A History of Modern Germany: 1871 to Present

A History of Modern Germany: 1871 to Present

by Dietrich Orlow

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781138742246
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Publication date: 09/15/2018
Edition description: New
Pages: 476
Product dimensions: 6.75(w) x 9.75(h) x (d)

About the Author

Dietrich Orlow is Professor (emerit.) of History at Boston University. He has taught and written extensively on contemporary German and European history. His recent books include Common Destiny: A Comparative History of the Dutch, French, and German Social Democratic Parties, 1945-1969 (2000) and Socialist Reformers and the Collapse of the German Democratic Republic (2015).

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Much of the history covered in this work seems to contradict the title of this book. For almost all of the second half of the twentieth century, Germany had been not one country, but two: West Germany, formally the Federal Republic of Germany, and East Germany, the German Democratic Republic. At first glance they seemed to have little in common. West Germany was (and is) a liberal democracy representing values of political and cultural pluralism and modified free enterprise. East Germany was a Communist state whose leaders attempted to create a society founded on the principles of Marxism-Leninism. The two nations were integrated into opposing power blocs. West Germany is a friend of the United States and a member of the NATO alliance; East Germany was the Soviet Union's most important European ally and a member of the now-defunct Warsaw Pact. Relations between the two Germanies were strained, to put it mildly.

Yet, as if to illustrate that nothing in history is permanent, as this fifth edition of A History of Modern Germany goes to press, Germany has been reunited for more than a decade. When the text first appeared, fourteen years ago, there seemed little likelihood that East and West Germany would be reunited. But the dramatic events of 1989 led to the swift and unexpected collapse of the GDR. In a few short months, the East German Communist regime fell from power, the hated Berlin Wall crumbled, and the East German people in a genuinely free election voted for reunification with the West.

Ironically, as a divided nation the two German states achieved much of what the German people sought in vain when they were last a united country: a long period ofpolitical stability, economic prosperity, and peace with their neighbors. Equally paradoxical, despite the existence of two German states, interest in the two countries' joint history seemed to increase. The reason is easy to see: The division of the country was the result of the course of German history in the years from 1871 to the end of World War II in 1945. For almost three-quarters of a century, German history was synonymous with "the German problem," a shorthand way of indicating that Germany was an unstable and unpredictable factor in modern European history. A revolution, several coup attempts, and four constitutions gave the country political systems that ranged from monarchical authoritarianism to liberal democracy and Nazi totalitarianism, but no lasting stability. Closely related to political and social upheavals, the German economy experienced alternate periods of boom and bust. Twice in modern times the country reached the brink of economic and fiscal collapse.

Domestic upheavals in turn were related to repeated attempts by Germany's leaders to change the balance of power in Europe and the rest of the world. Having achieved national unity by victorious wars, the German leaders repeatedly attempted to use international aggression to provide the nation with domestic stability, economic prosperity, and respect abroad. The pattern culminated with Adolf Hitler's deliberate unleashing of World War II to realize his vast ambitions. At the end of that conflict, bombed cities, millions of dead, wounded, homeless, and a divided nation subject to the whims of the victors represented the consequences of hubris.

Yet modern German history is more than Prusso-German authoritarianism, the Nazi dictatorship, military aggression, and the Holocaust. This account of the country's path from national unification in 1871 to political division in 1945 and reunification in our own day attempts to present the alternative aspects as well. Long-standing, if often submerged, traditions of political, cultural, and economic liberalism as well as left-wing radicalism existed side by side with authoritarian and regressive strains. Their surprisingly swift and strong establishment as societal values after World War II happened in large part because for many years these components in the German societal makeup, although not dominant, had been struggling for viability and recognition.

This is not a narrative history in the traditional sense. Many events have been omitted in order to keep the text "problem-oriented." I have tried to retain the central focus on the dynamics in German society that led to both the volatility and unpredictability in the country's domestic policies and foreign relations, and to its impressive achievements.

The "Im Mittelpunkt" ("In the Spotlight") pieces, a new feature of this edition, provide biographical capsules for a variety of prominent Germans from all walks of life.

It is a pleasant duty to acknowledge the help that this book has received from a number of colleagues and friends. Werner T. Ankress, Jeffrey Diefendorf, Werner Jochmann, Jean Leventhal, David Morgan, Arnold Offner, Norman Naimark, and Catherine Epstein all took the trouble to read portions of the manuscript. I would like to thank them for their valuable comments and suggestions. I am grateful to Eliza McClennen of the Boston University Geography Department for drawing all of the maps except for the one showing Germany since 1990. That one is reproduced courtesy of the periodical Deutschland Magazine.

A heartfelt thanks to the reviewers: Dan S. White, State University of New York at Albany; Nathan M. Brooks, New Mexico State University; and Martin Berger, Youngstown State University; and to the reviewers of earlier editions: William Combs, Western Illinois University; David A. Meyer, Dickinson State University; Loyd Lee, State University of New York at New Paltz; Narasingha Sil, Western Oregon State College; Rudy Koshar, University of Southern California; Richard Breitman, American University in Chevy Chase, MD; and David A. Hackett, University of Texas at El Paso. This fifth edition has also benefited from the comments of several colleagues who used the first four editions in their courses and were kind enough to point out some factual errors and unclear interpretations in the earlier work.

As always, my wife, Maria, was an active collaborator and constructive critic in bringing out this fifth edition. Any shortcomings that remain are, of course, my own responsibility.

Dietrich Orlow
Aussee, Austria
Wassenaar, The Netherlands

Table of Contents

LIST OF FIGURES

LIST OF MAPS

PREFACE

1 THE FOUNDERS’ GENERATION, 1871–1890

The Road to Unification

After Unification: Economic and Political Power Structures

The Kulturkampf

Im Mittelpunkt: Ludwig Windthorst (1812–1891)

Economic and Social Developments

Im Mittelpunkt: Gerson Bleichröder (1822–1893)

Social Legislation and Antisocialist Laws

Foreign Relations

The End of the Era and Bismarck’s Dismissal

2 WILHELMENIAN GERMANY, 1890–1914

The Structures and Personalities of Modern Politics

Economic and Social Developments

Literature, Art, and Society

Im Mittelpunkt: Heinrich (1871–1950) and Thomas Mann (1875–1955)

Im Mittelpunkt: Karl May (1842–1912)

Foreign Relations

Germany on the Eve of World War I

3 WORLD WAR I, 1914–1918

The Debate over the Outbreak of the War

Military Developments

Im Mittelpunkt: Erich Ludendorff (1865–1937)

Domestic Politics: Reform, Repression, and Revolution

War and Society

Conclusion: The Long-Term Impact of the War

4 REVOLUTION, INFLATION, AND PUTSCHES:

THE SEARCH FOR A NEW CONSENSUS, 1918–1923

Revolution

Im Mittelpunkt: Rosa Luxemburg (1870–1919)

Im Mittelpunkt: Friedrich Ebert (1871–1925)

The Weimar Constitution

The Treaty of Versailles

Economic and Social Problems

Im Mittelpunkt: Walther Rathenau (1867–1922)

Everyday Life under Extreme Duress

Counterrevolution

Foreign Relations

Conclusion

5 FOOLS’ GOLD: THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC, 1924–1930

The Search for the Elusive Political Consensus

Economic and Social Developments

Weimar Culture

Im Mittelpunkt: Marlene Dietrich (1901–1992)

Im Mittelpunkt: Kurt Weill (1900–1950)

Foreign Relations

The Depression and the End of Parliamentary Democracy

6 FROM AUTHORITARIANISM TO TOTALITARIANISM, 1930–1938

The Rule of the New Conservatives

Im Mittelpunkt: Heinrich Brüning (1885–1970)

Im Mittelpunkt: Franz von Papen (1879–1969)

The Nazis’ Rise to Power

Gleichschaltung: The Establishment of Nazi Totalitarianism

Social Life and the Concept of the Volksgemeinschaft

Foreign Relations

Conclusion

7 CONQUEST, DEATH, AND DEFEAT, 1938–1945

Further Growth of the Nazi Führer State

Im Mittelpunkt: Reinhard Heydrich (1904–1942)

The Road to War

Nazi Rule in Europe

The Holocaust

Im Mittelpunkt: Viktor Klemperer (1881–1960)

Economy and Society

The End of the Third Reich

8 "CONDOMINIUM OF THE ALLIED POWERS," 1945–1949

The German Resistance: Strengths and Delusions

Im Mittelpunkt: Claus von Stauffenberg (1907–1944)

Allied Visions and Plans, 1941–1945

The Immediate Legacy of the Third Reich: The Reality of "Zero Hour"

Reparations and Economic Recovery

"Exorcising the Evil": De-Nazification and Reeducation

Revival of Administrative, Political, and Cultural Life

The Cold War and the Division of Germany

Conclusion

9 THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY, 1949–1990

The Adenauer Era, 1949–1963

Im Mittelpunkt: Konrad Adenauer (1876–1967)

The Changing of the Guard, 1963–1974

Im Mittelpunkt: Helmut Schmidt (1918–2015)

Culture and Society

Im Mittelpunkt: Günter Grass (1927–2015)

1968 and Beyond: Troubled 1970s and 1980s

Conclusion

10 THE GERMAN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC, 1949–1990

The Quest for Viability

Im Mittelpunkt: Erich Mielke (1907–2000)

East Germany in the 1960s

Culture and Society

Im Mittelpunkt: Wolf Biermann (1936–)

Conflicting Signals: East Germany under Erich Honecker, 1971–1989

1989: The Year of the Ultimate Crisis

Im Mittelpunkt: Kurt Masur (1927–2015)

Conclusion

11 EUPHORIA AND DISILLUSIONMENT, 1990–2005

Political Developments

Im Mittelpunkt: Gerhard Schröder (1944–)

The End of the Kohl Era

Economic and Social Developments

Foreign Policy

German Society Fifteen Years after Reunification

Problems and Prospects

12 THE NEW NORMAL, 2005 to the Present

Im Mittelpunkt: Angela Merkel (1954–)

Parties, Politics and Elections

Foreign Relations

Im Mittelpunkt: Ursula von der Leyen (1958–)

The Refugee Crisis of 2015/16 and the Rise of Anti-Establishment Groups

Culture

Im Mittelpunkt: Herta Müller (1953–)

Problems and Prospects

13 CONCLUSION

SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING

INDEX

Preface

Much of the history covered in this work seems to contradict the title of this book. For almost all of the second half of the twentieth century, Germany had been not one country, but two: West Germany, formally the Federal Republic of Germany, and East Germany, the German Democratic Republic. At first glance they seemed to have little in common. West Germany was (and is) a liberal democracy representing values of political and cultural pluralism and modified free enterprise. East Germany was a Communist state whose leaders attempted to create a society founded on the principles of Marxism-Leninism. The two nations were integrated into opposing power blocs. West Germany is a friend of the United States and a member of the NATO alliance; East Germany was the Soviet Union's most important European ally and a member of the now-defunct Warsaw Pact. Relations between the two Germanies were strained, to put it mildly.

Yet, as if to illustrate that nothing in history is permanent, as this fifth edition of A History of Modern Germany goes to press, Germany has been reunited for more than a decade. When the text first appeared, fourteen years ago, there seemed little likelihood that East and West Germany would be reunited. But the dramatic events of 1989 led to the swift and unexpected collapse of the GDR. In a few short months, the East German Communist regime fell from power, the hated Berlin Wall crumbled, and the East German people in a genuinely free election voted for reunification with the West.

Ironically, as a divided nation the two German states achieved much of what the German people sought in vain when they were last a united country: a long period of politicalstability, economic prosperity, and peace with their neighbors. Equally paradoxical, despite the existence of two German states, interest in the two countries' joint history seemed to increase. The reason is easy to see: The division of the country was the result of the course of German history in the years from 1871 to the end of World War II in 1945. For almost three-quarters of a century, German history was synonymous with "the German problem," a shorthand way of indicating that Germany was an unstable and unpredictable factor in modern European history. A revolution, several coup attempts, and four constitutions gave the country political systems that ranged from monarchical authoritarianism to liberal democracy and Nazi totalitarianism, but no lasting stability. Closely related to political and social upheavals, the German economy experienced alternate periods of boom and bust. Twice in modern times the country reached the brink of economic and fiscal collapse.

Domestic upheavals in turn were related to repeated attempts by Germany's leaders to change the balance of power in Europe and the rest of the world. Having achieved national unity by victorious wars, the German leaders repeatedly attempted to use international aggression to provide the nation with domestic stability, economic prosperity, and respect abroad. The pattern culminated with Adolf Hitler's deliberate unleashing of World War II to realize his vast ambitions. At the end of that conflict, bombed cities, millions of dead, wounded, homeless, and a divided nation subject to the whims of the victors represented the consequences of hubris.

Yet modern German history is more than Prusso-German authoritarianism, the Nazi dictatorship, military aggression, and the Holocaust. This account of the country's path from national unification in 1871 to political division in 1945 and reunification in our own day attempts to present the alternative aspects as well. Long-standing, if often submerged, traditions of political, cultural, and economic liberalism as well as left-wing radicalism existed side by side with authoritarian and regressive strains. Their surprisingly swift and strong establishment as societal values after World War II happened in large part because for many years these components in the German societal makeup, although not dominant, had been struggling for viability and recognition.

This is not a narrative history in the traditional sense. Many events have been omitted in order to keep the text "problem-oriented." I have tried to retain the central focus on the dynamics in German society that led to both the volatility and unpredictability in the country's domestic policies and foreign relations, and to its impressive achievements.

The "Im Mittelpunkt" ("In the Spotlight") pieces, a new feature of this edition, provide biographical capsules for a variety of prominent Germans from all walks of life.

It is a pleasant duty to acknowledge the help that this book has received from a number of colleagues and friends. Werner T. Ankress, Jeffrey Diefendorf, Werner Jochmann, Jean Leventhal, David Morgan, Arnold Offner, Norman Naimark, and Catherine Epstein all took the trouble to read portions of the manuscript. I would like to thank them for their valuable comments and suggestions. I am grateful to Eliza McClennen of the Boston University Geography Department for drawing all of the maps except for the one showing Germany since 1990. That one is reproduced courtesy of the periodical Deutschland Magazine.

A heartfelt thanks to the reviewers: Dan S. White, State University of New York at Albany; Nathan M. Brooks, New Mexico State University; and Martin Berger, Youngstown State University; and to the reviewers of earlier editions: William Combs, Western Illinois University; David A. Meyer, Dickinson State University; Loyd Lee, State University of New York at New Paltz; Narasingha Sil, Western Oregon State College; Rudy Koshar, University of Southern California; Richard Breitman, American University in Chevy Chase, MD; and David A. Hackett, University of Texas at El Paso. This fifth edition has also benefited from the comments of several colleagues who used the first four editions in their courses and were kind enough to point out some factual errors and unclear interpretations in the earlier work.

As always, my wife, Maria, was an active collaborator and constructive critic in bringing out this fifth edition. Any shortcomings that remain are, of course, my own responsibility.

Dietrich Orlow
Aussee, Austria
Wassenaar, The Netherlands

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