Take the 2-minute tour ×
History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Why did the East German government decide that they should join the West? Was it their economical decline, political turmoil or anything else?

share|improve this question

closed as primarily opinion-based by Semaphore, Pieter Geerkens, Mark C. Wallace, andy256, Kobunite Jun 11 at 10:39

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
FWIK (re)unification had stayed on the political agendas of the all mainstream parties in Western Germany, and in 1989 history presented an opportunity. –  Drux Mar 23 '13 at 16:22
3  
Reason for whom? East Germans? West Germans? Soviets? –  DVK Mar 23 '13 at 21:43
3  
This question is presmised upon the East German government having a choice. I don't think that's a valid assumption. In reality the government fell and the people voiced their desire for reunification. –  Semaphore Dec 30 '14 at 4:07
    
Money. Is that practical enough for you? –  Tyler Durden Jun 10 at 19:00
    
@TylerDurden This makes no sense. The reunification costed a lot to the FRG. They did it for political reason, definitely not for economical ones!! Also, not just Germany, but the entiere Europe was reunified (sort-of). Germany being the most populous and one of the most influencial country in Europe, it's reunification was the symbol of reunification of Europe and fall of the Iron Curtain. –  Bregalad Jun 13 at 19:46

4 Answers 4

Well, I would say that the main reason for this reunification (apart from the 40 years of Cold War, Ostpolitik, "Star Wars", Oil price boom etc) was that the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (German Federal Republic, a.k.a. West Germany) had written in its Constitutional Law (Germany has no Constitution) that it understood itself as the Republic of the German People.

So it was written in the constitutional law that any of the former Länder of Germany (Mecklenburg Vorpommern, Brandenburg, Saxe, Saxe-Anhalt et Thuringe) could apply anytime to membership in the German Federal Republic (even if these Länder had been replaced by the Bezirke in the German Democratic Republic in 1952).

That's why it was so easy to achieve reunification after the Wall fell.

share|improve this answer
    
But he asked why the East desired reunification to the West, not the other way around. –  Lohoris Jun 11 at 10:14

I'll look at the economics.

Despite its history of being a Soviet economic powerhouse, the economic state of the DDR was poor. The East German mark was performing badly even in the 1980s. East Germany had a GDP per capita of 6064 DM compared to West Germany's 19 864 DM, p131. Clearly the subsidy the DDR could expect as well as the competent administration they would receive would have been seen as hugely beneficial,as it turned out to be. So East Germany needed West Germany's help, but why did West Germany need East Germany? As you can see from the link at the top of the page it wasn't because they expected it to deliver short term benefits to the West Germany economy.

In that case it seems clear that the benefits to West Germany were instead political benefits, both at home and in terms of international prestige, as mentioned in this other answer. In addition, West Germany had been incorporated into NATO in 1955, and it was probably strategically desirable for its members that East Germany be incorporated into a stable, friendly NATO power (although perhaps this was balanced out be fear of German militarism) (speculative as hell).


Aside:

I've noticed Cyprus has similar issues. Turkey has changed its stance to largely pro-reunification (the analogue of the USSR losing influence), the two sides have few cultural differences, the militants have grown old, etc. The opposition for reunification now comes from the (Greek) Republic of Cyprus. It would seem prosperity makes all the difference when it comes to public support for reunification in the "senior" partner.

share|improve this answer
    
Agreed, plus it seems also that trying a "Cuba" was not an option for the DDR, because there was no (e.g. oil-rich) "Venezuela" in its sphere to support in in relative isolation. –  Drux Mar 24 '13 at 21:54

The question could be is there any reason not to reunite GDR and FRG? These are trivial reasons why they united:

  • The Soviets claimed not to intervene in any conflicts under last years of Gorbachev.
  • GDR and FRG had no cultural differences since the cultural differences were erased by the past centuries of imperial Germany.
  • GDR had no real reason to remain independent after the fail of the communist party. Not the Germans wanted the iron curtain, but the communist party under Soviet pressure after WW2.
  • The unified country is much stronger in the European politics than the single FRG.
  • The communist party itself was built up by old people, they were mostly in their 70's 80's in age, so they weren't agile and they couldn't really stop any process.

You can watch many documentaries even on youtube, the communist party power was only supported by military and police, the politicians were all old and clueless what to do, they didn't even follow what happened in USSR where Gorbachev started reforms.

share|improve this answer
    
Reasons against reuniting: The GDR's economy was, relative to the FRG, weak and in the process of collapsing. They had 50 years of dissimilar laws and administration to sort out (avoided by having the FRG absorb the GDR). These would create a period of economic and legal confusion. On the foreign front, some in neighboring states were not enthused about a united Germany on their borders again. –  Schwern Dec 29 '14 at 21:24
    
I would argue with your point about "no cultural differences". The main cultural divide in Germany had always been north/south, not east/west, so there hadn't been a cultural divide. However, the cultural divide has increased dramatically since the split, to the point that even today, "Ossis" and "Wessis" are looking down on each other. –  Kevin Keane Jun 14 at 22:08

It wasn't up to the East German government to decide any more. Contrary to popular perception, it also was widely controversial within both the East and West German populations. I lived in Berlin at the time and saw it first-hand. The West Germans were concerned about the cost, and the East Germans were concerned about losing their identity, although they also hoped for a much improved economy.

The clause in the West German Grundgesetz that ostensibly mandated reunification could have been changed as circumstances changed.

The real reason for reunification was simple power politics: Helmut Kohl was deeply unpopular at the time and on the verge of losing the next election. He needed access to a new loyal voter pool.

share|improve this answer
    
"The real reason for reunification was simple power politics: Helmut Kohl was deeply unpopular at the time and on the verge of losing the next election. He needed access to a new loyal voter pool." -- rubbish logic. –  BROY Jun 13 at 23:09
    
@BROY Do you have a source, beyond a "rubbish" statement? Things had gotten so bad that even members of his own party, the CDU, were trying to get rid of him. Here is an article from a few days after the wall fell that describes what reality was like at the time. (link in German language) spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-13496328.html . At Potsdamer Platz in 1989, people yelled "Die Mauer fällt, allmählich hohl, weg muß jetzt nur noch Helmut Kohl." (the wall is falling, slowly hollowed, all we need is for Kohl to go). –  Kevin Keane Jun 14 at 22:04

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.