William Glenn Gray Germany’s Cold War

My book represents the first major study of an epic, worldwide competition

between East and West Germany. The controversy lay at the very core of German identity after 1945: who represented the “true” Germany, the capitalist West or the communist East?

For leaders in Bonn, it was axiomatic that there could only be one German state; they dismissed the “German Democratic Republic” based in East Berlin as an illegitimate, insubstantial upstart. With the assistance of France, Britain, and the United States, the Federal Republic of Germany managed to persuade countries throughout the “free world” not to recognize the GDR. The East German state found acceptance only among the communist countries of Eastern Europe and Asia.

Germany’s Cold War explores how the diplomatic blockade around East Germany began to crumble in the wake of decolonization and the advent of the nonaligned movement. Leaders in the “Third World” often did not wish to choose between East and West Germany; they wanted relations with both. Initiatives by Soviet and East German diplomats in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa helped the GDR to gain a foothold in the “Third World.” In response, the West Germans devised a series of coercive diplomatic and financial measures to block East Germany’s progress. At times this “German-German” competition worked to the advantage of nonaligned countries: Ghana, Egypt, Indonesia, and many other states received what amounted to “payoffs” from Bonn in order not to deepen ties with East Berlin. By the late 1960s, many West Germans felt they were fighting a hopeless battle; but I argue that they consistently overestimated the energy and effectiveness of East German efforts. I conclude that – contrary to standard wisdom – the GDR’s recognition campaign was a failure. East Berlin’s breakthrough to worldwide recognition came only in the 1970s, after the West Germans had decided to allow it to happen.

Bonn’s decades-long campaign against East Berlin was the object of tremendous controversy in the 1950s and 1960s, but until recently scholars have not had access to the historical record of the period. Scattered publications in German have addressed aspects of the worldwide “German-German” competition, but none have relied on such extensive archival research. This book is written as a contribution to “international” history, with extensive use of French, British, and American archival sources as well as East and West German material.