This article is about the Federal Republic of Germany as it was between 1949 and 1990 ("the Bonn Republic"). For the Federal Republic of Germany since 1990 ("the Berlin Republic"), see Germany. For the German state between 1919 and 1933 ("the Weimar Republic"), see Weimar Republic.
At first, Bonn was referred to only as the provisional seat of government institutions, but from the early 1970s it was called the "federal capital" (Bundeshauptstadt).
West Germany is the common English name for the Federal Republic of Germany (German: Bundesrepublik Deutschland) in the period between its creation on 23 May 1949 and German reunification on 3 October 1990. During this Cold War era, NATO-aligned West Germany and Warsaw Pact-aligned East Germany were divided by the Inner German border. After 1961 West Berlin was physically separated from East Berlin as well as from East Germany by the Berlin Wall. This situation ended when East Germany was dissolved and split into five states, which then joined the ten states of the Federal Republic of Germany along with the reunified city-state of Berlin. With the reunification of West and East Germany, the Federal Republic of Germany, enlarged now to sixteen states, became known simply as "Germany". This period is referred to as the Bonn Republic (Bonner Republik) by historians, alluding to the interwar Weimar Republic and the post-reunification Berlin Republic.
At the onset of the Cold War, Europe was divided among the Western and Eastern blocs. Germany was de facto divided into two countries and two special territories, the Saarland and divided Berlin. Initially the Federal Republic of Germany claimed an exclusive mandate for all of Germany, considering itself to be the democratically reorganised continuation of the 1871–1945 German Reich. It took the line that the GDR was an illegally constituted puppet state. Though the GDR did hold regular elections, these were not free and fair. From the West German perspective, the GDR was therefore illegitimate.
Three southwestern states of West Germany merged to form Baden-Württemberg in 1952, and the Saarland joined the Federal Republic of Germany in 1957. In addition to the resulting ten states, West Berlin was considered an unofficial de facto 11th state. While legally not part of the Federal Republic of Germany, as Berlin was under the control of the Allied Control Council, West Berlin aligned itself politically with West Germany and was directly or indirectly represented in its federal institutions.
Relations with the Soviet bloc improved during the era of "Neue Ostpolitik" around 1970, West Germany then adopting the principle that the GDR and the Federal Republic were "two German states within one German nation". Claims to an exclusive mandate were formally relinquished, West Germany accepting that, within its own boundaries, the GDR represented its population as a de jure German state outside the Federal Republic. In addition, although the Federal Republic still did not recognise the GDR as being fully a sovereign state in international law, it nevertheless accepted that within the forum of international law East Germany was an independent sovereign state with which the Federal Republic could enter into binding international agreements. But in respect of legality within its own boundaries, West Germany continued to maintain that there remained a single (but dormant) overall German nation, that could only be represented de jure by the Federal Republic. From 1973 onward, East Germany maintained the existence of two German sovereign states, with West Germany being both de facto and de jure a foreign country. The Federal Republic and the GDR agreed that neither of them could speak in the name of the other.
The foundation for the influential position held by Germany today was laid during the Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle) of the 1950s when West Germany rose from the enormous destruction wrought by World War II to become the world's third-largest economy. The first chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who remained in office until 1963, had worked for a full alignment with NATO rather than neutrality. He not only secured a membership in NATO but was also a proponent of agreements that developed into the present-day European Union. When the G6 was established in 1975, there was no question whether the Federal Republic of Germany would be a member as well.
Following the collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989, symbolised by the opening of the Berlin Wall, there was a rapid move towards German reunification. East Germany voted to dissolve itself and accede to the Federal Republic in 1990. Its five post-war states (Länder) were reconstituted along with the reunited Berlin, which ended its special status and formed an additional Land. They formally joined the Federal Republic on 3 October 1990, raising the number of states from 10 to 16, ending the division of Germany. The expanded Federal Republic retained West Germany's political culture and continued its existing memberships in international organisations, as well as its Western foreign policy alignment and affiliation to Western alliances like UN, NATO, OECD and the European Union.
The official name of West Germany, adopted in 1949 and unchanged since is Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Germany).
In East Germany, the terms Westdeutschland (West Germany) or westdeutsche Bundesrepublik (West German Federal Republic) were preferred during the 1950s and 1960s. This changed once under its 1968 constitution, when the idea of a single German nation was abandoned by East Germany and West Germans and West Berliners were officially considered foreigners. In the early 1970s, starting in the East German Neues Deutschland, the initialism "BRD" (FRG) for the "Federal Republic of Germany" began to prevail in East German usage. In 1973, official East German sources adopted it as a standard expression and other Eastern Bloc nations soon followed suit.
In reaction to this move, in 1965 the West German Federal Minister of All-German AffairsErich Mende issued the Directives for the appellation of Germany, recommending avoiding the initialism. On 31 May 1974, the heads of West German federal and state governments recommended always using the full name in official publications. From then on West German sources avoided the abbreviated form, with the exception of left-leaning organizations which embraced it. In November 1979 the federal government informed the Bundestag that the West German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF had agreed to refuse to use the initialism.
The ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country code of West Germany was "DE" (for Deutschland, Germany), which has remained the country code of Germany after reunification. ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 are the most widely used country codes, and the "DE" code is notably used as country identifier extending the postal code and as the Internet's country code top-level domain .de. Accordingly the less widely used ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 country code of West Germany was "DEU", which has also remained the country code of reunified Germany. The now deleted codes for East Germany, on the other hand, was "DD" in ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 and "DDR" in ISO 3166-1 alpha-3.
The colloquial term "West Germany" or its equivalent was used in many languages. "Westdeutschland" was also a widespread colloquial form used in German-speaking countries, usually without political overtones.