Politics in Germany: The Online Edition

Russell J. Dalton, UC Irvine


Adenauer, Konrad, was head of the postwar CDU and guided postwar development of the Federal Republic. He served as the Federal Republic's first chancellor (1949-63)

AfD, the Alternative for Germany is a conservative anti-EU party that formed before the 2013 election in reaction to German policy toward the EU and Euro. While it failed to win a Bundestag seat in 2013 it did gain representation in the European parliament after the 2014 elections.

Article 48, Article 48 of the Weimar constitution allowed the president to rule by decree during a state of emergency; this system was used to circumvent the democratic process in the last years of the Weimar Republic.

Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHT), is comparable to the Chambers of Commerce in the United States. Membership is mandatory, and several million business enterprises belong to the eighty-one district and local associations of the DIHT.

Basic Law (Grundgesetz), is the defacto constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany. It was developed by a Parliamentary Council and came into effect in 1949.

BDA, go to Federation of German Employers' Associations

BDI, go to Federation of German Industries

Berlin blockade, was a result of the breakdown of cooperation between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union in the administration of postwar Germany. In 1948 the Soviets closed land access to Berlin through Eastern Germany, and the West responded with a massive year-long airlife to provide West Berlin with the food and materials it needed to remain independent.

Bismarck, Otto von, was chancellor of the Northern German Confederation and successful orchestrated the unification of Germany as a result of the 1870 Franco-Prussian war. Bismarck was the first chancellor of the Second German Empire (1871-1890).

Bundesrat, one house of the Federal Republic's national parliament. Its 69 members are appointed by the state governments to represent the states in national policy making. The Bundesrat has equal legislative powers to the Bundestag on policies that involve the state governments.

Bundestag, one house of the Federal Republic's national parliament. The 598 members of the Bundestag are elected in a national Bundestagswahl. The Bundestag is the primary house of the legislature that must approve of all federal legislation.

CDU, go to Christian Democratic Union

CSU, go to Christian Social Union

Chancellor (Bundeskanzler), is the head of the federal government. He is elected by the majority of the Bundestag and thus also represents a majority in that house of the parliament.

Christian Democratic Union (CDU) ,is the major conservative party in Germany that generally represents business, middle class and religious interests in politics. It is the party of chancellors Adenauer, Kohl and Merkel.

Christian Social Union (CSU), is the sister party of the CDU that exists only in Bavaria, and is typically more conservative than the CDU. In national politics the party runs in elections and governments in partnership with the CDU (CDU/CSU).

Citizen-action groups (Bürgerinitiativen), is an ad hoc group of interested people who lobby decision makers on a specific policy issue such as the environment, education, women's rights, or community issues.

Civil society, involves participation in social groups and social networks that builds up a store of social capital among the citizenry.

Co-determination, is a system of co-management of a firm by workers and management. The law requires that the supervisory board that controls a corporation include representatives of management and the corporation's workers. The size and composition of the board varies with different types and size of the firms.

Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), is the program of agricultural subsidies provided by the European Union. It is a major benefit to farmers.

Communist Party of Germany (KPD), was the primary communist party during the Weimar Republic. It was banned during the Third Reich, but reemerged after World War II ended. In the East, the party was merged into the SED to give the communist control of all leftist parties. In the West, the KPD was banned as anti-system in 1956, although in 1969 a new communist party was formed in the West (DKP)

Constitutional Court, reviews the constitutionality of legislation, mediates disputes between levels of government, and protects the constitution and the democratic order.

Constructive no-confidence vote, is a procedure by which a majority of the Bundestag can vote to remove a chancellor if it simultaneously agrees on a successor. This procedure was used in 1982 to remove Schmidt and install Kohl as chancellor.

Coordination (Gleichschaltung), was a process by which the Nazis took control of social groups, institutions and social life in Germany to ensure the Third Reich's absolute control.

Currency Union, merged the Western and Eastern economies in 1990 by setting up a fixed exchange rate between western and eastern currencies.

DBB, go to German Civil Servants Federation

DGB, go to German Federation of Trade Unions

DIHT, go to Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce

DBV, go to German Farmers Association

EKD, go to Evangelical Church in Germany

Economic Miracle Wirtschaftswunder, a term used to describe the dramatic growth of the West German economy and living standards after World War II.

Enabling Act, was legislation passed at the end of the Weimar Republic in 1933 that provide the legislative basis for the creation of the Third Reich and the dictatorial powers of Hitler. The formal name of the Enabling Act was Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich ("Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the State").

Erhard, Ludwig, was the CDU Economics Minister who is widely credited with directing the postwar Economic Miracle. He served as chancellor from 1963 until 1966.

European Union (EU), originally formed as the Common Market in 1957 and then the European Community in 1973, the European Union is a supranational organization that develops a common market, common economic policies and other common policies among its member states. It initially included 6 West Euorpean nations, and now includes 27 nations in both West and East Europe.

Evangelical Church in Germany (Lutheran church)(EKD), is the peak association for the provincial protestant churches. The EKD is a coordinating body on religious and social issues. Politically, the EKD is the formal representative of the German Protestant churches.

FDP, go to Free Democratic Party

Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany)(FRG), was created in 1949 as an independent, democratic state in the territory occupied by the Western Allies following World War II. German unification expanded the FRG by adding six new states from Eastern Germany in 1990.

Federation of German Employers' Associations (BDA) is a peak association of 67 separate employers associations: 14 regional organizations of employers' associations at the Land level, and national trade associations organized by economic sectors. This federation represents business in wage negotiations and social policy matters.

Federation of German Industries (BDI), is a peak association for thirty-four separate national trade associations. It is business's primary representative on matter of national policy making.

First vote (Erststimmme), citizens get two votes in Bundestag elections. The first vote is to choose a candidate to represent the district in parliament. A plurality of the votes cast is sufficient to win election.

Fraktionen (Party fractions), Bundestag deputies are members of a party fraction that organizes the activities of its members, provides resources, and decides on party positions when legislation is decided.

Frankfurt Assembly, a national assembly that met in 1848-49 to deliberate on democratic reform in Germany. After contentious discussions, the Assembly proposed a democratic constitution in 1849 and the Kaiser rejected their proposal.

Free Democratic Party (FDP), is a European liberal party that disproportionately represents middle class voters, bougeoisie, and farmers. It has been represented in every parliament until 2013, and has often served as a junior coalition partner to the CDU/CSU or SPD.

Free German Youth Association (FDJ), was the official socialist youth organization of the German Democratic Republic. Membership in the FDJ was often a stepping stone to university education and advanced positions in society and politics.

Führer ("leader"), was the position that Hitler assumed in 1934 when Hindenberg died and he merged the authority of the offices of chancellor and president.

German Civil Service Federation (DBB), is the association that represents German civil servants and public sector employees. The DBB is a peak association for 14 different public service unions.

German Democratic Republic (East Germany) (GDR), was formed in 1949 as a separate communist state in the portion of eastern Germany occupied by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. The GDR continued its reign until it collapsed in early 1990, and the eastern states were merged into the Federal Republic.

German Farmers' Union (DBV), is the peak association for farmers and the agricultural lobby.

German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB), is the peak association for the labor unions in Germany. It includes seven separate union organizations with nearly 7 million members.

Euro, a common currency established by the European Union for a subset of member states, replacing the Deutschmark in Germany.

Godesberg Programm, the official policy program of the postwar Social Democratic Party adhered to socialist principles and neutrality from the Western alliance. In the 1959 Godesberg Programm the party rejected these values and steered a more centrist course designed to win moderate voters in future elections.

Gorbachev, Mikhail, General Secretary of the Communisty party and head of the Soviet Union until 1991. His policies of perstroika and glasnost were instrumental in lessening East-West tensions and ultimately the collapse of the Communist bloc in East Europe.

Grand Coalition (1966-69), a coalition government comprised of the CDU/CSU and the SPD. This openned the door to necessary policy reforms that required support of both major parties and led to the legitimation of the SPD as a potential governing party.

Grand Coalition (2005-09), when minor parties fragmented the vote in the 2005 election, the CDU/CSU and SPD once again decided to share control of the government with Angela Merkel as chancellor.

Grand Coalition (2013-09), when minor parties once again fragmented the vote in the 2005 election, the CDU/CSU and SPD once again decided to share control of the government with Angela Merkel as chancellor.

Great Depression, was a worldwide economic collapse that began in 1929. It produced a dramatic drop in international trade, increased unemployment and declining standard of living in Germany and most other industrial societies.

Guestworkers (Gastarbeiter, during the period of rapid economic growth in the 1960s and early 1970s, German businesses recruited foreigners as temporary workers under a guestworker program. Initially drawn from Southern Europe, the program recruited a large Turkish minority which has become a permanent feature of German society.

Hindenberg, Paul von, was a general in World War I. He was elected President of the Weimar Republic as head of the conservative movement (1935-34). He was president as German democracy failed under Weimar, and signed the Enabling Act that allowed Hitler to create the Third Reich.

Hitler, Adolf, was the head of the Nazi party (NSDAP) during the Weimar Republic, and was appointed as chancellor in 1933. He used his power to overthrow the Weimar Republic and create the Third Reich as a new authoritarian state, with himself as "leader" (Führer).

Interest aggregation, this is the process by which the interests of separate individuals and groups are aggregated together into a program of governance.

Interest articulation, this is the process by which individuals and groups express (articulate) their needs and policy preferences within the political process.

Jugenweihe, a ceremony to mark an adolescent's passage to adulthood in the GDR. The government instituted this semi-political ceremony to replace an adolescent passage ceremony of the churches.

Junkers, the largely conservative landed aristocracy of Prussia and eastern Germany during the 19th and early 20th century.

Kaiser, is the German term for emperor. It is most closely identified with the Prussian monarch, who then became head of the Second Empire.

Kindergeld, is direct financial support from the government to help families with the cost of raising children.

Kohl, Helmut, was head of the CDU and the sixth chancellor of the Federal Republic (1982-1998). He was chancellor during the period of German unification.

Kristallnacht, the "night of the broken glass" in 1938 was the first major violent attack on the Jewish community conducted by the Nazi regime. It wrought mass violence and destruction across Germany and foreshadowed the extermination efforts that would eventually follow.

Kulturkampf, ("cultural struggle") refers to the Second Empires attempts in 1871-78 to limit and then diminish the social and political role of the Catholic Church in Germany.

Land, the German term for the states, in plural it is Länder.

Die Linke, the successor to the post-communist Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS). The Linked was officially formed in 2007 as a coalition of the PDS and small extreme leftist interests in western Germany.

Landtag, the state parliament in most Länder is called the Landtag.

Maiziere, Lothar de, elected head of the East German government in the March 1990 elections and oversaw the GDR's integration into the Federal Republic.

Merkel, Angela, served as chancellor beginning in 2005, and won reelection in 2009 and 2013 elections. Merkel was raised in East Germany and is the nation's first female chancellor.

Minister president, is the chief executive of the state government, comparable to a governor in the United States.

Morgenthau Plan, was an agreement by the Western Allies in 1944 on the treatment of Germany after World War II. The plan called for the elimination of Germany's war-making industries, such as steel and armaments, and proposed converting Germany into a country that was primarily agricultural and pastoral in its character.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a collaborative military alliance of West European and North American nations that formed after World War II as a defense from the Soviet bloc in East Europe.

National Democratic party (NPD), is a nationalist, extreme right party. It has been active at the local and state levels, but has never been large enough nationally to win seats in the Bundestag.

National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nazi party)(NSDAP), was a nationalist party in the Weimar Republic that Hitler used as his political base. It eventually provided the electoral base to overthrow the Weimar Republic and was the political base of the Third Reich.

Neo-corporatism, is a system of interest groups in which interests are organized into a one or a few groups in each social sector, these groups are often hierarchically organized, membership is often compulsory, the group is recognized or licensed (if not created) by the state, and the group is granted a deliberate representational monopoly within its social sector. It contrasts to the pluralist system.

Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, was an international military tribunal that tried leading figures from the Third Reich (and some institutions from the Reich) for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The tribunal ran from 1945 until 1949; a dozen individuals received the death penalty, several more received prison terms, and others were declared not guilty.

Ostpolitik, was Willy Brandt's policy of reconciliation with the nations of Eastern Europe on the unaddressed issues following World War II and the establishment of formal ties with East Germany.

Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), was the post-communist successor party to the Socialist Unity Party (SED) in East Germany. The PDS formed after the SED collapsed in early 1990 and attracted a large share of the eastern vote until 2007 when merged with leftists in the West to form Die Linke.

Peak association, is the association that unites the separate groups in a social sector into a single organization, such as the DGB for labor or the BDI for business.

Pluralism, a system of interest groups that includes multiple groups competing to represent the same social interests, the groups also compete against each other within the policy process, membership in a group is voluntary, and the government's role is to provide a neutral arena for interest group activities. Competition among a many groups assures that no one group wields a dominant influence within the policy process and that any group's influence depends on the support it can mobilize. It contrasts to the neo-corporatist system.

President (Bundespraesident), is the head of state for the Federal Republic of Germany. The president is selected by a Federal Convention every four years, and serves largely ceremonial functions as head of state.

Proportional representation (PR), seats in the Bundestag are distributed on a proportional representation basis. A party's vote share on the second vote determines its share of seats in the parliament.

Reichsrat, was one house of the German national legislature during the Weimar Republic. The members of the Reichsrat represented the German state governments.

Reichstag, the parliament of Germany from the Second German Empire until the end of World War II. The Reichstags building in Berlin is now the home of the Federal Republic's Bundestag.

(Republican Party), a conservative party that emerged in the 1980-90s but never won enough votes to gain representation in the Bundestag.

Schroeder, Gerhard, served as chancellor of an SPD/Green coalition government from 1998 until 2005.

Second German Empire, the unified German state. It was born and died in war, formed after the Franco-Prussian War and ending with World War II The empire was an authoritarian state led by the Kaiser. It is also known as the "Wilhelmine Empire" and the "Kaiserreich".

Second vote (Zweitestimmme), citizens get two votes in Bundestag elections. The second vote is for a political party (the first is to choose a candidate to represent the district in parliament). A party's share of the second votes determines its share of seats in the parliament. That is, if a party wins 10% of the second votes nationally it gets 10% of the seats.

Social Democratic party (SPD), the Social Democratic Party of Germany was formed in 1863 as a representative of the working class. It was part of the opposition during the Second Empire, was a governing party for much of the Weimar Republic, and has been one of the main parties during the Federal Republic. It most recently formed the government from 1998 until 2005 with Gerhard Schroeder as chancellor.

Social partnernship, is a German style of industrial relations that marks a shift from an adversarial relationship to one primarily based on mutual benefit. Examples of this social partnership are the system of co-determination, the works councils in individual firms, and joint business-labor participation in various committees and policy-making bodies.

Social Market Economy, was the economic model introduce by Erhard and the CDU to guide Germany's economic development after World War II. It was based on desiged as a middle ground between capitalism and socialism, providing for a basic capitalist economic system but with social welfare policies designed to protect those in need.

Socialist Unity Party (SED), was formed in 1949 as the union of the KPD and SPD in the East as a means for the communists to control the government and society. Walter Ulbricht was the party leader. The SED ruled the East German government from 1949 until 1990.

SPD, go to Social Democratic Party

Treuhandanstalt (Trust Agency) was created by the Federal Republic to manage and then sell off the state owned firms in East Germany. It initially had more than 8000 companies, which it sold by 1994.

Ulbrich, Walter, was the communist leader in postwar East Germany who led the construction of the communist state. He served as General Secretary of the SED from 1950 until 1971.

Value added tax (VAT), is a percentage of a product's cost that is added to the final cost to consumers. The maximum VAT is now 19 percent. It is like a sales tax in the US, but does not appear on the bill.

Versailles peace treaty, was the agreement that ended World War I. It placed harsh terms on the defeated Germans, that nationalists would later use to rally public support and criticize the Weimar Republic that was created after WWI.

Volkskammer, was the parliament for the German Democratic Republic

Weimar Republic, was a democratic government formed after Germany's defeat in World War I. The Weimar Republic lasted from 1918 until 1933, when Hitler and the Nazis created the Third Reich.

This material was drawn from the "Politics in Germany" text, Wikipedia and other online databases.