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Encyclopedia > East German
For the historical eastern German provinces, see Historical Eastern Germany

East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic (GDR), German Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR), was a Communist Party-led state that existed from 1949 to 1990 in the former Soviet occupation zone of Germany. The GDR was proclaimed in the Soviet sector of Berlin on October 7, 1949. It was declared fully sovereign in 1954, but Soviet troops remained on grounds of the four-power Potsdam agreement, largely to counteract the American presence in West Germany during the Cold War. East Germany was a member of the Warsaw Pact. Following elections, it merged into the Federal Republic of Germany in 1990.

Deutsche Demokratische Republik
Flag of the (former) German Democratic Republic
(GDR Flag) (GDR Coat of Arms)
National motto: none
Official language German
Capital East Berlin official: "Berlin, Hauptstadt der DDR" (Berlin, Capital of the GDR)
Area 108,333 km²
 - Total (1989)
 - Density

Constitution October 7, 1949
Currency 1 Mark (Ostmark) =
100 Pfennig
Time zone
 - in summer
National anthem Auferstanden aus Ruinen
(Risen from ruins)
Calling Code +37 (obsolete)
ISO 3166-1 DD (obsolete)
ISO 3166-3 DDDE
Internet TLD .dd (obsolete)


Main articles: History of East Germany, History of Germany

At the end of World War II, at the Potsdam Conference in 1945, the victorious countries France, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union decided to divide Germany into four zones of occupation. Each country would control a part of Germany until its sovereignty was restored.

The territories of East Germany were initially settled by Slavic Wends and conquered by Germany in Middle Ages. The newly acquired land was organised in margravates, German feudal states on the land of Slavs. Consequent waves of German settlements, later also Jewish and French Hugenots, gradually advert ethnic composition of land, except the small community of Sorbs in Lusatia. Most of East Germany became later part of Kingdom of Prussia.

In Imperial Germany and Weimar Republic territory that would become East Germany was situated in the center of the state. This territory was known as "Mitteldeutschland" (Middle Germany), while "East" was reserved for provinces such as eastern Pomerania, eastern Brandenburg, Silesia and East and West Prussia. During WWII, Allied leaders decided at the Yalta Conference that post-war borders of Poland would be moved westward to the Oder-Neisse line, just as Soviet borders were also moved westward into formerly Polish territory.

Discussions at Yalta and Potsdam also outlined the planned occupation and administration of post-war Germany under a four-power Allied Control Council, or ACC (composed of the United States, United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union). The Länder (states) of Mecklenburg, Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, and the eastern sector of Greater Berlin fell in the Soviet Sector of Germany, or SBZ. Soviet objections to economic and political reforms in western (US, UK, and French) occupation zones led to Soviet withdrawal from the ACC in 1948 and subsequent evolution of the SBZ into the GDR. Concurrently, the western occupation zones consolidated to form the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, or West Germany).

East Germany adopted a socialist republic and became part of the Warsaw Pact, while West Germany became a liberal parliamentary republic and part of NATO.

The first leader of the GDR was Walter Ulbricht. The East German Constitution defined the country as "a Republic of Workers and Peasants."

On June 17, 1953, following a production quota increase of 10 percent for workers building East Berlin's new showcase boulevard, the Stalinallee, demonstrations broke out in East Berlin and other industrial centers. Later that day, Soviet troops and tanks suppressed the demonstrations killing at least 125. See Straße des 17. Juni and Workers' Uprising of 1953 in East Germany.

Just as Germany was divided after the war, Berlin, the former capital, of Germany was divided into four sectors. Since Berlin was entirely enclosed in the Soviet part of Germany, the areas of Berlin being held under the control of the three western countries soon became known as West Berlin.

Conflict over the status of West Berlin led to the Berlin Airlift. The increasing prosperity of West Germany and growing political oppression in the East led large numbers of East Germans to flee to the West.

Competition with the West was carried also on the sport level. East German athletes were sure winners in several Olympic disciplines. Of special interest was the only football match ever between West and East Germany, a first round match during the 1974 World Cup. Though West Germany was the host and the eventual champion, East beat West 1-0.

Since the 1940s, refugees had been leaving the Soviet zone of Germany to start a new life in the west. Although the inner-German border was largely closed by the mid-1950s (see DDR border system), the sector borders in Berlin were relatively easy to cross. In the night of August 13, 1961, East German troops sealed the border between West and East Berlin, and started to build the Berlin Wall, literally surrounding West Berlin. Travel was greatly restricted into, and out of, East Germany. The Stasi spied extensively on the citizens to suppress dissenters through its network of 175,000 informants and 90,000 agents.

In 1971, Erich Honecker replaced Ulbricht in a technical coup with Soviet blessing. East Germany was generally regarded as the most economically advanced member of the Warsaw Pact. Before the 1970s, the official position of West Germany was that of the Hallstein Doctrine which involved non-recognition of East Germany. In the early 1970s, Ostpolitik led by Willy Brandt led to a form of mutual recognition between East and West Germany.

In August 1989 Hungary removed its border restrictions and several thousand people fled East Germany by crossing the "green" border into Hungary and then on to Austria and West Germany. Many others peacefully demonstrated against the ruling party. These demonstrations eventually forced the resignation of Honecker; in October he was replaced, albeit briefly, by Egon Krenz.

On November 9, 1989 the Berlin Wall opened, resulting in emotional scenes as hundreds of thousands of East Germans crossed into West Berlin (and West Germany) for the first time. Soon the whole socialist system of East Germany fell away. Although there were some small attempts to create a non-socialist East Germany, these were soon overwhelmed by calls for reunification with West Germany. After some negotiations (2+4 Talks, involving the two Germanies and the victory powers United States, France, Britain, and the Soviet Union), conditions for German reunification were agreed on. Thus, on October 3, 1990 the East German population was the first from the Eastern Bloc to join the European Union as a part of the reunified Federal Republic of Germany. The East German territory was reorganized into what is now the city of Berlin and five states, reconstituting political entities that had been abolished in 1950.

To this day, there remain many differences between the formerly "eastern" and "western" parts of Germany (e.g. in lifestyle, wealth, political beliefs and such) and thus it is still common to speak of eastern and western Germany distinctly. The Eastern German economy has struggled since German unification, and large subsidies are still transferred from west to east.


Main article: Politics of East Germany

The equivalent of the Communist Party in the GDR was the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (Socialist Unity Party of Germany, SED), which along with other parties, was part of the National Front of Democratic Germany. It was created in 1946 through the merger of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in the Soviet controlled zone, although the SPD remained a separate party in East Berlin. Following reunification, the SED was renamed the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS).

The other political parties ran under the joint slate of the National Front, controlled by the SED, for elections to the Volkskammer, the East German Parliament. In West Germany, the Communist Party was banned.

  1. Christlich-Demokratische Union Deutschlands (Christian Democratic Union of Germany, CDU), merged with the West-German CDU after reunification
  2. Demokratische Bauernpartei Deutschlands (Democratic Farmers' Party of Germany, DBD), merged with the West-German CDU after reunification
  3. Liberal-Demokratische Partei Deutschlands (Liberal Democratic Party of Germany, LDPD), merged with the West-German FDP after reunification
  4. Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (National Democratic Party of Germany, NDPD), merged with the West-German FDP after reunification

The Volkskammer also included representatives from the mass organisations like the Free German Youth (Freie Deutsche Jugend or FDJ), or the Free German Trade Union Federation. In an attempt to include women in the political life in the GDR, there was even a Democratic Women's Federation of Germany with seats in the Volksammer.

Non-parliamentary mass organisations which nevertheless played a key role in East German society included the German Gymnastics and Sports Association (Deutscher Turn- und Sportbund or DTSB) and People's Solidarity (Volkssolidarität, an organisation for the elderly). Another society of note (and very popular during the late 1980s) was the Society for German-Soviet Friendship.

Politicians of note in the GDR

Leaders - see also Leaders of East Germany



Main article: Subdivisions of East Germany

In 1952, the Länder of East Germany were abolished, and the GDR was divided into fifteen Bezirke (districts), each named after the largest city: Rostock; Schwerin; Neubrandenburg; Magdeburg; Potsdam; Berlin; Frankfurt (Oder); Cottbus; Halle; Erfurt; Leipzig; Dresden; Karl-Marx-Stadt (now again Chemnitz); Gera; Suhl


Main article: Economy of East Germany


Main article: Demographics of East Germany


Main article: Culture of East Germany

Date English Name Local Name Remarks
January 1 New Year's Day Neujahr  
Moveable feast Good Friday Karfreitag Easter
Moveable feast Whitmonday Pfingstmontag 51 days after Easter
May 1 May Day Tag der Arbeit Labour Day
October 7 Republic Day Tag der Republik National holiday
December 25 Christmas Day 1. Weihnachtsfeiertag  
December 26 Boxing Day 2. Weihnachtsfeiertag  

Miscellaneous topics

Main article: List of German Democratic Republic-related topics

External links

  • "The Politics of Mourning" (http://montages.blogspot.com/2005/01/politics-of-mourning.html)
  • AHF - Nationale Volksarmee (NVA) (http://www.axishistory.com/index.php?id=5528)
  • Auferstanden aus Ruinen (http://www.auferstanden-aus-ruinen.de/)

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