The Federal Republic of Germany,(Bundesrepublik Deutschland, also known as BRD and West 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 Federal Republic was founded on May 23, 1949, and was declared “fully sovereign” on May 5, 1955. The Western troops remained there as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which West Germany joined on May 9, 1955. U.S.. and British forces remained in the country throughout the Cold War. Its population grew from roughly 51 million in 1950 to more than 63 million in 1990. The city of Bonn was its de facto capital city (Berlin was symbolically named the de jure capital city in the West German Basic Law). 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 annexed by Communist Poland; the remaining central part around Berlin became the communist German Democratic Republic (abbreviated GDR, or, in German Deutsche Demokratische Republik — DDR) with its de facto capital in East Berlin. As a result, West Germany had a territory about half the size of the interbellum democratic Weimar Republic.
On February 4-11, 1945, leaders from the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union held the Yalta Conference where future arrangements as regards post-war Europe and strategy against Japan in the Pacific were negotiated. The conference agreed to split Germany into four occupation zones: a French Zone in the far west; a British Zone in the northwest; an American Zone in the south; and a Soviet Zone in the east. At the time, the intention was not to split Germany, only to designate zones of administration.
Former German areas east of the rivers Oder and Neisse were put under Polish administration. Millions of Germans were expelled and replaced by Poles. In similar fashion, the Soviet Union took over areas of eastern Poland and East Prussia. Between 1946 and 1949, three of the occupation zones began to merge. First, the British and American zones were combined into the quasi-state of Bizonia. Soon afterwards, the French zone was included into Trizonia. At the same time, new federal states (Länder) were formed in the Allied zones, replacing the pre-war states.
In 1949. with the continuation and aggravation of the Cold War (witness the Berlin Airlift of 1948–49), the two German states that were originated in the Western Allied and the Soviet Zones became known internationally as West Germany and East Germany. Commonly known in English as East Germany, the former Soviet Occupation Zone, eventually became the German Democratic Republic or GDR. From October 3, 1990, after the reunification of the GDR’s Länder, the East German states joined the Federal Republic.
With territories and frontiers that coincided largely with the ones of old Medieval East Francia and the nineteenth-century Napoleonic Confederation of the Rhine, the Federal Republic of Germany, founded on May 23, 1949,, under the terms of the Bonn–Paris conventions it obtained “the full authority of a sovereign state” on May 5, 1955 (although “full sovereignty” was not obtained until the Two Plus Four Agreement in 1990). The former occupying Western troops remained on the ground, now as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which West Germany joined on May 9, 1955, promising to rearm itself soon.
West Germany became a focus of the Cold War with its juxtaposition to East Germany, a member of the subsequently founded Warsaw Pact. The former capital, Berlin, had been divided into four sectors, with the Western Allies joining their sectors to form West Berlin, while the Soviets held East Berlin. West Berlin was completely surrounded by East German territory and had suffered a Soviet blockade in 1948–49, which was overcome by the Berlin Airlift.
The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 led to U.S. calls to rearm West Germany to help defend Western Europe from the perceived Soviet threat. Germany’s partners in the Coal and Steel Community proposed to establish a European Defence Community (EDC), with an integrated army, navy and air force, composed of the armed forces of its member states. The West German military would be subject to complete EDC control, but the other EDC member states (Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) would cooperate in the EDC while maintaining independent control of their own armed forces.
Though the EDC treaty was signed (May 1952), it never entered into force. France’s Gaullists rejected it on the grounds that it threatened national sovereignty, and when the French National Assembly refused to ratify it (August 1954), the treaty died. The French Gaullists and communists had killed the French government’s proposal. Other means then had to be found to allow West German rearmament. In response, at the London and Paris Conferences, the Brussels Treaty was modified to include West Germany, and to form the Western European Union (WEU). West Germany was to be permitted to rearm (an idea many Germans rejected), and have full sovereign control of its military, called the Bundeswehr. The WEU, however, would regulate the size of the armed forces permitted to each of its member states. Also, the German constitution prohibited any military action, except in case of an external attack against Germany or its allies (Bündnisfall). Also, Germans could reject military service on grounds of conscience, and serve for civil purposes instead.
The three Western Allies retained occupation powers in Berlin and certain responsibilities for Germany as a whole. Under the new arrangements, the Allies stationed troops within West Germany for NATO defense, pursuant to stationing and status-of-forces agreements. With the exception of 55,000 French troops, Allied forces were under NATO’s joint defense command.
Konrad Adenauer was 73 years old when he became chancellor, and for this reason he was initially reckoned as a caretaker. However, he stayed in power for 14 years. The grand old man of German postwar politics had to be dragged — almost literally — out of office in 1963. In 1959, it was time to elect a new President and Adenauer decided that he would nominate Erhard, the architect of the economic miracle. Erhard was not enthusiastic, and to everybody’s surprise, Adenauer decided at the age of 83 that he would take on the position. He apparently believed that this would allow him to dominate the scene for up to ten more years in spite of the growing mood for change. However, when his advisers informed him that the powers of the president were almost entirely ceremonial, he quickly lost interest. An alternative candidate was needed and eventually the Minister of Agriculture, Heinrich Lübke took on the task and was duly elected.
In October 1962, the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel published an analysis of the West German military defense. The conclusion was that there were several weaknesses in the system. Ten days after publication, the offices of Der Spiegel in Hamburg were raided by the police and quantities of documents were seized. Chancellor Adenauer proclaimed in the Bundestag that the article was tantamount to high treason and that the authors would be prosecuted. The editor/owner of the magazine, Rudolf Augstein spent some time in jail before the public outcry over the breaking of laws on freedom of the press became too loud to be ignored. The FDP members of Adenauer’s cabinet resigned from the government, demanding the resignation of Franz Josef Strauss, Defense Minister, who had decidedly overstepped his competence during the crisis. Adenauer was still wounded by his brief run for president, and this episode damaged his reputation even further. He announced that he would step down in the Fall of 1963. His successor was to be Ludwig Erhard.
In the early 1960s. the rate of economic growth slowed down significantly. In 1962, growth rate was 4.7% and the following year, 2.0%. After a brief recovery, the growth rate slowed again into a recession, with no growth in 1967.
A new coalition was formed to deal with this problem. Erhard stepped down in 1966 and was succeeded by Kurt Georg Kiesinger. He led a grand coalition between West Germany’s two largest parties, the CDU/CSU and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). This was important for the introduction of new emergency acts: the grand coalition gave the ruling parties the two-thirds majority of votes required for their ratification. These controversial acts allowed basic constitutional rights such as freedom of movement to be limited in case of a state of emergency.
During the time leading up to the passing of the laws, there was fierce opposition to them, above all by the Free Democratic Party, the rising German student movement, a group calling itself Notstand der Demokratie (“Democracy in Crisis”) and members of the Campaign against Nuclear Armament. A key event in the development of open democratic debate occurred in 1967, when the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, visited West Berlin. Several thousand demonstrators gathered outside the Opera House where he was to attend a special performance. Supporters of the Shah (later known as Jubelperser), armed with staves and bricks attacked the protesters while the police stood by and watched. A demonstration in the center was being forcibly dispersed when a bystander named Benno Ohnesorg was shot in the head and killed by a plainclothes policeman. (It has now been established that the policeman, Kurras, was a paid spy of the East German security forces.) Protest demonstrations continued, and calls for more active opposition by some groups of students were made, which was declared by the press, especially the tabloid Bild-Zeitung newspaper, as a massive disruption to life in Berlin, in a massive campaign against the protesters.
Protests against the US intervention in Vietnam, mingled with anger over the vigour with which demonstrations were repressed led to mounting militance among the students at the universities in Berlin. One of the most prominent campaigners was a young man from East Germany called Rudi Dutschke who also criticized the forms of capitalism that were to be seen in West Berlin. Just before Easter 1968, a young man tried to kill Dutschke as he bicycled to the student union, seriously injuring him. All over West Germany, thousands demonstrated against the Springer newspapers which were seen as the prime cause of the violence against students. Trucks carrying newspapers were set on fire and windows in office buildings broken.
In the wakes of these demonstrations, in which the question of America’s role in Vietnam began to play a bigger role, came a desire among the students to find out more about the role of the parent-generation in the Nazi era. The proceedings of the War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg had been widely publicized in Germany but until a new generation of teachers, educated with the findings of historical studies, could begin to reveal the truth about the war and the crimes committed in the name of the German people. One courageous attorney, Fritz Bauer patiently gathered evidence on the guards of the Auschwitz concentration camp and about twenty were put on trial in Frankfurt in 1963. Daily newspaper reports and visits by school classes to the proceedings revealed to the German public the nature of the concentration camp system and it became evident that the Shoah was of vastly greater dimensions than the German population had believed. The term “Holocaust” for the systematic mass-murder of Jews first came into use in 1979, when an American mini-series with that name was shown on German television. The processes set in motion by the Auschwitz trial reverberated decades later.
The calling in question of the actions and policies of government led to a new climate of debate. The issues of emancipation, colonialism, environmentalism and grass roots democracy were discussed at all levels of society. In 1979, the environmental party, the Greens, reached the 5% limit required to obtain parliamentary seats in the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen provincial election. Also of great significance was the steady growth of a feminist movement in which women demonstrated for equal rights. Until 1977, a married woman had to have the permission of her husband if she wanted to take on a job or open a bank account. Further reforms in 1979 to parental rights law gave equal legal rights to the mother and the father, abolishing the legal authority of the father. Parallel to this, a gay movement began to grow in the larger cities, especially in West Berlin, where homosexuality had been widely accepted during the twenties in the Weimar Republic.
Anger over the treatment of demonstrators following the death of Benno Ohnesorg and the attack on Rudi Dutschke, coupled with growing frustration over the lack of success in achieving their aims led to growing militance among students and their supporters. In May 1968, three young people set fire to two department stores in Frankfurt, they were brought to trial and made very clear to the court that they regarded their action as a legitimate act in what they described as the “struggle against imperialism”. The student movement began to split into different factions, ranging from the unattached liberals to the Maoists and supporters of direct action in every form — the anarchists. Several groups set as their objective the aim of radicalizing the industrial workers and taking an example from activities in Italy of the Red Brigades (Brigade Rosse), many students went to work in the factories, but with little or no success.
The most notorious of the underground groups was the “Baader-Meinhof Group”, later known as the Red Army Faction which began by making bank raids to finance their activities and eventually went underground having killed a number of policemen, several bystanders and eventually two prominent West Germans, whom they had taken captive in order to force the release of prisoners sympathetic to their ideas. In the 1990s, attacks were still being committed under the name “RAF”. The last action took place in 1993 and the group announced it was giving up its activities in 1998. Evidence that the groups had been infiltrated by German Intelligence undercover agents has since emerged, partly through the insistence of the son of one of their prominent victims, the State Counsel Buback.
In the 1969 election, the SPD — headed by Willy Brandt — gained enough votes to form a coalition government with the FDP. Although Chancellor for only just over four years, Willy Brandt was one of the most popular politicians in the whole period. Brandt was a gifted speaker and the growth of the Social Democrats from there on was in no small part due to his personality. Brandt began a policy of rapprochement with West Germany’s eastern neighbors, a policy opposed by the CDU. The issue of improving relations with Poland, Czechoslovakia and East Germany made for an increasingly aggressive tone in public debates but it was a huge step forward when Willy Brandt and the Foreign Minister, Walther Scheel (FDP) negotiated agreements with all three countries. These agreements were the basis for a rapid improvement in the relations between east and west and led, in the long-term to the dismantlement of the Warsaw Treaty and the Soviet Union’s control over Eastern Europe. Chancellor Brandt was forced to resign in May 1974, after Günter Guillaume, a senior member of his staff, was uncovered as a spy for the East German intelligence service, the Stasi. Brandt’s contributions to world peace led to his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971.
Finance Minister Helmut Schmidt (SPD) formed a coalition and he served as Chancellor from 1974 to 1982. Hans-Dietrich Genscher, a leading FDP official, became Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister. Schmidt, a strong supporter of the European Community (EC) and the Atlantic alliance, emphasized his commitment to “the political unification of Europe in partnership with the USA”.
In October 1982, the SPD–FDP coalition fell apart when the FDP joined forces with the CDU/CSU to elect CDU Chairman Helmut Kohl as Chancellor in a constructive vote of no confidence. Following national elections in March 1983, Kohl emerged in firm control of both the government and the CDU. The CDU/CSU fell just short of an absolute majority, due to the entry into the Bundestag of the Greens, who received 5.6% of the vote.
In January 1987, the Kohl–Genscher government was returned to office, but the FDP and the Greens gained at the expense of the larger parties. Kohl’s CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, slipped from 48.8% of the vote in 1983 to 44.3%. The SPD fell to 37%; long-time SPD Chairman Brandt subsequently resigned in April 1987 and was succeeded by Hans-Jochen Vogel. The FDP’s share rose from 7% to 9.1%, its best showing since 1980. The Greens’ share rose to 8.3% from their 1983 share of 5.6%.
The official German reunification ceremony on October 3, 1990, was held at the Reichstag building, including Chancellor Helmut Kohl, President Richard von Weizsäcker, former Chancellor Willy Brandt and many others. One day later, the parliament of the united Germany would assemble in an act of symbolism in the Reichstag building. However, at that time, the role of Berlin had not yet been decided upon. Only after a fierce debate, considered by many as one of the most memorable sessions of parliament, the Bundestag concluded on June 20, 1991, with quite a slim majority, that both government and parliament should move to Berlin from Bonn.
When the Federal Republic of Germany was formed the Deutsche Bundespost (German federal post office) became the governmental agency with the monopoly for postal services; the name was adopted in 1950, prior it was called Deutsche Post. The stamps of the FRG were released on September 7, 1949 (Scott #665-666) to publicize the First Federal Assembly, and they depict an allegory of “Reconstruction”. In 1961, the two-digit postal code was replaced with a four-digit code; this was replaced after the reunification. By the time of the reunification, about 1,400 different stamps had been issued. The process of converting the governmental agency into a public company was initiated in 1989 by separating postal services from post bank and communication services. The Deutsche Bundespost was the largest employer in the Federal Republic. In 1985, it employed 543,200 people.
Scott #1350 was released on May 7, 1981 as part of that year’s Europa issue. The 60-pfennig lithographed stamp, perforated 14, features a Northern Germany couple dancing in regional costumes. Europa stamps are an annual joint issue of stamps with a common design or theme by postal administrations members of the European Communities (1956-1959), the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT from 1960 to 1992), then the PostEurop Association since 1993.
The first Europa issue dates back to September 15, 1956. The postal administrations of the founding six members of the ECSC issued stamps with a common design: a tower made up of the letters of the word “EUROPA” and surrounded by construction scaffolding. In 1959, these stamps were jointly issued by the member countries of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications, the initials of which (“CEPT”) were displayed on the stamps of the joint issue as of 1960.
There was a common design theme from 1956 to 1973, (with the exception of 1957). However, many countries issued a stamp that does not feature the common pattern but just displayed the word EUROPA. Common theme issues ran out of steam and after 1973, CEPT allowed countries to issue stamps with different designs. It should be noted that Andorra has issued Europa Stamps since 1966 (French) and 1972 (Spain). Andorra cannot Join PostEurop as its Postal System is looked after independently by both France and Spain. The Isle of Man and Guernsey, Crown dependency of the United Kingdom first issued Europa stamps in 1976, with Jersey following in 1978.
As before from 1974, the designs freely reflected a common theme. Of note is the CEPT logo indicating it is a Europa CEPT stamp issue. The success of Europa issues among collectors prompted many postal administrations of small countries or territories dependent of European countries (the Channel Islands for instance) to join the issuing countries in the 1970s. The number of participants reached 35 in the 1980s. Turkey has participated continuously since 1960, and communist Yugoslavia from 1969. The collapse of the Communist Bloc brought new issuers as of 1990 to reach 57 countries in the late 1990s.
When the CEPT decided to focus more on telecommunications in 1993, PostEurop took over the management of the Europa issues as well as the responsibility for perpetuating the tradition of the EUROPA stamps and ensuring its evolution. Therefore, the CEPT logo has been replaced by a new logo created by PostEurop, i.e. the word EUROPA leaning to the right. In order to promote Europa issues among philatelists, in 2002 an annual competition was created to choose the “Best Europa stamp”.