Politics After Hitler: The Western Allies and the German Party System
By Daniel E. Rogers
New York University Press, 1995, 206 pp
German Politics, 1945-1995
By Peter Pulzer
Oxford University Press, 1996, 195 pp
These two books are complementary. Rogers, a historian, makes an important contribution to the history of the Allies' occupation of western Germany by concentrating not on programs aimed at reforming German political culture but on efforts to revive and reorient party politics. He argues that Britain, the United States, and France played a major role in reshaping the party system. While he finds little evidence that they were relatively indulgent toward the right after the Cold War began, he shows that they were concerned with preventing both reaction and revolution, a revival of nationalism including that of Kurt Schumacher's Social Democratic Party (SPD), and splinter parties, and that the system of licenses and authorizations resulted in a limited number of moderate parties. This fine monograph tells a complex success story clearly and intelligently.
Pulzer, a political scientist at Oxford, begins not where Rogers leaves off, but with the reunification of Germany and the difficult problem of coping with two different pasts. He then turns to the history of the two post-1945 Germanies and discusses the victorious powers' goals, the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany, and the Adenauer era. He is critical of the chancellor's reluctance to cleanse public life and of his domination of the political system but praises him for achieving social peace and moving toward European integration. He examines the rather unstable years after Adenauer, the role of the SPD in launching Ostpolitik, and the rule of Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl. More briefly, he surveys what happened in the German Democratic Republic and the burdens of reunification. He finds that the current federal structure puts great strains on the five ‘Lander’ of the former German Democratic Republic. This too is a success story, despite occasional blemishes, and Pulzer tells it insightfully and elegantly.