Volume XXVI – Number 2

Helmut Lehmann

Abstract: Historians attempting to study German unification from 1989-1990 face challenges such as the inability to access key sources of data. However, German unification is best understood through examination of German history from 1949-1990. Furthermore, this period of 40 years must be connected and understood within the context of earlier German history. The historiography on Germany, in large part, ends with WWII, with only a few specialists focusing on individual topics from the post-war era. Through this work, I will explain how pre-1945 German history influenced post-1945 German history. Focusing on three distinct aspects – the role of federalism or regionalism, the meaning of the rule of law, and the views Germans have of their past – I will give meaning to pre-1945 German history in the context of German unification in 1989-1990. Through analysis of these three aspects, I will show how the writing of German history in West Germany, the adoption and growth of federalism, and the evolution of the rule of law and individual liberty laid a foundation for a united German to reside firmly in the Western world.


Keywords: German historiography, East Germany, West German, German unification, federalism, regionalism

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