut Kohl (center-right CDU) 1982-1998:

View attachment 67166891

Kohl is best known as the "Chancellor of Reunification": When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, his government was very diligent at diplomatically arranging the Reunification of East-Germany and West-Germany (technically, the East joined the West and its 1949 Constitution). He was very apt on foreign policy, a very reliable ally of the US and is considered a great patriot.

But apart from that, his legacy is mixed: Before the Wall fell in 1989, he had already been in office for 7 years and was expected to lose the next elections. He was not very good at rhetorics, made many gaffes, didn't keep his promise of a "moral change" after the leftist 70s, so many on the right thought he was "not conservative enough". The Fall of the Wall saved him. Thanks to that, he won two terms more (a total of 4 terms).

In the second half of his chancellorship after Reunification, 1990-1998, he was accused of not managing the economic part of the Reunification well, unemployment exploded in the East and the economy stagnated because of a lack of reforms.

Also, Kohl increasingly lost touch with the people: His public statements were more and more arrogant and self-absorbed, and in 1998, he decided to run again in the elections for a fifth term(!), although his prospects were very bad. He even fought with his "crown prince" about it, because he had promised him to let him run, but broke this promise.

After he was diselected in a landslide, it was revealed that he had accepted illegal donations from businessmen, which was the biggest corruption affair in post-war Germany. But Kohl didn't even show the slightest remorse, he publicly claimed that his word not to reveal the donators was more important than the law.

Again, his junior partners were the moderate libertarians of the FDP. The pro-Thatcher and pro-Reagan market liberals dominated that party since the 80s.


Gerhard Schröder (center-left SPD) 1998-2005:

schroeder.jpg


Schröder was the first Chancellor from the left after 16 years. For the first time, he governed with the Greens as junior partner. During his rule, there were a couple of liberal reforms made: Homosexual civil unions were introduced in 2001, and the share of regenerative energy sources was increased from 2% to 20%. The government decided in favor of a nuclear power phase-out too.

But ironically, Schröder is best remembered for rather "conservative" decisions (Only Nixon could go to China ;) ): In 1999, he was the first Chancellor to lead Germany into a war (against Serbia), which had been a taboo ever since WW2 and caused many protests on the left. He also joined the US in Afghanistan 2001, but got in a fight with George Bush, because Schröder opposed the Iraq war.

And most important, Schröder reformed the bloated unemployment support system. It was streamlined and the handouts were reduced tied to strict conditions. The left ran amok against him -- imagine an American Republican President legalized abortions and banned guns, and you get an idea what the left in Germany thought of these reforms. Many economy experts said that these reforms were most helpful and cured Germany's lagging economy, unemployment dropped to less than a half over the next 5 years -- but Schröder didn't get the fame. He was diselected in 2005 because these reforms were so unpopular with his own voters. His party SPD took a dive and has still not recovered, up to today.

He placed the country before his own carreer and before his own party, but he wasn't rewarded for it.

Though I don't agree with everything, that was an interesting view of the Kanzlers.
 

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And the incumbent...


Angela Merkel (center-right CDU) since 2005:

merkel-2-540x304.jpg

Angela Merkel has been Chancellor since 2005. She is the first woman in that office, and also the first person from former East Germany since Reunification in 1990. She was re-elected in 2009 and again in 2013, for a third term. She had been minister of women and youth 1990-1994 and minister of the environment 1994-1998 in Chancellor Kohl's center-right government. In 2000, she became CDU chairwoman.

In her style, Merkel is quite a contrast to her predecessor Schröder, who was a real macho and good at talking on tv. Merkel is not good at rhetorics and always appears a little "boring" and "harmless", so many people underestimated her at first.

In 2005, she had been running with an economically very conservative platform in the election, but her CDU/CSU failed to win a majority with their libertarian dream partner, the FDP -- something unknown in America happened: A stalemate between left and right. Neither left nor Merkel's right won a majority. That's because neither side wanted to cooperate with the socialist Left Party -- neither the left (SPD and Greens) nor Merkel's right (CDU/CSU and FDP). The Left Party was exactly in the middle and blocked a majority.

So that's what happened: The two large parties from left and right formed a "grand coalition". Imagine if in America, neither Republicans nor Democrats won, so they join together and make a mixed government with politicians from both parties. That's what happened in Germany 2005. Of course, such a "grand coalition" is no "dream marriage" and many compromises had to be found.

So in the end, Merkel's center-right CDU/CSU got the office of Chancellor and 7 ministers, the center-left SPD got the office of Vice Chancellor and 8 ministers. Of course, Merkel couldn't get through her conservative agenda with a partner from the left. Instead she took a rather centrist, moderate course. And that made her very popular. She always tried to find compromises, never alienated anybody, and left all the dirty work to her ministers. That was especially bad for the center-left SPD, because Merkel got all the fame, and the SPD ministers all the blame for their work together in the government.

In 2008, the financial crisis struck first the US, then soon Europe too. Merkel, together with the center-left SPD minister of finances, quickly made a bailout plan for certain banks (much like Obama in the US). Unlike in America, hardly anybody attacked these bailouts for alleged "socialism" -- almost everybody agreed they're necessary. Merkel's government was also popular because unlike in so many other European countries, the economy remained very strong in Germany and unemployment was on a low level.

In the 2009 election, Merkel's center-right CDU/CSU remained strong, but her junior partner, the center-left SPD was bitterly defeated. Merkel now had a majority together with her "dream partner", the libertarian FDP. But this new junior partner soon started destroying itself. The FDP ministers were soon involved in a mix of broken promises, gaffes, in-fights and incompetence. The FDP's approval rate collapsed. In contrast, Merkel had even more opportunity to shine.

The financial crisis now affected other EU countries too. First Greece, then Portugal, Ireland, Spain, Italy and Cyprus got in troubles too. Some had so much debt they were almost bankrupt. Because all these countries share the euro currency with Germany, that would have been disastrous for Germany too. Something had to be done to keep the entire euro currency from collapsing.

The proposals about what to do were very controversial. The affected countries wanted credits and bailouts. Many Germans opposed that, because they didn't want to spend German taxpayer money on foreign countries. Some said the euro currency had failed and should be disbanded. Others proposed all EU countries should unite their debts, for that the stronger countries support the weaker.

Merkel took a compromise: She would grant credits to the affected states, but only in exchange for serious harsh economic reforms in these countries. This stirred up people all over Europe. Many in Greece and other poor countries blamed Merkel, because these harsh reforms would affect many people -- the economy shrunk, unemployment exploded, wages and payments were cut, social spending was cut. Many felt Germany and Merkel are blackmailing them. In contrast, many Germans felt uncomfortable about handing out uncertain credits.

At the moment, it looks like it has worked: Greece and the other countries are no longer at the brink of bankruptcy, the euro currency seems to be saved, and the economy is growing again in these countries. Perhaps this will pay off for Merkel.

During her second term, Merkel was often accused of "stealing" topics from the left: Whenever the left opposition proposed something, Merkel would just do it, so the left had nothing to gain. Merkel made several policies that used to be considered left, although she's from the right: After the nuclear reactor in Fukushima in Japan exploded, she confirmed the nuclear power phase out in Germany. Merkel ended military draft and turned the army into a voluntary army. When the left demanded a minimum wage, Merkel promised certain minimum wages for some branches. And Merkel's minister of women and family, Christina Schröder (center-right CDU) even said homosexuals taking responsibility for each other in civil unions are "living Christian values".

In the 2013 election, Merkel's junior partner, the libertarian FDP, was punished for their poor standing in the government and was diselected from the parliament. So like in her first term, Merkel is now governing again in a "grand coalition" with the center-left SPD.

Lately, Merkel has often been accused for a lack of leadership -- she often just ignores problems, hoping they'll go away. Or she doesn't speak up when some of her ministers fight. But apparently, that strategy of not meddling too much pays off: Her approval rate is still rather high and people rather perceive that as sovereignty, rather than as a weakness.

In the Ukraine crisis, especially foreign minister Steinmeier (center-left SPD) had the opportunity to shine, often playing the sane and level-headed diplomat. Merkel supported him 100%. But she now seems to realize it's extremely hard to govern a people that already thinks "war!" when a politician says the word "responsibility".

steinmeier-gabriel-merkel100%7E_v-modPremiumHalb.jpg


Those are the three strong people in the incumbent government:

On the right Chancellor Merkel (center-right CDU), in the middle Vice Chancellor and minister of economy Sigmar Gabriel (center-left SPD) and on the left minister of foreign affairs Steinmeier (SPD).

Merkel is the first Chancellor to govern with different junior partners:

First term 2005-2009: CDU/CSU and center-left SPD
Second term 2009-2013: CDU/CSU and libertarian FDP
Third term since 2013: CDU/CSU and SPD (again)

Merkel has masterfully governed along the rule that "majorities are won in the center". She took her once very conservative party into the center and now occupies it, which keeps the center-left SPD down. Some say she's like a "female black spider", embracing her partners to death by being so compromising. We'll see how long she'll be able to maintain that course -- perhaps at some point, unpopular decisions will have to be taken, and/or competition will arise for Merkel on the right.
 

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Though I don't agree with everything, that was an interesting view of the Kanzlers.


Feel free to add your view, if you like. The more views, the better will the picture be non-Germans can draw from this thread. :)
 

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Thanks for the info GG. I was just wondering I believe that the Nazi are banned under German law. I was wondering in Modern Germany have their been any high level politician in Germany believed to have connections to the underground Nazi movement and how much do the Nazi still play any role if at all in German Politics. Are they like how the Ku Klux Klan is over here? Once very powerful but now just a formal shell of it's self with no political power and just a reminders of a painful national past that the country would just like to move on from.
 
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Thanks for the info GG. I was just wondering I believe that Nazi is banned under German law. I was wondering in Modern Germany have their been any high level politican in Germany believed to have connections to the underground Nazi movement and how much do the Nazi still play any role if at all in German Politics. Are they like how the Ku Klux Klan is over here? Once very powerful but now just a formal shell of it's self with no political power and just a reminders of a painful national past that the country would just like to move on from.

I'm always glad when I can answer questions! :)

The original Nazi party NSDAP was banned in 1945 by the Allies. When (West-)Germany was founded in 1949, many old Nazis formed the neo-Nazi party "German Reich Party". But this party never won more than 3% of the votes, IIRC.

According to German law, militant anti-constitutional parties can be banned (but are not banned by default, the hurdles are very high and the party can defend itself legally against a ban, on court). In 1953, this German Reich Party was banned, and in 1956 the Communist Party.

Neo-Nazis remained an isolated thing in Germany since then. In the 60s, the neo-Nazi party NPD was formed, but didn't even reach 1% of the votes -- except in 1969, when they won 4.7% surprisingly. But in the following elections, they went back down to 1% or so. Apparently, the established parties thought the NPD were too harmless to require a ban.

But many people, although not hardcore Nazis, still held certain Nazi views. See my description of Chancellor Adenauer (1949-1963) above. Also, many low-rank former Nazi party members would once again get important positions in post-war Germany. Now when they openly advanced anti-constitutional ideas, they were not allowed to work for the government in Germany, and most of them had perhaps rather been simple Nazi "Mitläufer" (not hardcore Nazis, but people who had just joined the Nazi party out of opportunism). Chancellor Adenauer even hired a former Nazi party member as his right hand in the office. When attacked for it, he just replied: "You don't throw away dirty water when you have no clean water."

But with a new generation growing older and taking over, these old Nazis more or less died out.

This only changed when after Reunification in 1990, the East joined the Federal Republic. The East was economically worse off than the West, unemployment was higher, prospects worse and it didn't have a democratic tradition. Some easteners felt as "losers of reunification". That was a fertile ground for the fringe neo-Nazis from the NPD, who managed to win some ground in some east German regions.

In some east German rural regions, neo-Nazi "comradeships" would dominate the streets -- mostly low skilled youngsters with few prospects, along the lines of what you can see in movies such as "American History X". The NPD managed to win 9.2% of the votes in the 2004 election in the eastern state of Saxony, and 6.0% in Mecklenburg. In 2009, the NPD still managed to win 5.6% of the votes in Saxony.

But on federal level, the NPD never made it beyond 1.6% of the votes.

I don't think any important politician of any established party has contacts to these neo-Nazis. They are outcasts, and contacts with them would be certain carreer killers. In fact, even more moderate, non-Nazi far-right parties have never been successful in Germany so far, because the established parties immediately "play the Nazi card" and that party is done. So whenever the non-Nazi far-right wants to be successful in German politics, they must make sure that nobody can possibly connect them to neo-Nazis, or they have no chance.

Some parties on the right failed already, like the Republicans (it was a conservative anti-immigration party in Germany that was locally successful in the late 80s and early 90s). They tried a lot to distance themselves from neo-Nazis, yet too many people considered them too Nazi-like, so it soon became irrelevant again.

At the moment, we see the right-populist anti-EU party AFD emerging in Germany. So far, they have well managed to make sure they have no Nazi-image. Let's see if they can maintain that.
 

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Wow this is some fascinating read. Thanks for this German Guy.

What I found curious, maybe it's just me, but it seems like you keep chancellors around for a long time, basically, until they screw the pooch in eyes of the voters. And then the power switches hands but until then, the people keep giving the guys in power a chance. And that's something I find very good in a government. I mean its' really impressive. I remember after the elections in germany that you and I talked and you told me that the voters would punish the other parties if they didn't form coalition with the union to start governing properly. Which is a long cry away from what I'm used to seeing here... usually people get in bed together to steal better from the public.

I also find it interesting, and this ties into what I said earlier you had so few chancellors so far. I mean, it strikes as being few but that's because I don't really know what's a proper amount of people to have in about 65 years. With the exception of merkel, it's just 7 chancellors and it would have been 6 if Erhard had lasted more than 3 years.

I have a question though. Who gets more votes from East Germany? what political parties get more support from the major political parties? And is the political culture there the same as it is in the rest of the country or do you notice differences in the way people in east germany expect the democratic process to work... I mean, do they see things differently when candidates present their platforms and have debates or is the same?
 

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Wow this is some fascinating read. Thanks for this German Guy.

Glad you enjoyed this little essay! :p And let me know next time you write a similar thread about Romania!

What I found curious, maybe it's just me, but it seems like you keep chancellors around for a long time, basically, until they screw the pooch in eyes of the voters. And then the power switches hands but until then, the people keep giving the guys in power a chance. And that's something I find very good in a government. I mean its' really impressive. I remember after the elections in germany that you and I talked and you told me that the voters would punish the other parties if they didn't form coalition with the union to start governing properly. Which is a long cry away from what I'm used to seeing here... usually people get in bed together to steal better from the public.

I also find it interesting, and this ties into what I said earlier you had so few chancellors so far. I mean, it strikes as being few but that's because I don't really know what's a proper amount of people to have in about 65 years. With the exception of merkel, it's just 7 chancellors and it would have been 6 if Erhard had lasted more than 3 years.

That's a good question, and I am not sure what's the reason for that. Maybe it's German mentality, to some extent: Voters appreciate values such as responsibility, effort and stability? Or it's our media, which in general, when it comes to the mainstream, is relatively balanced?

At any rate, (West-)Germany has had an extraordinarily stable political system. Until the 80s or so, the share of votes remained relatively stable, turnout was very high (above 90%) from the 60s to 80s, and the share of "core voters" (people who have a strong affinity to one party and will never vote for another) was rather high: By social status and denomination, you could almost certainly conclude the party affiliation. Religious Catholics would vote for the CDU/CSU by default. Protestant and atheist workers and employees would vote for the SPD by default. Employers, enterprisers and self-employed people would either vote for the CDU/CSU or, when they were more liberal-minded, the FDP.

In the 60s and 70s, basically *all* people went voting (turnout 90%+) and 99% of those who went voting would vote for either CDU/CSU, SPD or FDP.

So the two changes from right to left (1969) and back from left to right (1982) were not even because the voters made it happen. It was because the FDP changed their preference. They decided to support another senior partner, changed from the CDU/CSU to the SPD and back. When a party would win or lose 3% from one election to the next, that was an earthquake already.

With the rise of the Greens in the 80s, and a "post-materialistic" younger generation, this situation would slowly erode a little. The number of "switch voters" grew, turnout became lower, but it's still relatively stable in the West. This ties in with the 2nd question:

I have a question though. Who gets more votes from East Germany? what political parties get more support from the major political parties? And is the political culture there the same as it is in the rest of the country or do you notice differences in the way people in east germany expect the democratic process to work... I mean, do they see things differently when candidates present their platforms and have debates or is the same?

The most notable difference is that the socialist Left Party, successor of the reformed Commies in the East, are relatively strong in the east (between 20% and 30% of the votes), but weak in the west (until 2005 only 1%, now around 5%). In most of the five (six if you count Berlin) east German states, the Left Party is even party #2 in the state parliaments. (In three of them, they are #2 behind CDU, ahead of SPD and in two, they are #2 behind the SPD ahead of the CDU).

Also, the number of core voters is much smaller in the east, the number of switch voters and protest voters (people who will vote for some populist anti-establishment party in one election, abstain in the other) is much higher, turnout is considerably lower.

Certain opinions are more common in the east than in the west, the easteners have a stronger belief in the government and social state, less trust in the economy, are more xenophobic and more anti-american. But that's gradual, they're not polar opposites.

Have to go no (baby crying), I'll continue later ...
 

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Glad you enjoyed this little essay! :p And let me know next time you write a similar thread about Romania!
Oh... the thought had crossed my mind to make a post about the 3 post communist presidents and their respective PMs but maybe after the EU elections. But I can't think of any way to make it a pleasant read for the most part.

That's a good question, and I am not sure what's the reason for that. Maybe it's German mentality, to some extent: Voters appreciate values such as responsibility, effort and stability? Or it's our media, which in general, when it comes to the mainstream, is relatively balanced?

At any rate, (West-)Germany has had an extraordinarily stable political system. Until the 80s or so, the share of votes remained relatively stable, turnout was very high (above 90%) from the 60s to 80s, and the share of "core voters" (people who have a strong affinity to one party and will never vote for another) was rather high: By social status and denomination, you could almost certainly conclude the party affiliation. Religious Catholics would vote for the CDU/CSU by default. Protestant and atheist workers and employees would vote for the SPD by default. Employers, enterprisers and self-employed people would either vote for the CDU/CSU or, when they were more liberal-minded, the FDP.

In the 60s and 70s, basically *all* people went voting (turnout 90%+) and 99% of those who went voting would vote for either CDU/CSU, SPD or FDP.

So the two changes from right to left (1969) and back from left to right (1982) were not even because the voters made it happen. It was because the FDP changed their preference. They decided to support another senior partner, changed from the CDU/CSU to the SPD and back. When a party would win or lose 3% from one election to the next, that was an earthquake already.

With the rise of the Greens in the 80s, and a "post-materialistic" younger generation, this situation would slowly erode a little. The number of "switch voters" grew, turnout became lower, but it's still relatively stable in the West. This ties in with the 2nd question:

U told me some time ago, and if I remember this correctly, that it is the greens in germany who are really the true left-wing party and the SPD is actually a centrist party.

Do religious tendencies play a large part in the way people vote in Germany? I mean, is it a part of public discussion or is it just one of those things that happens? And does the Church "silently" takes sides? I mean, does the catholic church silently support the CSU/CDU and does the protestant church silently support the SPD?
The most notable difference is that the socialist Left Party, successor of the reformed Commies in the East, are relatively strong in the east (between 20% and 30% of the votes), but weak in the west (until 2005 only 1%, now around 5%). In most of the five (six if you count Berlin) east German states, the Left Party is even party #2 in the state parliaments. (In three of them, they are #2 behind CDU, ahead of SPD and in two, they are #2 behind the SPD ahead of the CDU).

Also, the number of core voters is much smaller in the east, the number of switch voters and protest voters (people who will vote for some populist anti-establishment party in one election, abstain in the other) is much higher, turnout is considerably lower.

Certain opinions are more common in the east than in the west, the easteners have a stronger belief in the government and social state, less trust in the economy, are more xenophobic and more anti-american. But that's gradual, they're not polar opposites.

Have to go no (baby crying), I'll continue later ...

Aha. Well this is sort of not unexpected. I was kinda thinking that there has to be and I would have been pleasantly surprised if the answer turned out differently.

On an alternate note, where does the AfD have most support? And who do they draw voters from. I remember you told me once but I can't for the life of me remember. Also, I await the rest of what you were planning to say. I like reading about german politics. It is to me one of the guilty pleasures of being in this forum.
 
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I have a question, is it true that he Russians were willing to give back East Germany and unify it with West Germany if Adenaur gave up Germany's claims to its Prussian territories to Poland and he refused so thats why there was a split?
 

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I have a question, is it true that he Russians were willing to give back East Germany and unify it with West Germany if Adenaur gave up Germany's claims to its Prussian territories to Poland and he refused so thats why there was a split?

Not exactly. It is true that Stalin offered to retreat from East Germany in 1953 or so, but for different conditions than you mentioned. His proposal was that West and East Germany shall be united (true, not the eastern territories), but *neutral*. Which means the western Allies were supposed to withdraw from West-Germany too.

Stalin was not willing to accept a united Germany that's part of the West. It should have been a kind of "big Austria", a buffer between east and west.

Adenauer was against that, but it's debatable how much say he had in the matter anyway: For all questions regarding the Allied occupation forces and questions concerning Germany as a whole, the Allies maintained the last word until 1990 (which is why they had to approve Reunification in 1990 too -- and then withdrew). Even if Adenauer had wanted to accept this deal, he couldn't have done so without approval by the US, Britain and France.

Adenauer and the western Allies rejected that offer, and it's often said that they didn't trust Stalin he would really respect Germany's neutrality -- but just wanted to get the western Allies out, for that he can slowly infiltrate neutral Germany. Also, the western Allies perhaps didn't trust Germany enough to accept it becoming independent so soon after WW2. In the early 50s, it was not certain yet at all in which direction Germany would develop. So why risk another Weimar, which may well fall to either commies or fascists again after a decade or so?

Adenauer is quoted having said: "I rather want full control over half of Germany, than half the control over the whole of Germany" (not sure if that translates well).
 
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Oh... the thought had crossed my mind to make a post about the 3 post communist presidents and their respective PMs but maybe after the EU elections. But I can't think of any way to make it a pleasant read for the most part.

Looking forward to reading it, at any rate!

U told me some time ago, and if I remember this correctly, that it is the greens in germany who are really the true left-wing party and the SPD is actually a centrist party.

Not sure what exactly I said, but that's only partly what I think: Yes, both SPD and CDU/CSU have moved closer to the center in the past 15 years or so. First Chancellor Schröder from the SPD followed Tony Blair's "third way" example and made several reforms hardly anybody even expected the right to do. And likewise, Merkel stole many topics from the left in the past years. A conservative friend of mine joked he should vote for the left, because chances are greater then he'll get right-wing policies. ;)

But I don't think the Greens are truly "left wing". Unless you consider environmentalism "left wing". They're more social liberal, certainly not traditionally labor-left. IIRC, I once said here that the Greens are now a truly liberal party, because I have the impression they are the party that cares most about civil rights.

The truly left-wing party in Germany is the socialist Left Party I mentioned above. It rose after the SPD voters' discontentment with Schröder's reforms in 2004, and became more than a mere east German regional party. It's very heterogenous, you find moderate social democrats in that party, but also a huge bunch of fringe nuts and extremists, such as radical pacifists, GDR-nostalgics, radical unionists and communists. It's basically a "Tea Party on the left".

Do religious tendencies play a large part in the way people vote in Germany? I mean, is it a part of public discussion or is it just one of those things that happens? And does the Church "silently" takes sides? I mean, does the catholic church silently support the CSU/CDU and does the protestant church silently support the SPD?

It was certainly the case in the 50s and 60s, maybe even later, that the Catholic priests would more or less openly propose their believers to vote for the CDU/CSU. Likewise, the unions a majority of workers were members of, openly supported the SPD.

But that has eroded very much since the 80s. The churches and unions are by far not as important anymore as they used to be. Only 10% to 15% of the Germans are still regular churchgoers, and there was a similar drop of union membership among workers and employees.

So today, religious affiliation doesn't play a major role anymore. Except that you may say that statistically, the right is still stronger in Catholic regions and the left in Protestant and/or atheist regions.

Aha. Well this is sort of not unexpected. I was kinda thinking that there has to be and I would have been pleasantly surprised if the answer turned out differently.

On an alternate note, where does the AfD have most support? And who do they draw voters from. I remember you told me once but I can't for the life of me remember. Also, I await the rest of what you were planning to say. I like reading about german politics. It is to me one of the guilty pleasures of being in this forum.

As the AfD is still relatively new and has, to my knowledge, only participated in one single election so far (the federal election last September), I have not seen charts or studies about that question yet. But I read somewhere that it was slightly stronger in some eastern states, where the number of protest voters is generally higher, than in the west (6% to 7% in Thuringia, for example, compared to the 4.7% nation-wide).

The AfD has drawn voters from all sides, but mostly from the libertarian FDP (it lost two thirds of its voters in 2013) and from previous non-voters. In the East, also a significant number of former Left Party voters voted for the AfD. It's also expected (and hoped) that they will draw away some protest voters from the neo-Nazi NPD in the east.
 
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An American pen pal asked me to write him a few things about the past German Chancellors. Since I've written it already, I thought I'd post it here too, as maybe some of you are interested.

I try to be really fair about the different Chancellors, mention both their good and bad decisions, although you might notice I have a preference for the center-left. Here it goes:

What about the Chancellors of the DDR? You seemed to have overlooked them.
 

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Not exactly. It is true that Stalin offered to retreat from East Germany in 1953 or so, but for different conditions than you mentioned. His proposal was that West and East Germany shall be united (true, not the eastern territories), but *neutral*. Which means the western Allies were supposed to withdraw from West-Germany too.

Stalin was not willing to accept a united Germany that's part of the West. It should have been a kind of "big Austria", a buffer between east and west.

Adenauer was against that, but it's debatable how much say he had in the matter anyway: For all questions regarding the Allied occupation forces and questions concerning Germany as a whole, the Allies maintained the last word until 1990 (which is why they had to approve Reunification in 1990 too -- and then withdrew). Even if Adenauer had wanted to accept this deal, he couldn't have done so without approval by the US, Britain and France.

Adenauer and the western Allies rejected that offer, and it's often said that they didn't trust Stalin he would really respect Germany's neutrality -- but just wanted to get the western Allies out, for that he can slowly infiltrate neutral Germany. Also, the western Allies perhaps didn't trust Germany enough to accept it becoming independent so soon after WW2. In the early 50s, it was not certain yet at all in which direction Germany would develop. So why risk another Weimar, which may well fall to either commies or fascists again after a decade or so?

Adenauer is quoted having said: "I rather want full control over half of Germany, than half the control over the whole of Germany" (not sure if that translates well).

Hmm, that is very interesting. Do you think that if Adenaur had accepted Stalin's proposal could Germany have thrown out the West and become neutral like Austria, thereby keeping Germany intact during the Cold War?
 

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What about the Chancellors of the DDR? You seemed to have overlooked them.

Well, the GDR didn't have freely elected Chancellors, but it was a one-party communist dictatorship, a puppet of the USSR, and the power had the General Secretary (who was at the same time chairman of the government cabinet and the chairman of the gremium leading the Marxist-Leninist state party SED). But for the sake of completeness, here they are:


Walter Ulbricht (official Marxist-Leninist state party SED) 1950-1971:

Walter-Ulbricht.jpg

During Ulbricht's time as GDR leader, the Soviets attempted to build a new socialist state in Germany after the example of the Stalinist USSR. The SED ("Socialist Unity Party of Germany") was directly dependent on the Communist Party of the USSR and the party leadership was at the same time the GDR government (official state party). In 1953 already, the government raised the desired production quotas in state-owned factories, which was basically a massive wage-cut for GDR workers. Many East-Germans went on the streets protesting. Ulbricht asked the Soviet occupation army to help, and they struck down the uprising with force, creating a bloodbath.

Over the following years, more and more East-Germans left the GDR to escape to West-Germany. It is estimated almost 2 million GDR citizens left the "socialist paradise" (of a total population of 17 million). Because this drain was a severe threat for the GDR economy, Ulbricht decided to build the Berlin Wall in 1961, making escape from the GDR impossible. GDR citizens were no longer allowed to leave the country, and those who did were shot at the border. Only a few days before the Wall was built, Ulbricht lied on tv saying "nobody has any intention of building a wall".

During his leadership, Western culture such as music, tv and radio was forbidden for the GDR citizens. In every living block in the cities and in every town, there were Stasi snitches who would white reports and even punish citizens who were caught watching West-German tv or listening to American music.


Erich Honecker (Marxist-Leninist state party SED) 1971-1989:

bundesarchiv_bild_183-1987-0724-321__erich_honecker_beim_interview_a.jpg

He had been chairman of the communist youth organization and many younger people hoped he would allow a liberalization. But he didn't. Only in power for a few years, he would withdraw the citizenship of several East-German intellectuals and artists who had been temporarily in West-Germany. Those included not just people critical of communism, but even convinced communists who just criticized the GDR system.

The GDR could less and less compete with the West economically. Towards the late 80s, the GDR citizens were finally fed up with the tyrannic dictatorship, went on the streets to protest against the government in masses, several millions went on the streets (out of a population of 16 million). Their first demands were just that the government would guarantee the rights the commies had written down in the GDR constitution, but didn't respect.

When Gorbachev started reforming the USSR with Glasnost and Perestroyka, Honecker refused to do the same in the GDR, because he was a commie hardliner. The angry GDR people started loving Gorbachev, who told Honecker that "those who come too late will be punished by life".

In late 1989, the protests finally reached a peak, the communist party had to sacrifice someone, and Honecker was incapable of even the slightest compromises towards the people. So they pushed him to resign, which he did eventually.


Egon Krenz (Marxist-Leninist state party SED) 1989:

20505


Krenz attempted to save the communist dictatorship by giving in to the revolting people, promising many reforms. Due to a gaffe by one of his ministers, the Berlin Wall was opened on November 9th 1989. From that moment on, the people was no longer satisfied with empty promises, but started demanding a true democratization and free elections in the GDR. Krenz got soon heavy criticism from pro-Gorbachev fellow communist party members. He realized he cannot save the GDR anymore and resigned after two months.


Hans Modrow (reformed socialist state party SED/PDS) 1989-1990:

17022.jpg

Modrow had been a reformer inside the SED, and in an emergency party convention in December 1989, these reformers inside the Marxist-Leninist SED took power, decided to give up its claim as official state party, and to prepare genuinely free elections in March 1990. Modrow became the provisional General Secretary until the free elections would be held 4 months later.

He later became honorary elder within the successor of the SED even in reunified Germany, the socialist Left Party.


Lothar DeMaiziere (center-right CDU) 1990:

Brandenburg_deMaiziere.jpg

DeMaiziere was the candidate of the center-right CDU in the first free election in the GDR on March 18th 1990. His party's demand was a quick reunification with West-Germany, and almost 50% of the GDR citizens voted for his party. He then formed a 80%+ coalition in the freely elected GDR parliament with almost all other pro-democratic parties. Quickly after assuming office, he started negotiations with West-Germany's government and the Allies for a quick Reunification, that eventually took place October 3rd 1990.

In Unified Germany, DeMaiziere became minister for special affairs in Chancellor Kohl's (center-right CDU) government 1990-1994. His cousin Thomas DeMaiziere is today (2014) the incumbent minister of the interior (center-right CDU).


Is that what you wanted to know? ;)
 

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Very informative GG. I always enjoyed your posts. Maybe I'll start a similar thread about SK as an inspiration. A great read.
 

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Interesting topic, G Guy.

I grew up around a fairly large German 'colony' here in Texas, many families still speak German among themselves there; some date back to before Texas was a state, many more immigrated after German 'unification' and Bismarck's draft being very unpopular in some German states in those days. A few more immigrated after the war, having been prisoners of war sent to camps here during WW II.

Adenauer seems to be the most popular with them, with Willi Brandt being the least popular; the consensus seemed to be that he would sell out to the Soviets, at the time.

As I know as much about German politics as German Guy knows about my local school board candidates, all I can add is that imo Adenauer was probably the best of the post-WW II Chancellors, and Helmut Schmidt doesn't annoy me.

Kiesinger is perhaps best remembered for the fact he had been a low-rank Nazi party member until 1945. When that was revealed, many protested against him. A young woman even gave him a slap in the face in front of running cameras, calling him "Nazi". That caused some uproar. In the end, Kiesinger could present Nazi documents that revealed his superior Nazis considered him "unreliable", because he "sabotaged anti-Jewish actions".

I've always found this puzzling, since joining the 'Party' was pretty much automatic for many jobs and careers after 1935, and it had little to do with any sort of ideology for many of those 'Party members'; it would seem Germans would have known that, and it would only be an issue if the candidate was known to be a fanatic of some sort.
 

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Interesting topic, G Guy.

I grew up around a fairly large German 'colony' here in Texas, many families still speak German among themselves there; some date back to before Texas was a state, many more immigrated after German 'unification' and Bismarck's draft being very unpopular in some German states in those days. A few more immigrated after the war, having been prisoners of war sent to camps here during WW II.

Adenauer seems to be the most popular with them, with Willi Brandt being the least popular; the consensus seemed to be that he would sell out to the Soviets, at the time.

That opinion was not uncommon for very conservative Germans over here either, especially those with no family ties to the East. The 1972 election was perhaps the most polarized one in West-German history, with the right accusing Chancellor Brandt of "selling out to the Soviets" with his "eastern policies". But the people decided they trust Brandt more: For the first time, his SPD became strongest party, and the CDU/CSU gave up this rhetorical anti-communism ever since. When it came back to power in 1982, Kohl from the right more or less continued the eastern policy Brandt had started.

But I'd argue that Brandt didn't really do anything outrageous. He basically just followed the example of Kennedy after the Cuban Missile Crisis and LBJ. It was them who had started a policy of detente towards the east, ending the Cold War and replacing it with "peaceful co-existence".

In my environment, such as among my father and his parents, Brandt was very popular, because my father had been cut off from his parents due to the Berlin Wall. He had grown up in the east, but went to college in the west in 1960. The next year, the Wall was built and it was extremely complicated for him to visit his parents, and they were not allowed to visit him at all. All their letters would be read by the Stasi and when he sent other stuff to them, most of it would never arrive.

Thanks to Brandt's negotiations with the east, the east guaranteed certain visiting rights for family members, it became much less of a hassle, and it became even legal for east-German citizens to leave for the west the moment they reached retirement age. That's why my grandparents were allowed to join my father in the west once they were 65.

Because of that, I remember my grandmother would speak fondly of Brandt all the time.

As I know as much about German politics as German Guy knows about my local school board candidates, all I can add is that imo Adenauer was probably the best of the post-WW II Chancellors, and Helmut Schmidt doesn't annoy me.

Adenauer was certainly the most defining Chancellor for West-Germany, followed by Brandt. He made many of the decisions that became the core of what makes post-war Germany, such as Western integration. And making peace between the German right and the constitutional, republican system.

I've always found this puzzling, since joining the 'Party' was pretty much automatic for many jobs and careers after 1935, and it had little to do with any sort of ideology for many of those 'Party members'; it would seem Germans would have known that, and it would only be an issue if the candidate was known to be a fanatic of some sort.

True, but considering the magnitude of the Nazi crimes, even bland opportunism must be considered an extreme character flaw already. "Sorry guys, I know 6 million Jews were murdered, and I didn't do anything about it, even contributed to it on a low level, but hey, I did so only because I wanted a promotion". Doesn't sound like a good excuse, right? ;)

IIRC, the Nazi Party had ca. 8 million members in the end. Germany had a population of ca. 80 million before WW2 started. That means one out of ten was a party member -- 9 out of 10 weren't. It was easy to avoid becoming party member, if you really wanted. The worst you had to fear was a lack of promotion at your job. Isn't it an obvious conclusion that these 10% were at least somewhat closer to Nazi ideology, at least actively tolerating it, than the other 90%? And of course, you should think that for building a new, free Germany, you could easily resort to people from the non-Nazi 90%.

Yet a very huge number of former Nazi Party members once again rose to important positions in West-Germany. The youth that rebelled against their Nazi parents around 1968 even felt it had gotton so bad they were afraid of a "Nazi restauration" by people who only in words support democracy, but in reality cling to old authoritarian Nazi ideas. Now that was a gross exaggeration perhaps, but it's understandable where this notion came from.

Or let's take a hypothetical analogy: Let's assume the South had been run by the KKK during the civil war and had murdered 6 million blacks, including women and children. Then, after being defeated, many of the 10% former KKK members once again held many important positions in the liberated South. My guess is that at least a large minority, if no majority of Americans would consider that unacceptable too. And many would not be forgiving of those who had joined the KKK out of opportunism.
 

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When Gorbachev started reforming the USSR with Glasnost and Perestroyka, Honecker refused to do the same in the GDR, because he was a commie hardliner. The angry GDR people started loving Gorbachev, who told Honecker that "those who come too late will be punished by life".

I think East Germany and Poland at the time fared a lot better relative to other Soviet puppet regimes, as the Soviets were intent on providing a 'showcase' of how great Soviet style socialism was, for propaganda purposes, hence they poured more resources into the most visible states closest to western media, especially re food, medical, and fuel allotments and the like. Those states were also slightly more productive, given the higher general education levels of the population there, so yes, no doubt the East German apparatchiks and Party members wouldn't have been happy with the change in status of their bailiwicks, I would guess.
 

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That opinion was not uncommon for very conservative Germans over here either, especially those with no family ties to the East. The 1972 election was perhaps the most polarized one in West-German history, with the right accusing Chancellor Brandt of "selling out to the Soviets" with his "eastern policies". But the people decided they trust Brandt more: For the first time, his SPD became strongest party, and the CDU/CSU gave up this rhetorical anti-communism ever since. When it came back to power in 1982, Kohl from the right more or less continued the eastern policy Brandt had started.

But I'd argue that Brandt didn't really do anything outrageous. He basically just followed the example of Kennedy after the Cuban Missile Crisis and LBJ. It was them who had started a policy of detente towards the east, ending the Cold War and replacing it with "peaceful co-existence".

It's not popular these days to give credit to LBJ and his Viet Nam war policies, and there is a lot to criticize about primarily domestic politics and the like here in the U.S., but it was those policies that brought the USSR to the brink of bankruptcy in the early '70's, discrediting Kruschev's and his successor's policies, leaving them vulnerable to the oil shocks that followed, along with the rarely noted world food shortages that forced the Soviets to import wheat and the like from the U.S. and Europe in that era; added failures in the ME and Africa were the Israeli victories in '67 and '73, which enraged their puppet regimes there and cost them as well. IMO that was an easy call for Brandt. I'm not criticizing it, it was the right policy at the time; many here feared a sudden, abrupt collapse of such a large nuclear power at the time, for obvious reasons. Reducing tensions was definitely the intelligent choice along those borders. Raving Right wingers would have just screwed it all up if they were in power.

In my environment, such as among my father and his parents, Brandt was very popular, because my father had been cut off from his parents due to the Berlin Wall. He had grown up in the east, but went to college in the west in 1960. The next year, the Wall was built and it was extremely complicated for him to visit his parents, and they were not allowed to visit him at all. All their letters would be read by the Stasi and when he sent other stuff to them, most of it would never arrive.

Thanks to Brandt's negotiations with the east, the east guaranteed certain visiting rights for family members, it became much less of a hassle, and it became even legal for east-German citizens to leave for the west the moment they reached retirement age. That's why my grandparents were allowed to join my father in the west once they were 65.

Because of that, I remember my grandmother would speak fondly of Brandt all the time.

I was 7 in 1960. I still remember the wall going up and the airlifts in the news.

True, but considering the magnitude of the Nazi crimes, even bland opportunism must be considered an extreme character flaw already. "Sorry guys, I know 6 million Jews were murdered, and I didn't do anything about it, even contributed to it on a low level, but hey, I did so only because I wanted a promotion". Doesn't sound like a good excuse, right? ;)

lol yes I can understand that point.

Or let's take a hypothetical analogy: Let's assume the South had been run by the KKK during the civil war and had murdered 6 million blacks, including women and children. Then, after being defeated, many of the 10% former KKK members once again held many important positions in the liberated South. My guess is that at least a large minority, if no majority of Americans would consider that unacceptable too. And many would not be forgiving of those who had joined the KKK out of opportunism.

Actually the KKK was larger in the Midwest and California and New York than they were in the South in those days, but I see the point. Many Southern politicians had no use for the Klan, even Geaorge Wallace and Strom Thurmond didn't like them or got their support, whatever their racial views were; they were a kind of southern equivalent of the Mafia gangs in the North.
 

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I think East Germany and Poland at the time fared a lot better relative to other Soviet puppet regimes, as the Soviets were intent on providing a 'showcase' of how great Soviet style socialism was, for propaganda purposes, hence they poured more resources into the most visible states closest to western media, especially re food, medical, and fuel allotments and the like. Those states were also slightly more productive, given the higher general education levels of the population there, so yes, no doubt the East German apparatchiks and Party members wouldn't have been happy with the change in status of their bailiwicks, I would guess.

Yes, it makes sense that this was a reason for the East-German commies being more hardline than even the Soviet commies in the late 80s.

Can't say I'm too familiar with domestic developments in the East, such as their various "five-year-plans" and "seven-year-plans" and whatever else they had. Neither am I in the know about the internal developments in the SED. So I can't give better explanations for this stubbornness towards the end of the GDR.
 

Oberon

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Yes, it makes sense that this was a reason for the East-German commies being more hardline than even the Soviet commies in the late 80s.

Can't say I'm too familiar with domestic developments in the East, such as their various "five-year-plans" and "seven-year-plans" and whatever else they had. Neither am I in the know about the internal developments in the SED. So I can't give better explanations for this stubbornness towards the end of the GDR.

It's brought up in several histories of the Brezhnev era I've read; don't have a link immediately handy but the economic strain of propping up East Germany, Poland, and I think also the Czechs was a major concern at the time. It was partly responsible for the Soviet refusal to send more modern military material to their ME clients both in the late '60's and the '70's. Many of their pet dictators blamed this refusal for their 'defeats' in the Israeli wars. This is of course ridiculous, but still the excuse they gave their 'Arab Street' at the time.

In the '80's it was Reagan's blathering and posturing that gave the hardliners the domestic political ammunition and leverage against Gorby; all that noise probably set the reforms back at least three years.
 
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Oberon

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Dupe post. The connection on my end crapped out when I hit submit.
 
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