East German markWarsaw Pact member — Member of Comecon — east german date codes. It described itself as a socialist "workers' and peasants' state. The German Democratic Republic was established in the Soviet Zone, while the Federal Republic was established in the three western zones. East Germany was a satellite state of the Soviet Union. However, Soviet forces remained in the country throughout the Cold War.
East Germany - Wikipedia
Warsaw Pact member — ,  Member of Comecon — . It described itself as a socialist "workers' and peasants' state. The German Democratic Republic was established in the Soviet Zone, while the Federal Republic was established in the three western zones.
East Germany was a satellite state of the Soviet Union. However, Soviet forces remained in the country throughout the Cold War. The economy was centrally planned, and increasingly state-owned. Emigration to the West was a significant problem — as many of the emigrants were well-educated young people, it further weakened the state economically.
The government fortified its western borders and, in , built the Berlin Wall. Many people attempting to flee were killed by border guards or booby traps , such as landmines. In , numerous social, economic and political forces in the GDR and abroad led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the establishment of a government committed to liberalization. The following year open elections were held,  and international negotiations led to the signing of the Final Settlement treaty on the status and borders of Germany.
The GDR dissolved itself and Germany was reunified on 3 October , becoming a fully sovereign state again. Several of the GDR's leaders, notably its last communist leader Egon Krenz , were prosecuted in reunified Germany for crimes committed during the Cold War. Geographically, the German Democratic Republic bordered the Baltic Sea to the north; the Polish People's Republic to the east; Czechoslovakia to the southeast and West Germany to the southwest and west.
Internally, the GDR also bordered the Soviet sector of Allied-occupied Berlin known as East Berlin which was also administered as the state's de facto capital. The three sectors occupied by the Western nations were sealed off from the rest of the GDR by the Berlin Wall from its construction in until it was brought down in Both terms were used in East Germany, with increasing usage of the abbreviated form, especially since East Germany considered West Germans and West Berliners to be foreigners following the promulgation of its second constitution in The centre of political power in East Berlin was referred to as Pankow.
The seat of command of the Soviet forces in East Germany was referred to as Karlshorst. The term Westdeutschland West Germany , when used by West Germans was almost always a reference to the geographic region of Western Germany and not to the area within the boundaries of the Federal Republic of Germany. However, this use was not always consistent; for example, West Berliners frequently used the term Westdeutschland to denote the Federal Republic.
Explaining the internal impact of the GDR government from the perspective of German history in the long term, historian Gerhard A. It was constrained by the powerful example of the increasingly prosperous West, to which East Germans compared their state. The changes made by the communists were most apparent in ending capitalism and transforming industry and agriculture, and in the thrust of the educational system and the media.
On the other hand, there was relatively little change made in the historically independent domains of the sciences, the engineering professions, the Protestant churches, and in many bourgeois lifestyles.
Social policy, says Ritter, became a critical legitimization tool in the last decades and mixed socialist and traditional elements about equally. Initially this meant the construction of three zones of occupation, i.
Later, a French zone was carved out of the American and British zones. The two former parties were notorious rivals when they were active before the Nazis consolidated all power and criminalised their agitation.
The unification of the two parties was symbolic [ citation needed ] of the new friendship of German socialists in defeating their common enemy; however, the communists, who held a majority, had virtually total control over policy.
As West Germany was reorganised and gained independence from its occupiers, the German Democratic Republic was established in East Germany in The creation of the two states solidified the division of Germany.
There have been several debates about whether a real chance for reunification had been missed in Socialist leader Otto Grotewohl — became prime minister until his death. The government of East Germany denounced West German failures in accomplishing denazification and renounced ties to the Nazi past, imprisoning many former Nazis and preventing them from holding government positions. The SED party platform claimed to support democratic elections and the protection of individual liberties in building up socialism.
Disagreements over the policies to be followed in the occupied zones quickly led to a breakdown in cooperation between the four powers, and the Soviets administered their zone without regard to the policies implemented in the other zones. The Soviets withdrew from the ACC in ; subsequently as the other three zones were increasingly unified and granted self-government, the Soviet administration instituted a separate socialist government in its zone.
Soviet leader Joseph Stalin , a Communist proponent of reunification, died in early March His successor, Nikita Khrushchev , rejected reunification as equivalent to returning East Germany for annexation to the West; hence reunification went unconsidered until However, the Western Allies disputed this recognition, considering the entire city of Berlin to be occupied territory governed by the Allied Control Council.
According to Margarete Feinstein, East Berlin's status as the capital was largely unrecognized by the West and most Third World countries. The Soviet army initiated the blockade by halting all Allied rail, road, and water traffic to and from West Berlin. Being a Marxist—Leninist political party, the SED's government nationalised infrastructure and industrial plants.
Initially a labour protest, it soon included the general populace, and on 17 June similar protests occurred throughout the GDR, with more than a million people striking in some cities and towns. Fearing anti-communist counter-revolution on 18 June , the government of the GDR enlisted the Soviet Occupation Forces to aid the police in ending the riot; some fifty people were killed and 10, were jailed.
Western economic opportunities induced a brain drain. While the Ulbricht government had experimented with liberal reforms, the Honecker government reversed them. The new government introduced a new East German Constitution which defined the German Democratic Republic as a "republic of workers and peasants".
Initially, East Germany claimed an exclusive mandate for all of Germany, a claim supported by most of the Communist bloc. However, from the s onward, East Germany began recognizing itself as a separate country from West Germany, and shared the legacy of the united German state of — This was formalized in , when the reunification clause was removed from the revised East German constitution.
West Germany, in contrast, maintained that it was the only legitimate government of Germany. From to the early s, West Germany maintained that East Germany was an illegally constituted state. It argued that the GDR was a Soviet puppet state, and frequently referred to it as the "Soviet occupation zone". This position was shared by West Germany's allies as well until East Germany was recognized primarily by Communist countries and the Arab bloc, along with some "scattered sympathizers".
This policy saw the Treaty of Moscow August , the Treaty of Warsaw December , the Four Power Agreement on Berlin September , the Transit Agreement May , and the Basic Treaty December , which relinquished any claims to an exclusive mandate over Germany as a whole and established normal relations between the Germanys. Both countries were admitted into the United Nations on 18 September This also increased the number of countries recognizing East Germany to 55, including the US, UK and France, though these three still refused to recognize East Berlin as the capital, and insisted on a specific provision in the UN resolution accepting the two Germanys into the UN to that effect.
The Federal Republic continued to maintain that it could not within its own structures recognise the GDR de jure as a sovereign state under international law; but it fully acknowledged that, within the structures of international law, the GDR was an independent sovereign state. By distinction, West Germany then viewed itself as being within its own boundaries, not only the de facto and de jure government, but also the sole de jure legitimate representative of a dormant "Germany as whole".
This assessment of the Basic Treaty was confirmed in a decision of the Federal Constitutional Court in ; . From the beginning, the newly formed GDR tried to establish its own separate identity. The SED destroyed a number of symbolic relics of the former Prussian aristocracy: In , following widespread public anger over the faking of results of local government elections, many citizens applied for exit visas or left the country contrary to GDR laws.
In August Hungary removed its border restrictions and unsealed its border, and more than 13, people left East Germany by crossing the border via Czechoslovakia into Hungary and then on to Austria and West Germany.
Kurt Masur , the conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra , led local negotiations with the government and held town meetings in the concert hall. On 9 November , a few sections of the Berlin Wall were opened, resulting in thousands of East Germans crossing freely into West Berlin and West Germany for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Krenz resigned a few days later, and the SED abandoned power shortly afterward. Although there were some limited attempts to create a permanent democratic East Germany, this did not come to pass.
East Germany held its last elections in March The winner was a coalition headed by the East German branch of West Germany's Christian Democratic Union , which advocated speedy reunification. The five original East German states that had been abolished in the redistricting were recreated.
On 1 July a currency union preceded the political union: Although the Volkskammer's declaration of accession to the Federal Republic had initiated the process of reunification; the act of reunification itself with its many specific terms, conditions and qualifications; some of which involved amendments to the West German Basic Law was achieved constitutionally by the subsequent Unification Treaty of 31 August ; that is through a binding agreement between the former GDR and the Federal Republic now recognising each another as separate sovereign states in international law.
The great economic and socio-political inequalities between the former Germanies required government subsidy for the full integration of East Germany to the Federal German Republic. Because of the resulting deindustrialisation in the former East Germany, the causes of the failure of this integration continue to be debated. Some western commentators claim that the depressed eastern economy is a natural aftereffect of a demonstrably inefficient socialist economy.
But many East German critics contend that the shock-therapy style of privatization , the artificially high rate of exchange offered for the Ostmark , and the speed with which the entire process was implemented did not leave room for East German enterprises to adapt.
There were four periods in East German political history. However, the SED quickly transformed into a full-fledged Communist party as the more independent-minded Social Democrats were pushed out. The Potsdam Agreement committed the Soviets to supporting a democratic form of government in Germany, though the Soviets' understanding of "democracy" was radically different from that of the West.
As in other Soviet-bloc countries, non-communist political parties were allowed. Nevertheless, every political party in the GDR was forced to join the National Front of Democratic Germany , a broad coalition of parties and mass political organisations, including:. The member parties were almost completely subservient to the SED, and had to accept its " leading role " as a condition of their existence.
However, the parties did have representation in the Volkskammer and received some posts in the government. Another society of note was the Society for German-Soviet Friendship. The Left Party continues to be a political force in many parts of Germany, albeit drastically less powerful than the SED. This was primarily a result of emigration—about one quarter of East Germans left the country before the Berlin Wall was completed in ,  and after that time, East Germany had very low birth rates,  except for a recovery in the s when the birth rate in East Germany was considerably higher than in West Germany.
The western parts of two provinces, Pomerania and Lower Silesia , the remainder of which were annexed by Poland, remained in the GDR and were attached to Mecklenburg and Saxony, respectively. The new Bezirke , named after their district centres, were as follows: Despite the city as a whole being legally under the control of the Allied Control Council , and diplomatic objections of the Allied governments, the GDR administered the Bezirk of Berlin as part of its territory.
The government of East Germany had control over a large number of military and paramilitary organisations through various ministries. Chief among these was the Ministry of National Defence. Because of East Germany's proximity to the West during the Cold War —91 , its military forces were among the most advanced of the Warsaw Pact. Defining what was a military force and what was not is a matter of some dispute.
It was an all volunteer force until an eighteen-month conscription period was introduced in It was considered one of the most professional and best prepared military forces in the world.