On this day in 1949 the Federal Republic of Germany is established

Documents on the creation of the German Federal Constitution. Published:  [Berlin] : Prepared by Civil Administration Division, Office of Military Government for Germany ; 1949. (From the H. Warner Waid Collection)

Documents on the creation of the German Federal Constitution.
Published: [Berlin] : Prepared by Civil Administration Division, Office of Military Government for Germany ; 1949. (From the H. Warner Waid Collection)

The NATO-aligned Federal Republic of Germany (popularly known as West Germany) was formally established as a separate and independent nation on May 23, 1949. It would remain so, divided from the Warsaw-pact aligned East Germany, until German reunification on October 9, 1990.

The Federal Republic of Germany, with the city of Bonn as its de facto capital city, was established from eleven states formed in the three Allied Zones of occupation held by the US, the UK and France.  The German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was established in October 1949 from the territory occupied by the Soviet Union. The city of Berlin was also divided as West Berlin was later physically separated from East Berlin as well as from East Germany by the Berlin Wall.

Konrad Adenauer (1876–1967), German statesman, first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany 1949–63, at the German Bundestag, February 1955.  Image: Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive)

Konrad Adenauer (1876–1967), German statesman, first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany 1949–63, at the German Bundestag, February 1955.
Image: Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive)

Konrad Adenauer became the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). Adenauer held power for the next fourteen years and during that time refused to recognize the legal existence of the German Democratic Republic.

This divisive arrangement was supposed to be temporary, but as Cold War animosities began to harden, it became increasingly evident that the division between the communist and non-communist controlled sections of Germany and Berlin would become permanent. For the next forty-one years, East and West Germany served as symbols of the divided world, and of the Cold War animosities between the Soviet Union and the United States.

In 1990, with the collapse of communism, East and West Germany were finally reunited as one nation.

The H. Warner Waid Collection -located in Special Collections – consists of over 700 German books, periodicals and government documents such as Documents on the creation of the German Federal Constitution (seen above). Included are German publications from the Weimar era, propaganda from the Nazi era and also U.S. government and military documents from the post-World War II reconstruction era.

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