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The year 1973

In 1973, it was not only the economy of West Germany but the entire structure of the world economy which was shaken to its roots. With the dollar exchange rates being unpegged in Germany, France and other European countries on 19 March (“block floating”), the system of fixed exchange rates collapsed. Military conflicts also imposed a burden on the global economy. After the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War, October saw the Arab states reducing their oil supplies and at the same time increasing the price of crude-oil-dependent energy sources (petrol for automobiles, heating oil, chemical raw materials).

Although the transition to “block floating” helped to buffer the consequences of the first “oil price shock” in the Federal Republic, and unlike the United States for example, West Germany was not directly affected by the supply boycott, but the years of a buoyant economy, full employment and cheap energy supplies were nearing their end, to be replaced by a period of “stagflation” (low rates of growth accompanied by increasing inflation) and rising unemployment. Crude oil “was the lifeblood of the Federal Republic as an industrialised nation” (Edgar Wolfrum), with Arab countries providing 75 percent of its requirement. In November, the Federal Government responded to the oil crisis with the Energy Security Act, the introduction of speed limits on motorways and trunk roads, an embargo on applications from foreign workers and a ban on driving on four Sundays in November and December. The far-reaching economic crisis found expression both in economic policy and in the mindset of society as a whole. From then on there was intensive public discussion “of the sense and folly of economic growth” (Knut Borchhardt).

Annual report 1973 (German)