Germany Today and Tomorrow


Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany


TWELVE years after the most complete collapse in their history the Germans— those who are living in freedom — have laid the foundations of their material existence anew. At the same time they have completed the restoration of a democratic state based upon law — a state which is aware of its obligations to its citizens and to other states.

Twice within three decades Germany has experienced the catastrophe of military defeat. For twelve years her people lived in totalitarian bondage. They have felt the consequences of this bondage in all their gravity and have learned from bitter experience to appreciate the value of freedom, justice, and peace as the highest good. But seventeen million Germans in the Soviet-occupied zone of our nation still lack the blessings of personal freedom and a state based upon civil liberty.

These few recollections of the recent German past make it clear why there exists no extremism whatsoever in the Federal Republic of Germany, be it from the right or from the left. German labor has shown an extraordinary maturity even in days of distress — and we really knew distress in the first postwar years. Then, as today, labor clearly and decisively rejected all enticements of Bolshevism. Radicalism from the right as well, as it is embodied in an exaggerated nationalism, is dead in the Federal Republic. This has been demonstrated by all our elections since the war.

Fragmentation of political parties — one of the reasons for the demise of the Weimar Republic — presents no actual danger in the Federal Republic. This state of affairs, largely attributable to the structure of our constitution, has resulted in a stability which has characterized our political activity to the present day. It is my contention that we have known how to exploit this stability. A consolidated domestic policy gave us an opportunity to integrate the Federal Republic into the community of free nations systematically and in line with the existing possibilities. Today the Federal Republic is a partner with equal rights in this community. The road we have had to take was long and often beset with difficulties. However, we have succeeded in reaching important goals.

When, on September 15, 1949, I was first elected Federal Chancellor by the Parliament, I stated, “Franco-German relations are the pivotal point of any European unification. I supported this view as early as twenty-five years ago.” With the coming into force of the Paris Treaties, with the admission of the Federal Republic into the Western European Union and into NATO, we have become allies of France. This demonstrates how much FrancoGerman relations have changed since the founding of the Federal Republic. With the signing of the Saar Treaty, the last existing controversial issue between France and Germany has been eliminated. Thus, what I had hoped for seven years ago in our own self-interest and in the interest of Europe and of the whole Free World, and what I have tried to achieve since, has become a reality.

As a member of NATO the Federal Republic has assumed the obligation to share in the defense of the Free World. We stand by our word. We were faced with the task of setting up in a relatively short time a modern and efficient army after eleven years of being completely unarmed. Therefore we had to start from scratch. Furthermore, the armament policy of all nations is undergoing a process of revolutionary change owing to the breathtaking speed of the development of nuclear weapons and the continuous perfecting of conventional arms. These two factors could not fail to have a certain influence on the planning of the federal government. As was to be expected, we had to face purely technical as well as psychological difficulties. The build-up of armed forces could not reach, in all phases, the originally planned goals. But the meaning of such delays must be properly evaluated. The Federal Republic does not by any means intend to evade those obligations it assumed upon entering NATO. In arriving at pertinent decisions we are fully aware that the setting up of a combat-ready, efficient armed force as early as possible increases, above all, our own security. Only through complete solidarity with the other members of NATO can we effectively protect the freedom without which life would be intolerable.


OUR contribution to the defense of the Free World would rest upon weak foundations, however, had it not been possible to consolidate the economic and social structure of the Federal Republic as well. The achievement in these fields can be properly evaluated only if one recalls the conditions under which we had to reconstruct our economy after the war. We were compelled to start reconstruction in a state of complete devastation and with a productive capacity largely destroyed through the effects of war. We found ourselves isolated from the world economy and had a largely useless currency. Gratefully we remember the aid we received in those difficult times from those countries which only shortly before had been our enemies. Among them the United States took a leading position. Without this help it is very likely that we would not have been able to prevent total chaos. Then came the Marshall Plan. It gave us the chance to close many gaps which the war had left in our productive plant and to get the productive process under way again. But primary credit must be given to the initiative of German management and the unflagging assiduity of German labor; it was because of their efforts that the stimuli given by Marshall aid could be fully utilized.

Another important factor in our economic recovery was the currency reform of 1948. And the “social market economy” — the policy which has determined economic decisions of the federal government since its founding in 1949 — played a major part in our rapid recovery, in that it opened the way for free enterprise. It proved possible to normalize the labor situation in a relatively short time, even though millions of people expelled from German territories behind the Oder-Neisse Line and from eastern and southeastern Europe poured into the Federal Republic. At present there is full employment in West Germany.

This far-reaching economic and financial recovery made it possible for us to tackle urgent social problems resulting front the war and to proceed with their solution. It was necessary— to mention only the most important problems—to provide relief for the disabled, the widows, and the orphans. Many millions of dwellings had been either destroyed or heavily damaged. To mitigate the pressing housing shortage, especially in the cities, the fields of rubble had to be cleared as quickly as possible to make way for new construction. This would not have been feasible without extensive public assistance. It was also imperative to create a new existence for the ten million expellees and refugees from the East. These unfortunate people had for the most part lost everything but their lives. Through programs of “Immediate Aid” and “Equalization of Burdens,” we tried to compensate for at least a part of the property losses they had suffered. Priority aid was given to the most needy. Finally, West Berlin — separated from its natural hinterland and from its major marketing areas because of its isolated position within the Sovietoccupied zone—had to be granted assistance in order to enable the courageous population of this island surrounded by Communist totalitarianism to fight for the preservation of its freedom.

The Federal Republic fulfilled these tasks to the full extent of its means. It is true that we have not yet been able to remove the last vestiges of destruction wrought by the war —this would have exceeded our capabilities—but our policies have succeeded in removing the social and political tensions, the misery and want, which were bound to result from war, to such a degree that the fabric of society and the structure of the state have remained essentially intact. Today the federal government is continuing to realize its social program, which aims at relieving all insecurity arising from old age, sickness, and disablement. Major parts of this program have already been approved by Parliament.

Only a few years ago there were widespread fears that the Federal Republic might be an element of unrest and a source of permanent concern within the Free World, in that the forces of domestic stability might be found inadequate. Today it is clear that these fears were unfounded. The Federal Republic now holds a position in Europe and in the Free World which enables it itself to be a fad or of stability within t his community.

We still face a number of unsolved problems of momentous import. Whether and how it will be possible to settle them will determine the position of the Federal Republic in Europe and in the Free World in the near future.

First of all, from the time of its establishment in 1949 we have always been aware, and we will continue to face the fact, that our state is only provisional. The Federal Republic is that part of Germany in which the people, with a guarantee of civil liberties, are in a position to express their political will through free elections. Therefore, the Federal Republic claims the right to represent politically the whole German people. The Free World has acknowledged this right. However, we cannot forget that in the Soviet – occupied zone of Germany seventeen million Germans have been denied all freedom. The preservation of our freedom and the re-establishment of German unity in peace and liberty is the supreme goal of our policy. Only reunification will secure stability for all Europe, We are striving for reunification in freedom. This implies that free elections in the whole of Germany are the first step in the process of reunification and that the all-German Parliament chosen by these elections can then freely decide the future constitutional and international status of our country. On these points we cannot make concessions; to do so would be to give up the principle of reunification in freedom.

In the first half of the twentieth century the German people twice experienced the horrors of war. We know that a third World War would jeopardize the survival of Germany and of Europe as well. This knowledge makes us realize the necessity of contributing in every possible way to the maintenance of peace. Therefore, a reunified Germany will not become a threat to anyone, for it will respect the security needs of all its neighbors, including those of the East European nations.

While in Moscow in September 1955, I declared, “Peace, whose preservation is the concern of all Germans, is the highest good. Therefore, you will find no one in Germany, neither among responsible politicians nor throughout the entire community, who even trifles with the idea that any of the great political problems awaiting solution can be solved by war.” My view of that time continues to be the guiding principle of our foreign policy.

Resides the reunification of Germany we consider the unity of Europe one of the basic principles of our policy. The rise of the nation-state was one of the main causes for the fragmentation which has characterized the development of the European political structure during the past hundred years. We must supersede the concept of the nation-state if Europe is to become again an organic whole and to exert the political influence it deserves in the light of its history, traditions, and achievements. For that reason we have gladly accepted the proposals made by other countries for the integration of Europe and have done whatever we could toward their realization. This is especially true for the Coal and Steel Community and for the European Defense Community. In both cases the intention was to take the first steps toward broader European co-operation. EDC was to be developed into a European political community, the Coal and Steel Community into an over-all economic union. In both cases we were convinced that the number of participating countries would have to be increased. Then the European Defense Community was replaced by the Western European Union (WEU) — an expansion of the international organization set up under the Brussels Treaty of 1948—and by the direct incorporation of the Federal Republic into NATO. Only recently we have been making special efforts to extend the activities of the Coal and Steel Community through proposals to include more types of goods in the common market among the signatory states. We heartily welcome the indicated readiness of Great Britain to join such a common market by setting up a free-trade area.

Postwar developments and political changes compel us to regard the integration of Europe not only in its intra-European but also in its world-wide political and economic ramifications. The political and economic hegemony of Europe is a thing of the past. European civilization will maintain its position only if we activate it so as to meet prevailing conditions and if we are ready to defend it.

The realization of European integration must not be hindered by excessive perfectionism. We must not proceed too rigidly, but with the utmost flexibility. The institutions to be created within the framework of European co-operation need not necessarily, in every single case, have a supranational character. These institutions must be so shaped that they do not deter any nation from participation. Nor should the number of member states in such a European federation be limited. Its field of activities should be as comprehensive as possible. Initial goals should not be too ambitious, however, for this could so complicate the proceedings as to jeopardize our efforts. Such a European federation will have no negative impact upon NATO, which is more than a European federation. NATO is intended to protect certain Atlantic interests, not merely common European interests.

I am convinced that our goals are essentially identical with those of the United States. John Foster Dulles as early as 1948 declared it necessary that Europe unite and develop a strength of its own. That is also our goal. I hope from the bottom of my heart that the Germany of tomorrow will be a unified and free Germany, able to perform important functions within the European union and making its full contribution to the peace and welfare of the whole world.

Translated by Rudolf Ernst