“To what extent did Willy Brandt’s ‘Ostpolitik’ change relations between East and West Germany?”
The split between East and West Germany after World War Two resulted in a tumultuous and tense period of German history. Germans saw the construction of the Berlin Wall, economic boom in the West, dictatorship in the East and in this time the two zones became almost irreversibly divided. Soviet influence in the Eastern zone coupled with US control in the West meant a delicate state of affairs between them. The years of the Berlin Wall made relations between the GDR in the East and the FRG in the West particularly frosty. However, the work of Willy Brandt’s and his policy of “Ostpolitik” took great steps toward bridging the gap and it can be argued that Ostpolitik caused much change in East-West relations.
Before Brandt, FRG foreign policy toward the GDR had been mainly to tolerate the divide and continue as normal, and there was little focus in the FRG on reunification – Adenaeur’s government had been unable to act when the Berlin Wall went up, and throughout the years of the Wall the FRG and GDR had very few relations and did not integrate in any way. When Adenaeur resigned in 1963 he was succeeded by two other Chancellors and then by Brandt. At the time Brandt came into office, the West was very pro-reform. The East was seen widely as just a “zone”, and many Western Germans felt that this status needed to be re-defined. Up until now, the Hallstein Doctrine implemented by the Allied Powers had enforced that East Germany was not recognised as a country and could not therefore form diplomatic relations of its own. This is why Brandt’s work was so important - without his intervention, West-East relations would have been very unlikely. Brandt’s aims were to topple the Hallstein Doctrine, and in doing so to improve relations between East and West. In 1969 he presented plans for several social reforms in the FRG, and part of this was West-East foreign policy. Foreign...
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