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The text of Chapter 1 dealt with events at the end of the war and with the beginning of the division into two German states. That division has now lasted more than 40 years, and the two states have grown apart in a number of ways. Most significant are their different forms of government. The GDR is essentially a one-party state subscribing to a Marxist philosophy, and falling within the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. The Federal Republic was established by the Basic Law of 1948 as a federal state, with a democratically elected government and open participation of political parties in the democratic process. The most powerful figure in the central government is the Bundeskanzler, who may be compared to the British Prime Minister in being Head of the Government by virtue of being leader of the majority party in power. Adenauer, as leader of the Christian Democrats (CDU) became the first Bundes-kanzler in 1948. The Head of State, however, is the Bundes-präsident, a non-party figure who holds office for a 5-year term. The figure above shows how the Bundespräsident is elected and what his duties are. The text then gives an account of a visit by a group of school pupils to meet Richard von Weizsäcker, President since 1984.
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© E. J. Neather 1989