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Economist Manfred Melzer described East Germany's economy in the 1980s like this (1):

The economy performed fairly well in the first half of the 1980's, raising exports while conserving raw materials. But in the second half, where the demand has shifted to higher-quality technological products, there have been problems. It just hasn't worked.

What Franz Josef Strauss ("No legitimate political party can be right of the CSU", (2)) from the center-right CSU did as the Minister-President of Bavaria as described by wikipedia:

In 1983, he was primarily responsible for a loan of 3 billion Deutsche Mark given to East Germany. This move, in violation of longtime CSU/CDU policy to allow the East German economy to collapse naturally, was widely criticised even during Strauss's lifetime.

I didn't find an explanation, but it does quite puzzle me. It seems that Strauss and East Germany would be natural enemies, yet he was the driving force between such a huge loan.

Are Strauss's motives for the 1983 loan to East Germany known?


(1) Ferdinand Protzman, East Germany Losing Its Edge, The New York Times, 1989

(2) Volker Wagner, Opinion: the problem to the right of the CDU, Deutsche Welle, 2014

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He had to explain it. A lot. As this was quite the scandal at the time.

He himself reasoned and justified the deal, for example in his memoirs.

Franz-Josef Strauß: "Die Erinnerungen", Berlin, 1989 (p 470–496).

He reasoned that existential hardships might lead to uprisings in the East which the West could not support, thereby leading to their demise and raising the threat potential for warlike tensions.

He also thought that to be a bargain, both within the West and the East. The concrete negotiated details like easier border regime, facilitated travel for a subset of the population or agreements on armament, economic cooperation or environmental issues –– were much less important, according to him, than his manoeuvring against the Socialists in both states and the possibility to gain manoeuvrability against the even farther right than him in the West!

The Party newspaper Bayernkurier also stated in its issue from 16. July 1983 an account of official goals. It was still stated to aim at unification in the long term, while getting pragmatic solutions to concrete problems now. And from Western perspective that meant particular "humanitarian quid-pro-quos".

And in a variation of the old Vulcan proverb that 'only Nixon could go to China',

Ein Glück für Strauß, daß ihn kein Kritiker namens Strauß verfolgt!
–– Roswin Finkenzeller, Am liebsten wäre er immer unterwegs, in: FAZ, 29.7.1983.

His own memoirs are remarkable as a source as he died before the state merger took place and thus he did not have the chance to rewrite his own history with that hindsight. How much rewriting took place regarding this deal can be seen when reading the contemporary accounts around that date in old newspaper analyses, like DDR-Milliardenkredit: „Das ist ja ein Ding“ Die deutsch-deutschen Kontakte des Franz Josef Strauß, Spiegel, 1983 or an interview with Strauß and compare them to the mythical narrative now established.

In contrast to the quote from the question:

This move, in violation of longtime CSU/CDU policy to allow the East German economy to collapse naturally…

He declared in the interview just linked:

I didn't stain my hands because there's nothing to stain here. But anyone who opposes this policy must stick to the truth. He must then say: I am against the German policy of the Federal Chancellor and his Federal Government. That is the only thing he can say and then attack the Federal Government. If I agree with this policy on Germany, then we cannot say that I pushed it through against the will of the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs. Anyone who is against me is also against Kohl.

There certainly is some truth in there. How much is an exercise for the reader.

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I believe the details are still not clear. However:

  • It seems that Strauß did not think that an economic collapse of the GDR in the early 80s would be in the interest of the FRG.
  • There were some deals regarding improvements for the GDR citizens, e.g. the removal of spring guns from border fences. Presumably the GDR wanted to remove them anyway, but Strauss might not have known this.

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