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West Germany

‘The Reader’ is set in what was West Germany.  At the end of WW2, the Allied Powers each occupied and took control of four newly established zones within the country, with the western areas coming under control of the UK, the USA and France.  In 1949, eleven of these states were amalgamated into the Federal Republic of Germany, with the eastern zone (which had been under Soviet control) becoming the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany.  Berlin was divided into two, so Bonn became the capital city of West Germany.  Germany did not become reunified into one country until 1990, with the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

The story begins during the late 1950s, by which time West Germany had made considerable economic recovery from the disaster of WW2.  This was in large part due to the introduction of the Deutsche Mark in 1948, as well as aid provided by the USA.  In 1950, West Germany had been allowed to regain control of her coal and steel industries, which enabled her to make a great deal of money by supplying goods during the Korean War of 1950-53.  In 1955 West Germany was declared fully sovereign, and joined NATO.  The country was generally stable politically, until student unrest began to emerge in the 1960s, much of which was concerned with the desires of younger Germans to confront the country’s

Berlin, West Germany, 1955
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBerlin, West Germany, 1955 - Credit: Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive)
recent past.  The section of ‘The Reader’ dealing with Michael’s university years is sent during this period.  It also depicts the war crimes trials that Germany was able to perform herself, unlike the Nuremberg Trials which had been conducted by the Allies immediately after the end of the war.   

Unlike East Germany, which was a communist state, western cosmopolitan culture became a great influence, and gave the country an opportunity to assert modernity.  For this reason, reunification in 1990 was not as monumental socially as it was for East Germany.