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The University of North Carolina Press
Germany's Cold War: The Global Campaign to Isolate East Germany, 1949-1969 / Edition 1

Germany's Cold War: The Global Campaign to Isolate East Germany, 1949-1969 / Edition 1

by William Glenn Gray


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Using newly available material from both sides of the Iron Curtain, William Glenn Gray explores West Germany's efforts to prevent international acceptance of East Germany as a legitimate state following World War II.

Unwilling to accept the division of their country, West German leaders regarded the German Democratic Republic (GDR) as an illegitimate upstart--a puppet of the occupying Soviet forces. Together with France, Britain, and the United States, West Germany applied political and financial pressure around the globe to ensure that the GDR remain unrecognized by all countries outside the communist camp. Proclamations of ideological solidarity and narrowly targeted bursts of aid gave the GDR momentary leverage in such diverse countries as Egypt, Iraq, Ghana, and Indonesia; yet West Germany's intimidation tactics, coupled with its vastly superior economic resources, blocked any decisive East German breakthrough.

Gray argues that Bonn's isolation campaign was dropped not for want of success, but as a result of changes in West German priorities as the struggle against East Germany came to hamper efforts at reconciliation with Israel, Poland, and Yugoslavia--all countries of special relevance to Germany's recent past. Interest in a morally grounded diplomacy, together with the growing conviction that the GDR could no longer be ignored, led to the abandonment of Bonn's effective but outdated efforts to hinder worldwide recognition of the East German regime.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807827581
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 03/03/2003
Series: The New Cold War History
Edition description: 1
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

William Glenn Gray is assistant professor of history at Purdue University.

Read an Excerpt

Germany's Cold War

The Global Campaign to Isolate East Germany, 1949-1969
By William Glenn Gray

The University of North Carolina Press

Copyright © 2003 University of North Carolina Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8078-2758-1

Chapter One

Containing East Germany in the Early 1950s

Konrad Adenauer, the newly elected chancellor of the newly created Federal Republic of Germany, faced a challenge to his position and to his very government on October 7, 1949. Four and a half months earlier the states of the three western occupation zones had adopted a provisional constitution, the Basic Law, providing the framework for a reconstituted German state. Elections in the three zones in August 1949 yielded only the slimmest majority for the so-called bourgeois parties in the West German Bundestag: Adenauer's own centrist CDU, the right-liberal FDP, the nationalist German Party, and a smattering of other splinter groups. By a majority of just one vote, the Bundestag designated Adenauer as chancellor on September 15, 1949. Adding to the instability of Adenauer's domestic position were the cantankerous dynamism of Kurt Schumacher, head of the opposition SPD, and the polemics of the small but vocal Communist Party (KPD). The communists never tired of depicting the chancellor as a mere client of the Western Allies-Britain, France, and the United States. The charge was not entirely false. Although Adenauer was anything but subservient in his dealings with the Allies, the Occupation Statute of May 1949 left the final authority in West Germany squarely in the hands of the Allied High Commission. Adenauer's fledgling regime, housed in temporary quarters in a provincial town on the Rhine, was a decidedly humble successor to the German Reich of Otto von Bismarck and Adolf Hitler.

The proclamation of a rival government in Berlin on October 7, 1949, thus posed a threat to the institutions in Bonn. That was precisely the point of the hastily founded German Democratic Republic: it was intended to destabilize and delegitimize Adenauer's government and the Federal Republic as a whole. Neither the Soviet Union nor its client regime in East Berlin had abandoned the goal of a unified Germany; the newly fashioned GDR was merely a platform for consolidating the strength of the SED so that it could win the allegiance of the working classes in western Germany. The SED-led regime, disguised as a "national front" of diverse political parties, claimed to speak not just for eastern Germany but for the German people as a whole; it saw itself as "the first independent all-German government." Soviet and SED propaganda derided Adenauer as a separatist and a traitor to his nation. Meanwhile, to foster the illusion that the East German state was truly independent, the Soviets allowed the GDR to establish a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and to exchange ambassadors with the socialist states of Eastern Europe. On the surface, then, the authorities in East Berlin appeared to enjoy far more maneuvering room than their counterparts in Bonn.

Politically aware Germans were not impressed. "Responsible Germans in the Western Zones, though somewhat disturbed at the establishment of this new 'government,' regard it with contempt," observed the Foreign Office in London. If the cabinet members in Bonn lacked substance and authority, the credentials of their counterparts in East Berlin were no more appealing. Wilhelm Pieck, the GDR's president, and Walter Ulbricht, first secretary of the SED, had spent World War II exiled in the Soviet Union; this marked them as Moscow's puppets in West German eyes. Otto Grotewohl, the prime minister, had betrayed his Social Democratic colleagues in April 1946 by acceding to the creation of the SED in a "shotgun wedding" between the SPD and the KPD within the Soviet Zone that had led to the jailing and persecution of thousands of Social Democrats. Three and a half years later the West German SPD still faced persistent East German efforts to infiltrate labor unions in the Ruhr industrial district. All of this ensured that Kurt Schumacher, however blistering in his assessment of Adenauer, would reserve his sharpest barbs for the newly established SED administration. Among the broader public, too, the government in East Berlin had little credibility. Of those Germans in the American Zone who had heard of the GDR in November 1949, fully 76 percent regarded it as a tool of the Soviet authorities in Germany.

Konrad Adenauer was thus squarely echoing the sentiments of the new West German political class when he dismissed the GDR as a product of Soviet fiat, created "with the participation of a small minority of subordinate Germans." The regime in East Berlin was no legitimate government, intoned the chancellor; in fact, the GDR was not even a genuine state. In making this argument to the Bundestag on October 21, 1949, Adenauer articulated what would remain the Federal Republic's basic statement of identity for the next two decades: Germany was a unique entity. There could be only one. Until that one Germany was restored as a unified state, the government of the Federal Republic-which alone had been elected in a free and democratic manner-would act as the sole legitimate representative of the German people.

Adenauer's classic position linked two fundamental assertions: nonrecognition of the GDR, on one hand, and Bonn's exclusive representation of Germany, on the other. Neither was controversial in 1949. Indeed, with the GDR proclaiming its status as the only valid German government, there was nothing peculiar about Adenauer arrogating the same right for his administration. What did furrow the brows of some contemporaries was the highly abstract quality of the chancellor's standpoint. He was behaving as if the GDR did not exist-as if the Bundestag really did directly represent the 18 million Germans living in the Soviet Zone. Consequently, Adenauer refused to have any dealings whatsoever with the SED regime. Prominent Social Democrats and even members of Adenauer's cabinet quickly perceived that some interaction with the East German authorities would be necessary to coordinate everyday matters like exchanging mail. Trade might prove even more problematic: What if the GDR insisted on a formal treaty to regulate the exchange of goods between East and West Germany? It was characteristic of Adenauer, with his unambiguous orientation toward Western Europe, that he did not lose much sleep over the problem of contact with Germans in the Soviet Zone. Just as characteristically, it was his nationalist critics, ever sensitive to the plight of their co-nationals in the East, who would later press for a greater openness between Bonn and East Berlin.

Such questions did not invite passionate controversies at the height of the Cold War, however. Newspaper jargon faithfully reflected the dismissive attitudes of the West German mainstream. Rather than writing of a German Democratic Republic centered in Berlin, journalists referred to the "'so-called' GDR" or the "Soviet Zone" headquartered in "Pankow." Use of the term "Pankow"-a district of Berlin where many East German organs were in fact housed-served to deny any geographic coincidence with the historic seat of German government along Unter den Linden. "Soviet Zone" implied that the GDR was a fiction propagated by the Soviet occupiers of central Germany, not an independent regime with German nationals in charge. This Cold War cliché contained more than a whiff of truth in the early 1950s. The GDR remained under the direct sovereignty of the Soviet Union, just as the Federal Republic answered to the Allied powers at every turn. Adenauer would scarcely have had the authority to recognize the SED regime, even had he wanted to. West Germans, save a small and diminishing circle of communists, despised the upstart East German government and hoped to discourage its consolidation and international recognition, but they were powerless to influence such decisions.

Constructing the Diplomatic Blockade

Like Adenauer, the foreign ministers of France, Britain, and the United States quickly resolved to ignore the SED and to continue regarding the Soviet military administration as the authoritative voice in East Berlin. According to this view the proclamation of the GDR had not altered the legal situation in the slightest. "The existence of the eastern German government is not recognized as legitimate," observed one American official. "Therefore, the situation is as if it did not exist." Meeting in Paris in November 1949, the three Western Allies agreed on a common line toward the GDR: they would neither recognize the SED regime de jure nor take any actions that might imply a de facto recognition. Moreover, they would encourage other countries to adopt a similar stance. This uniform approach toward the GDR was all the more significant in light of the contrasting Western responses to the victory of Mao Tse-Tung's communist forces in mainland China. Chiang-kai Shek's Nationalists, banished to the island of Formosa, claimed still to represent the legal government of all China; the Truman administration chose to back this claim, at least for the time being, in order to work against worldwide recognition of Mao's government in Beijing. For the United States, the policy of "containment" offered a consistent rationale for disputing the legitimacy of communist gains around the globe, whether in China or eastern Germany. In London, Clement Attlee's government judged that British economic interests would be better served by acknowledging the reality of communist rule in China. It was also hoped that Mao's abrasive anti-imperialist rhetoric would mellow following Red China's integration into the international system. On January 5, 1950, the United Kingdom consequently recognized the People's Republic of China. Similar arguments would one day be advanced to support recognition of the GDR. It was a political reality and an important market, and its international behavior might be modified by greater interaction with the West. In the winter of 1949-50, however, these considerations did not apply to the situation in the Soviet Zone of Germany. Paris, London, and Washington-themselves founders of a "client" state in Germany-perceived the emergence of a Soviet-backed regime in East Berlin as an unwelcome complication in their efforts to steer the fate of postwar Europe.

Although international law offered few hard and fast rules on questions of recognition, standards of conduct toward unrecognized regimes had been continuously refined in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Many precedents dated from the decade after 1917, when the countries of the League of Nations had contested the legitimacy of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. Little advance preparation was needed in late 1949 for the Western Allies, in consultation with Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, to compose a list of acceptable and unacceptable forms of interaction with the regime in East Berlin. Diplomatic relations were, of course, entirely out of the question; according to standard international practice, only governments that recognized one another could maintain diplomatic relations. Consular relations, too, were held to imply recognition. Also off-limits was the signing of any official agreement by cabinet-level ministers of the Western powers and the SED regime. Instead, the Allies recommended that informal trade arrangements be worked out between nongovernmental bodies-by chambers of commerce, for example. Such measures had an artificial quality: for a country like the GDR, where economic decisions were increasingly subject to the will of the SED, the distinction between commercial and state representatives was often inconsequential. Nevertheless, contacts on the level of chambers of commerce allowed Western governments to maintain the formal requirements of nonrecognition without provoking an outcry from business interests.

The Allies did not overtly publicize these resolutions, but they did undertake to inform countries outside the Western alliance about the terms of the diplomatic blockade. With an East German team en route to South America in December 1949, the United States hastened to spread the word in the Western Hemisphere; the United Kingdom took the nations of the Commonwealth into its confidence. European members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (Marshall Plan), such as Sweden, were also notified. As the Allies had hoped, countries outside the Soviet bloc heeded the Western standpoint and refrained from establishing political relations with the regime in East Berlin. The one partial exception was Finland, which-after months of hesitation-signed a government-level trade agreement with the GDR. Yet the Finnish decision was hardly an unqualified triumph for the Soviet bloc, for Helsinki disavowed any intention of recognizing the SED government.

Dilettantism and a lack of realism in East Berlin contributed to the effectiveness of the Allied blockade. Virtually all of the German Reich's veteran diplomats had fled to the western zones in the late 1940s, leaving behind only a handful of officials familiar with the workings of a foreign ministry. Like Soviet Russia after the revolution, the GDR had at its disposal articulate members of the labor "aristocracy," a working-class elite that wanted not for energy but still had much to learn about the fine airs of diplomacy. Representatives of the new state phrased their demands in categorical terms, insisting that foreign governments recognize the GDR as a prerequisite for doing business. Foreign Minister Georg Dertinger, himself one of the few "bourgeois" members of the East German government, predicted in March 1950 that East Germany was "economically so important for the countries of the neutral realm ... that in the long run they will be forced to pursue trade ties with the GDR out of their own self-interest." According to this calculation, neutral countries such as Sweden and Switzerland could be pressured into declaring full recognition of the GDR, so the East Germans should not let them off the hook by accepting ad hoc relations on an unofficial basis. There was some basis for optimism. Bern worried about the fate of 5,000 Swiss citizens resident in the GDR, while Stockholm depended heavily on East German rail lines for access to European markets. Yet East Berlin's demands proved to be premature and overly blunt. Most European countries did not even have official relations with the larger and more populous Federal Republic, which in 1950 had no foreign service and only the rudimentary beginnings of a consular network in place. In the absence of diplomatic relations with the Federal Republic, the governments of Sweden, Switzerland, and Finland showed no interest in arranging such ties with the GDR. Clearly, if the East German leadership wished to establish any sort of working relationship with its noncommunist neighbors, it would have to compromise on the question of diplomatic recognition. The 1950 trade agreement with Finland was a first step in this direction, but it remained a lone exception.

Surprisingly, the policy of suppressing East Germany practiced by the Allies actually predated their international engagement on behalf of West Germany. Despite their role in sponsoring the founding of the Federal Republic, the Allies did not initially endorse Adenauer's claim to speak on behalf of the entire German people. For one thing, they did not wish to question the Soviet Union's right to speak on behalf of the eastern zone of occupation. For another, they were not entirely sure whether to bill the Federal Republic as a state (as opposed to a mere government) under international law. Might this not make the Allies appear complicit in the division of Germany into two states? Although the Allies were eager to promote West German membership in international bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labor Organization, the legal consequences concerned them. So, too, did the feared Soviet reaction: Soviet and East European delegations in the suborganizations of the UN might storm out in protest against the presence of West German representatives, or they might well demand equal representation for the East Germans. Despite the strong interest of the Allies in anchoring the Federal Republic within international institutions, they proceeded cautiously throughout the winter of 1949-50.


Excerpted from Germany's Cold War by William Glenn Gray Copyright © 2003 by University of North Carolina Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1.Containing East Germany in the Early 1950s10
Constructing the Diplomatic Blockade13
East German "Sovereignty" and the Western Response21
Chapter 2.Staving Off Collapse30
A Shifting Landscape: Geneva and Moscow31
The Blockade Slips39
The Bonn Ambassadors' Conference44
"Managed Relationships" and the Isolation Campaign49
Chapter 3.Yugoslavia Crosses the Line58
Grasping for Openings59
Damascus, but Not Warsaw65
A Failure of Deterrence74
The Hallstein Doctrine81
Chapter 4.Scrambling for Africa87
Otto Grotewohl's Journey88
Doubts and Hesitations: The Berlin Crisis95
Bonn's Counteroffensive102
Guinea: The Exception That Proved the Rule107
Chapter 5.Development Aid and the Hallstein Doctrine: A Trajectory of Disillusionment116
Bonn's Billion-Dollar Aid Program117
The Shock of the Belgrade Conference123
Experiments in Economic Leverage131
Chapter 6.The Perils of Detente140
De Gaulle, Detente, and the "Policy of Movement"141
Planning the Breakthrough147
"New Measures" in Ceylon and Zanzibar155
The Apex of West German Vigilance162
Chapter 7.The Peculiar Longevity of a Discredited Doctrine174
The Debacle: West Germany's Expulsion from the Arab World174
The Contest Goes On182
Unification Hysteria and Erhard's Political Demise191
Chapter 8.Of Two Minds: The Grand Coalition and the Problem of Recognition196
The Ulbricht Doctrine197
The Coalition "Cambodes"205
A Qualified Breakthrough212
The Halting Progress of a German Sisyphus221
A War within a War226
The Hallstein Doctrine and German Unity229

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From the Publisher

A perceptive and exceptionally well-written study of the Hallstein Doctrine, one of the key elements in West German foreign policy in the 1950s and 1960s. Through careful study of archival sources in a number of countries, Gray is able to show how that doctrine worked in practice and how basic policy changed over time. This book throws new and important light on the German question, the issue which more than any other lay at the heart of the Cold War.--Marc Trachtenberg, University of California, Los Angeles

A persuasive interpretation set in an exhaustively researched, well-organized, and clearly written book that should be definitive for a generation.--Choice

William Glenn Gray has taken one of the centerpieces of the Bonn Republic's diplomacy, the Hallstein Doctrine, and used it to tell a fascinating story about the reassertion of Germany's power after the disaster of World War II. Written in a clear and graceful style and researched in an extraordinarily thorough manner, the book makes the complicated political and legal distinctions of the doctrine understandable. It is an essential contribution to our understanding of the twentieth-century history of German foreign policy.--Thomas Schwartz, Vanderbilt University

The competition between the two Germanys themselves has rarely been featured in discussions of the Cold War. . . . Germany's Cold War breaks new ground in this regard. . . . It brings to American readers an in-depth view of the Cold War's impact on the policies of one of the nations at the conflict's heart; it's a view that was neglected for too long.--Washington Post Book World

In Germany's Cold War, William Glenn Gray delves into an impressive mass of declassified archival documents to give a blow-by-blow account of how the FRG executed its will to stymie any effort to recognize the GDR as a sovereign state in international law and politics.--Modernism/modernity

Buttressed by an international range of archival sources, Gray has produced a lively and erudite account of an area of West German diplomacy that is too often written off as wooden and one-dimensional.--Central European History

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Germany's Cold War: The Global Campaign to Isolate East Germany, 1949-1969 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Shrike58 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Straight-up diplomatic history of how the FRG spent the first twenty years of its existance trying to keep the DDR in the state of being a pariah. Among other things Gray offers a different perspective on Mid East politics, as Bonn was rather invovled in the region at this time.