The founding of the East and West German states (1949)

1949 was a special year in German history as two separate states were founded almost in parallel. The division into East and West Germany reflected the division of the world into two during the Cold War. The East-West conflict was to last over 40 years.

Germany was stripped of its war gains and lost territories in the east to Poland and the Soviet Union.


At the end of the war, there were some eight million foreign displaced persons in Germany, mainly forced laborers and prisoners, including around 400,000 from the concentration camp system, survivors from a much larger number who had died from starvation, harsh conditions, murder, or being worked to death.


Over 10 million German-speaking refugees arrived in Germany from other countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Some 9 million Germans were POWs, many of whom were kept as forced laborers for several years to provide restitution to the countries Germany had devastated in the war, and some industrial equipment was removed as reparations.


From today's point of view, what happened back then seems logical. Today we also know that the German-German divide lasted a long time, but it was not irreversible.


And it seems almost inevitable that the democratic values of the West German constitution 1949 would prevail as the basis of society - including in the reunified Germany.


But the Germans in 1949 couldn't even have guessed at all this. They were experiencing an unprecedented historical experiment in both East and West. It was a radically new situation: What if they made fundamental mistakes in the founding of their states? What if they were unable to overcome the curse of fascism?


The documentary not only reconstructs the major events surrounding the founding of the two states in 1949, but also attitudes to life at the time. We meet contemporary witnesses from both countries who talk about embarking on a political and social journey, the course and destination of which were still quite open at that time.



Deutsche Welle
dw-documentaries
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