West Germany

West Germany (German: Westdeutschland) is the common English name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG (German: Bundesrepublik Deutschland or BRD) in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990.

During this period, the NATO-aligned West Germany and the socialist East Germany were divided by the Inner German border. After 1961, West Berlin was physically separated from East Berlin as well as from East Germany by the Berlin Wall. This situation ended when East Germany was dissolved and its five states joined the ten states of the Federal Republic of Germany along with the reunified city-state of Berlin. The enlarged Federal Republic of Germany with sixteen states (known simply as "Germany") is thus the continuation of the pre-1990 Federal Republic of Germany.

The Federal Republic of Germany was established from eleven states formed in the three Allied Zones of occupation held by the United States, the United Kingdom and France (the "Western Zones"). The city of Bonn was its provisional capital city. The fourth Allied occupation zone (the East Zone, or Ostzone) was held by the Soviet Union. The parts of this zone lying east of the Oder-Neisse were in fact annexed by the Soviet Union and communist Poland; the remaining central part around Berlin became the communist German Democratic Republic (abbreviated GDR; in German Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR) with its de facto capital in East Berlin. As a result, West Germany had a territory about half the size of the interwar democratic Weimar Republic.

At the onset of the Cold War, Germany (and, indeed, Europe) was divided among the Western and Eastern blocs. Germany was de facto divided into two countries and two special territories, the Saarland and divided Berlin. The Federal Republic of Germany claimed an exclusive mandate for all of Germany, considering itself to be the democratically reorganised continuation of the German Reich. It took the line that the GDR was an illegally constituted state. The GDR did hold regular elections, but these were not free and fair; from the West German perspective the GDR was thus a puppet state of the Soviets and therefore illegitimate.

Three southwestern states of West Germany merged to form Baden-Württemberg in 1952, and the Saarland joined the Federal Republic of Germany in 1957. In addition to the resulting ten states, West Berlin was considered an unofficial de facto 11th state. While legally not part of the Federal Republic of Germany, as Berlin was under the control of the Allied Control Council, West Berlin aligned itself politically with West Germany and was directly or indirectly represented in its federal institutions.

Relations with the Soviet bloc improved during the era of ‘Neue Ostpolitik’ around 1970, and West Germany began taking the line of "two German states within one German nation", but formally maintained the exclusive mandate. It recognised the GDR as a de facto government within a single German nation that in turn was represented de jure by the West German state alone. East Germany, as before, recognised the existence of two German countries de jure, and the West as both de facto and de jure foreign country. The Federal Republic and the GDR agreed that neither of them could speak in the name of the other one.

The foundation for the influential position held by Germany today was laid during the Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle) of the 1950s when West Germany rose from the enormous destruction wrought by World War II to become the world's third largest economy. The first chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who remained in office until 1963, had worked for a full alignment with the West rather than neutrality. He not only secured a membership in NATO but was also a proponent of agreements that developed into the present-day European Union. When the G6/G8 was established in 1975, there was no question whether the Federal Republic of Germany would be a member as well.

With the collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989, symbolised by the opening of the Berlin Wall, there was a rapid move towards German reunification. East Germany voted to dissolve itself and accede to the Federal Republic in 1990. Its five post-war states (Länder) were reconstituted along with the reunited Berlin, which ended its special status and formed an additional Land. They formally joined the Federal Republic on 3 October 1990, raising the number of states from 10 to 16, ending the division of Germany. The expanded Federal Republic retained West Germany's political culture and continued its existing memberships in international organisations, as well as its Western foreign policy alignment and affiliation to Western alliances like the European Union and NATO.

Read more about West GermanyNaming Conventions, History, West German "economic Miracle", Position Towards East Germany, Politics, Culture, Geographical Distribution of Government, Present Geographical and Political Terminology

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