From the beginning of the West German state, a lot of public opinion polling was done on the German question. The findings have been scrutinized carefully from the 1950s onward, but polls have always been taken at face value, as a mirror of society. In this analysis, polls are treated rather as an observation technique of empirical social research that composes a certain image of society and its public opinion. The entanglement of domestic and international politics is analyzed with respect to the use of surveys that were done around the two topics of Western integration and reunification that pinpoint the “functional entanglement” of domestic and international politics. The net of polling questions spun around these two terms constituted a complex setting for political actors. During the 1950s, surveys probed and ranked the fears and anxieties that characterized West Germans and helped to construct a certain kind of atmosphere that can be described as “Cold War angst.” These findings were taken as the basis for dealing with the dilemma of Germany caught between reunification and Western integration. The data and interpretations were converted into “security” as the overarching frame for international and domestic politics by the conservative government that lasted until the early 1960s.
The years of Adenauer's chancellorship 1949-1963 were an extremely violent and anxiety laden period in recent history. Adenauer himself tried to combine as basic aims Western integration and German unification, but the latter more and more became a matter of lip-service for the time being for domestic reasons. The article focused on his Potsdam complex which meant the fear that the Western allies and the Soviet Union might find a solution of the German question without unification or in a kind of neutralism. In the course of the 1950ies and especially during the Berlin Wall crisis 1958-1962, Adenauer's course became more and more isolated because he tried to prevent all talks on relaxation of tensions, but also on the German question: both might lead to a status minor and the FRG especially. The author demonstrates how this process of isolation in the domestic as well as in the international field diminished the authority of the first chancellor of the FRG. He nevertheless continued to adhere to the necessary dichotomy of the Cold War camps with being able to formulate a diverging line. It is suggested that these questions of alternatives to the Cold War, given the mutual anxiety of the two camps should be used as a starting point for further research.
Researching and writing contemporary history move forward in a
certain rhythm. Today, the 1960s are the decade of major interest,
whereas the 1970s increasingly are becoming the testing ground of
new approaches and reinterpretations. By contrast, the 1950s seem
of little interest—with most of the issues solved and most sources
accessible. But this could be a false impression, especially if one
takes into account the dominant views on this period that have
become popular in the last years. After 1989/90, with the fall of the
Berlin Wall, the unification of Germany, and the end of the Cold
War, many historians developed and corroborated an interpretation
of the postwar decades—a now widely accepted master narrative of
the “German question.” With the benefit of hindsight, they claimed
that Konrad Adenauer’s policy of Western integration was a necessary
and inevitable course, which facilitated eventual reunification.
Other political options would have rendered the Federal Republic of
Germany (FRG) dangerously open to stronger communist pressure or
even would have presented the Soviet Union with the opportunity to
expand its empire to Germany as a whole.
production together. In many ways, they groped for how to use the strengths of the prewar economy while directing it through government action. 52 It was no coincidence that the economic views of Western integration’s great mid-twentieth-century proponents
Joyce Marie Mushaben, Shelley Baranowski, Trevor J. Allen, Sabine von Mering, Stephen Milder, Volker Prott, and Peter C. Pfeiffer
predominantly agrarian economy, a strong role of the church in politics, and the lack of liberal democratic traditions. In the German case, it was not backwardness but “normative deficiencies” (888) in Western integration that caused the country to slide into a