picture-alliance/dpa - Year 2014

2014 – year of remembrance

In 2014, 100 years will have passed since the outbreak of the First World War, 75 years since the start of World War II, and 25 years since of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. Although considerably less prominent in the public perception than World War II, the First World War (1914-1918) is seen as the “seminal catastrophe” of the 20th century. Christopher Clark, an Australian historian and professor at Cambridge, UK, has triggered a new debate on the reasons for the outbreak of war with his bestseller The Sleepwalkers. For a long time it was generally agreed that Imperial Germany bore the main responsibility because of its ambitions to achieve great-power status. Clark arrives at a different assessment. At a time that was characterized by mutual mistrust, miscalculations, arrogance, expansionist plans and nationalist aspirations, a spark was enough to trigger the war.

World War II began 25 years later with the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939. It ended in August 1945. Europe lay in ruins. The war had cost the lives of more than 55 million people. It was the end for Germany – but also a beginning. 1945 was a turning point for the Germans – away from National Socialism and towards a liberal way of living and thinking. However, Germany’s future was still uncertain in the early post-war years. The negotiations of the occupying powers increasingly revealed the beginnings of the Cold War between the superpowers USA and USSR. The situation came to a head when the Federal Republic of Germany was founded on 23 May 1949 and the German Democratic Republic on 7 October 1949. The construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 seemed to finally seal the partition of Germany.

But another 40 years after the creation of the two German states, on 9 November 1989, the Berlin Wall fell after the peaceful revolution of the people in the GDR. The desire for German unity grew. More and more people in the GDR demanded reunification. The Federal Government submitted a ten-point programme. The decisive factor was ultimately the willingness of the victorious powers of World War II to clear the way for German reunification with the Two-Plus-Four Treaty. On 3 October 1990 the GDR joined the Federal Republic – restoring Germany’s unity as a nation state.

The Institute for Contemporary History in Munich, Deutschlandradio Kultur and the Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship are jointly sponsoring an exhibition on this topic called Dictatorship and Democracy in the Age of Extremes, which will be shown at different locations in Germany in 2014. 

www.bundesstiftung-aufarbeitung.de (PDF)


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