The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) was formally established on May 23, 1949 as an independent nation. This action led to a widening of the chasm between the Eastern and Western Blocs during the Cold War and divided Germany into two separate nations till about 1990.
By 1939, Hitler’s conquest of Poland led to a conflict with France and Britain. In 1940, Germany had entered into an agreement with Italy and Japan and World War II raged between the Axis powers, as they were called, and the Allied nations including Britain, USSR, and USA. By 1945, Hitler had committed suicide and Germany had been ravaged by a complete defeat.
In February, 1945, before the end of World War II, leaders from the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union met at the Yalta Conference and discussed future arrangements for administration of a post-war Europe and for the management of war in the Pacific theater. In accordance with the conference, by the end of the war Germany was split into four occupation zones – a French administrative zone to the west; a British zone of administration to the northwest; an American administrative zone to the south; and a Soviet zone of administration to the east. At the time the divisions were not meant to be political but merely temporary boundaries of an imminently unified Germany. The Soviet zone soon grew to encompass East Prussia and eastern regions of Poland. The east bank regions of River Neisse and River Oder were taken over by a Polish population and a mass exodus of the native Germans followed. Millions of Germans were expelled from this region.
Between 1946 and 1949, three of these arbitrary zones started to merge. Initially, in December 1946, the zones under British and American occupation were combined and Bizonia was formed. In 1949, France agreed to merge the French administrative zone to form Trizonia. The pre-war German states came to be replaced by Länder, the new administrative states. The Soviet zone, however, remained distinct and separate.
By 1947, the commencement of the Cold War between the US-led Western Bloc and the USSR–dominated Eastern Bloc led to an escalation in political and military tensions. This further inhibited any negotiation between the two nations with regard to a merger of what had now become two parts of Germany – commonly called East Germany and West Germany.
The West German Parliamentary Council convened on May 23, 1949 and formally declared the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany. The announcement was not greeted with much enthusiasm as it stubbed out any hope that Germany might be reunified.
The Soviet Union was quick to react to the establishment of West Germany. In October 1949, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was officially established. For the next 41 years, Germany remained divided. A wall was built in Berlin between the two states and the borders were sealed. Economic conditions worsened in East Germany necessitating a breakdown of the strict sanctions and barriers and the Berlin Wall was demolished in 1990. The country slowly worked its way through economic and social reforms, providing healthcare and welfare to erstwhile East Germany. Germany as a country revived and flourished with greater enterprise.
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