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A Reasonable “Yes”: The Social Democrats And West German Rearmament, 1945–1956

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Chapter Summary

One of the most contentious issues facing West Germany's government was the future role of the country in military affairs. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) in 1950, while divided on the issue, played an important role in shaping the terms of the debate. West Germany's Social Democrats eventually emerged from this period of intra-party squabbling with a commitment to rearmament. This battle between pragmatism and principle drew from the specific historical experiences of the SPD in the previous decades, the personal experiences of its leadership cohort, and the limits imposed by the Cold War. For the SPD leadership, the rearmament debate was a subset of the much larger issue of the place of Germany in post-war Europe. This chapter explores the relationship between these two related problems and the ways in which these competing visions transformed the SPD as a party and West German politics more broadly.

Keywords: cold war; post-war Europe; social democratic party (SPD); West Germany



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