And Now.... GERMANY
The beginning of a new millennium is an appropriate moment to study modern
Germany. Exposed, on TV, to old wartime movies with stereotyped Germans,
and told, in history courses, of America's debt to 7 million German immigrants
(23 percent of U.S. citizens claim a German ancestor), teens may understandably
equate Germany with "yesterday." But this key ally of the USA
works around the clock to advance peace and prosperity within Europe and
throughout the world — now. In the following paragraphs, you'll
find material to assist you in exploring and developing this unit's topic
with students — plus a whole lot of additional sources you may want
to explore, and a special section on sharpening students' Social
Studies Reading Skills as they tackle the unit pages designed for
"And Now.... Germany" offers students a chance to strengthen
the following skills, as they pursue new standards of learning (SOLs)
in the various states. The first is taken from Expectations of Excellence:
Curriculum Standards for the Social Studies (EE); the second and
third are cited from the National Standards for History (NSH).
Thus, the student should be better able to:
- "explain conditions and motivations that contribute to conflict,
cooperation, and interdependence among groups ... and nations."
— "Global Connections" (EE)
- "assess the degree to which both human rights and democratic
ideals and practices have been advanced in the world during the [second
half of] the 20th century." — "Era 9," Standard
- "analyze the ... characteristics of capitalism and compare
capitalist systems with other systems for organizing production, labor,
and trade." — "World History Across the Eras,"
Standard 1 (NSH)
You may want to preview these terms with students: Cold War, command
economy, compensation (to victims), euro (currency),
European Union (EU), gross domestic product (GDP), North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO), social market economy. Note also that the terms
"East" and "West" Germany apply to the period 1949-1990
(see Germany Map Page), while "eastern"
and "western" are applicable to reunited Germany. Finally, students
in world history classes will note that, while the full name of the Federal
Republic of Germany is included in the article on the Student
Text Page, the name of the former German Democratic Republic is not.
You may want to introduce both terms when discussing "West Germany"
and "East Germany," respectively.
FOUR BIG QUESTIONS
While the questions at the top of the Student
Text Page are intended to prompt research, they can also be used as
the focus for a class study unit and discussion. Here's some additional
background on those questions:
1. "After decades of Cold-War division, East and West
Germans reunited in 1990: What new challenges did they face?"
The big domestic challenge was to unite the economies of the former "two
Germanys" — not an easy task, given their differences. Even
though East Germany had been the most productive of all Soviet satellites,
its economic capital (factories, etc.) was not competitive with West Germany's,
and layoffs were inevitable after reunion. Under Germany's rehabilitation
program, the average gross earnings in wages and salaries within eastern
Germany have risen to about 71 percent of those in western Germany (October
2001). Yet eastern Germany still has an unemployment rate of 18 percent
(July 2002) — more than twice that in the country's western states.
It's an issue of great concern to the German government. For more details
and continuing updates, see the employment data provided by Germany's
Office. On the page that opens, you'll find data under three headings:
(a) Germany, (b) the "Former territory of the Federal Republic"
(western Germany), and (c) the "New Länder and Berlin-East"
Students will find a useful profile of Germany's overall economic achievements
on this unit's Data Page. And for those
interested in more detail, you might suggest the "Quick
Facts: Economy" page at the Germany Info Site. (Note that some
data on that page are provided only in euro.)
2. "What role does Germany's economy play in the European
Union?" Apart from other factors, its economic success alone
lends Germany great influence within the EU. Take the debates that preceded
the adoption of the new EU currency (the euro). Germany successfully held
the line in urging that EU members reduce their budget deficits, to qualify
for entering "euroland." (This, to keep the euro on as sound
a footing as the D-Mark had been.) Indeed, Germany itself has had to wrestle
with a deficit problem. The costs of reviving its eastern region and maintaining
a generous "safety-net" for all Germans led past administrations
to borrow heavily. The remedy? More taxes would add to an already heavy
burden for Germans. (Indeed, Chancellor Schroeder began the process of
reducing corporate and personal tax rates after his first election.) But
their national debt might be eased by a reduction of the government's
contribution to such social welfare programs as unemployment benefits.
(A controversial idea, too!)
3. "Why does Germany favor NATO's expansion?"
Students should be able to answer this question from the "And Now...."
section of the Student Text Page and from
consulting the inset maps on the Germany Map
Page. As a nation bordering both west and east European markets, Germany
can look forward to expanding its trade in all directions — and
to helping new democracies in the east — provided that Europe's
peace is guaranteed. That's where NATO comes in: and the more members,
the wider the security zone. Addressing the German parliament in November
2002, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer announced his government's
full support for NATO on the eve of that Organization's proffer of membership
to several East European nations (Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia,
Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania). “The door must remain open,”
said Fischer. “NATO is the…. expression of the historic bond
and mutual commitment of Europe and America.” Thus, NATO remains
the cornerstone of German defense — a policy that does not preclude
its membership, also, in the EU's newly emerging rapid-reaction military
4. "How might German policies influence tomorrow's world?"
Ask students to select examples of German policies which they think other
nations could adapt, to their benefit. Then share this comment from a
thought-provoking article in Current History, a few years back:
"The Germans have eliminated the concept of 'power' from their political
vocabulary.... What is distinctive about Germany is ... the fact that
its political leaders exercise power only in multilateral ... systems."
You might review this mini-unit by discussing: Could (Should) this German
policy set a trend for the new century?"
SOCIAL STUDIES READING SKILLS
Realizing that the recent Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
will exert a mounting pressure on social studies teachers to emphasize
reading skills with secondary school students, LE offers the following
tips for use with this unit (see also LE's Site Page on Reading
Skills in the Social Studies):
* Paraphrase the article.
Paraphrasing is an important reading skill, but one that many students
find difficult. To help them tackle your assignment to paraphrase
this unit's Student Text Page, you
might tell students that a paraphrase is like an aerial shot of a
particular landscape: Only the key patterns and critical details (should)
stand out. Reading experts suggest that a good paraphrase includes
brief references to the topic, the writer's main idea, the
most critical details, and any key terms that give the argument its
unique quality. The following paraphrase of this unit's Student
Text Page is only one of many forms such a paraphrase might take.
Your own content goals for assigning the page could suggest alternatives:
The reunification of East and West
Germans in 1990 was joyful, but it challenged the democratic Federal
Republic of Germany (FRG). The command economy in communist East
Germany had not advanced as far as the socialist market economy
in West Germany, and the FRG had to impose a 5.5-percent income-tax
surcharge to build up the east. Despite this hurdle, the FRG remained
influential. As the largest economy in the European Union (EU),
it voted to adopt the EU's new currency, the euro. And it also promoted
the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, through
the admission of three new democracies.
* Classify Statements as True
or False. Within the social studies, the absolute truth or
falsity of any statement might be difficult to demonstrate. But students
need to develop the habit of mind that recognizes whether
a statement attributed to an author (or speaker) is a "true"
attribution. In that sense, you might ask students to decide
whether each of the following is True or False, on the basis of the
Student Text Page (answers in italics):
1. During the
Cold War, the city of Berlin was divided into communist and democratic
2. In 1949, East Germany pressured the USSR
into helping it become a communist state. (False. The pressure
was exerted by the USSR.)
3. Under East Germany's "command economy,"
communist party leaders made all economic decisions. (True)
4. One of the features of Germany's social
market economy is that many employers and industrial unions cooperate
in deciding wages. (True)
5. The purpose of the 1990 Treaty of Unification
was to unite all West Germans under the Federal Republic of Germany.
(False. The purpose was to make East Germans citizens of the FRG,
thus uniting them with West Germans.)
6. After 1990, companies in western Germany
did not compete with companies in the eastern part of the country.
(False. Competition from companies in the western part of the
FRG drove some eastern-based companies out of business.)
7. By 1998, East Germany was spending $100
billion annually on new infrastructure (roads, communication technology,
etc.). (False. The FRG was spending that much annually on its
8. Germany has joined with 15 other European
nations to form the European Union. (False. The EU has 15 members,
9. The Deutsche Mark is Germany's official
currency. (False. It's the euro.)
10. Germany has officially offered restitution
for the Holocaust. (True)
Booklets, pamphlets, and further data on Germany are available at the
German Information Center/4645 Reservoir Road NW/Washington, DC 20007-1998.
And Internet browsers can find up-to-date information on many of the topics
in this unit (including overseas study options) at the official Germany
For news breaks and data on Germany, check any national newspaper….
Or browse for on-line papers, state by state, at the "USA
Newspapers.com" Site…. You can follow the links at Europa,
the European Union's server, for more data on the euro. (Use the Site's
Search box.)…. And for details on German trade, compared with that
of other global leaders, see occasional tables at the World
Trade Organization site. (Click on the "A-Z" link, then
select "Statistics" and follow your particular interest.)
LE recommends these items, too:
The World Factbook. CIA annual.
Joffe, Josef. "Germany's Supply-Side Revolution." Wall Street
Journal. July 20, 2000.
Katzenstein, Peter J. "United Germany in an Integrating Europe."
Current History. March 1997.
Germany Student Text Page
| Germany Map Page | Germany
Would you like to see other pages
in this study unit? Or visit LE's Home
LE wishes to thank the German Information Center, Washington,
DC, for underwriting the costs of producing and distributing the original
printed version of this unit. We hope that, in this new electronic version,
our unit continues to serve teachers and students in Grades 7-12.
© Learning Enrichment, Inc.
Content last updated: January 2003. Page last reviewed: January 2003.