Sunday, 18 January 2015

currency accords

The occupying powers of Germany after the end of World War II certainly came into that mandate with different perspectives and ideologies, the French, Britons, the Americans and the Soviets all having had unique experiences of the horrors of war and differing native political compositions. While it was very challenging to achieve any sort of consensus on how the caretakers ought to govern the different sectors, there was no real outward animosity or the carving of boundaries until the introduction of the new Deutschmark.
With it out of the question that the old Reichsmark should continue to remain in circulation with its old symbols and associations, each sector minted its own occupation money, and indeed monetary reform was prohibited under treaty terms, the governors not allowed to take steps that might strengthen the German financial system, and reconstruction was hindered by this foreign script, not be conducive to neither trade nor investment, with most of the economy gone underground and people resorting to barter. Frustrated, in June of 1948, the Western Allies decided to act alone and began issuing the Deutschmark without consulting the Soviets, and it was this decision that first sparked the Blockade of Berlin that eventually led, in quick succession, to the physical and sociological partition of Germany, with a defensive wall erected at the frontier.
Of course, in the West, the Bonn Republic, the unilateral decision seemed to work out well—inflation staved off and reemergence of the nation as an industrial and economic world-player. The East struggled in relation to its neighbour but also came to prosper with the foil of the Ostmark and command-economy. Meanwhile, the former German parliament building, the Reichtag (long-form Plenarbereich Reichstagsgebäude, the Hall of the Plenary Imperial Diet) sat disused just meters on the wrong side of the most heavily guarded borders of the Cold War—having fallen into ruins since the arson of the Nazis in 1933. The capital of the West was in Bonn and the East Germans razed the old Prussia Berliner Stadtschloss to build their capitol, the Palast der Republik, itself razed in 2008 to rebuild the city’s palace. With Reunification solidified in 1990, due in no small part to the controversial and economically punishing gesture to integrate the Ostmark with an exchange rate parity (eins für eins) to the Deutschmark, the capital of the united Germany would be brought back to Berlin. The neglected, crumbling Reichstag did not even register to the citizens of the city as a part of the skyline and the idea to once again use that building as the seat of the government seemed folly—or at least did not garner much interest or excitement. The clever and ambitious work of two artists, however, captured the public’s imagination and made the new Bundestag an object of affection, pride and hope.

First in 1995, the artist Christo and collaborators draped the old building in a shimmering silver fabric, sort of like a cocoon and people started getting interested in that invisible ruin. After the chrysalis was shed, work began on the restoration and transformation, overseen by famed and prolific British architect Baron Norman Foster, who embellished the original class dome copula as an elevated walk-way for visitors to the observe proceedings below. Scars of the building’s past are also preserved as reminders. The Bundestag (the federal diet) convened there for the first time in 1999, the Eurozone single currency having come into effect also that year—virtually at least, with electronic transactions denominated in the euro, while national banknotes and coins of the founding members remaining in circulation for another three years.