The German Democratic Republic (GDR; German: Deutsche Demokratische Republik, DDR; more commonly known in English as East Germany) was a Communist state that originated from the Soviet Zone of occupied Germany and the Soviet sector of occupied Berlin. The German Democratic Republic existed from 7 October 1949 until 3 October 1990, when its re-established states acceded to the adjacent Federal Republic of Germany, thus producing the current form of Germany. During its existence, the GDR was a member of the Eastern Bloc of eastern European nations that were aligned with the Soviet Union (USSR).
In 1955, the USSR declared that the GDR was fully sovereign. However, Soviet occupation troops remained in East German territory, based on the four-power Potsdam Agreement, while American, British, Canadian, and French forces remained in the Federal Republic of Germany in the West. Berlin, completely surrounded by East German territory, was similarly divided with British, French and U.S. garrisons in West Berlin and Soviet forces in East Berlin. Berlin in particular became the focal point of Cold War tensions. East Germany was a member of the Warsaw Pact and a close ally of the USSR.
Following the initial opening of sections of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989, new elections were held on 18 March 1990, and the governing party, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, lost its majority in the Volkskammer (the East German parliament) soon after. On 23 August 1990, the Volkskammer recreated the five pre-war states (which had been dissolved in 1952), which would later join the Federal Republic of Germany on 3 October 1990. As a result of reunification on that date, the German Democratic Republic ceased to exist.
- Main article: History of the German Democratic Republic
Before the end of World War II, the region that later would be known as East Germany was actually situated in the center of the German state and therefore was known as "Mitteldeutschland" (Central or Middle Germany). To the east of the Oder and Neisse rivers were the extensive Prussian provinces of Pomerania, East Prussia, West Prussia, Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia, and the eastern Neumark of Brandenburg. During World War II, allied leaders decided at the Yalta Conference that the post-war Polish border would be moved westward to the Oder-Neisse line to compensate Poland for the loss of its eastern territories to the Soviet Union. As a result, Germany lost most of its eastern provinces, and the former "Middle Germany" was now the de facto eastern limit of the German nation.
Post-War Zoning DraftsEdit
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. At the Potsdam Conference in the summer of 1945, following the end of fighting in Europe, France, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union decided to divide Germany into four occupation zones. Each country would control a part of Germany until German sovereignty was restored.
The Länder (states) of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, fell in the Soviet Zone of Germany (in German: Sowjetische Besatzungszone, or SBZ). Soviet objections to economic and political changes in the western (US, UK, and French) occupation zones led to Soviet withdrawal from the ACC in 1948 and subsequent evolution of the SBZ into East Germany, including the Soviet sector of Berlin. Concurrently, the Western occupation zones consolidated to form West Germany (or the Federal Republic of Germany, FRG).Officially, both the western Allies and the Communists committed to maintaining a unified Germany after the war in the 1945 Potsdam Agreement, at least on paper. The 1952 Stalin Note proposed German reunification and superpower disengagement from Central Europe, but the United States and its allies rejected the offer. Stalin died in early 1953. Though powerful Soviet politician Lavrenty Beria briefly pursued the idea of German unification once more following Stalin's death, he was arrested and removed from office in a coup d'état in mid-1953. His successor, Nikita Khrushchev, firmly rejected the idea of handing eastern Germany over to be annexed, marking the end of any serious consideration of the unification idea until the collapse of the East German Communist regime in late 1989.
Just as Germany was divided after the war, Berlin, the former capital of Germany, was divided into four sectors. East Germany and the rest of the Eastern bloc considered East Berlin to be the capital of East Germany, although the legality of this was disputed by the western Allies as the entire city was formally considered an occupied territory governed by martial law through the Allied Control Council. In practice, the Allied Control Council quickly became moot as the Cold War intensified, and the East German government ignored the technical legal restrictions on how East Berlin could be linked to the GDR.
Conflict over the status of West Berlin led to the Berlin Blockade, when the Soviet government prohibited overland transit between the western zones of Germany and West Berlin, prompting the massive Berlin Airlift.
National Division Edit
Template:History of Germany At the end of the war, Soviet authorities forcibly unified members of the Communist Party of Germany and Social Democratic Party in the Socialist Unity Party (SED), which swept to victory in 1946 elections with the help of Soviet pressure and propaganda about the Nazi atrocities. All property and industry was nationalized under their government, and the German Democratic Republic was declared on October 7, 1949, with a new constitution which enshrined socialism and gave the SED power over a National Front among the different political parties, with "unity lists" put forth by the SED which ensured their control. The first leader of East Germany was Wilhelm Pieck, the first (and as it turned out, only) President of the GDR. However, after 1950 the real power rested with Walter Ulbricht, first secretary of the ruling SED.
Until 1952, the GDR consisted of the German states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, Saxony and the capital, East Berlin. These divisions roughly corresponded to prewar states (Länder) and provinces (Provinzen) in the area of Eastern Germany administered by the Soviet Union under the terms of the postwar Potsdam Agreement. Two small remnants of states annexed by Poland after the war (Pomerania and Lower Silesia) remained in the GDR and were attached to neighboring territories. In the administrative reform of 1952, the states were abolished and replaced with 14 smaller districts. The districts were named after their capitals: Rostock, Neubrandenburg, Schwerin, Potsdam, Frankfurt (Oder), Magdeburg, Cottbus, Halle, Leipzig, Erfurt, Dresden, Karl-Marx-Stadt (named Chemnitz until 1953 and again after 1990), Gera, and Suhl. East Berlin was recognized as a district in 1961.
On 16 June 1953, following a production quota increase of 10 percent for workers building East Berlin's new boulevard, the Stalinallee (today known as Karl-Marx-Allee), demonstrations by disgruntled workers broke out in East Berlin. The next day the protests spread across East Germany with more than a million on strike and demonstrations in 700 communities. Fearing revolution the government requested the aid of Soviet occupation troops and on the morning of the 18th tanks and soldiers were dispatched who dealt harshly with protesters. The result was some fifty deaths and a wave of arrests and jail sentences numbering over 10,000. Transit between West and East Berlin was relatively free at the time, meaning that the protests and the harsh Soviet reaction unfolded in full view of many western observers. See Uprising of 1953 in East Germany.
Soviet war reparations, extracted entirely from the eastern occupation zone, had a substantial impact on the East German economy. During the early stages of the occupation (in particular 1945 and 1946), the Red Army seized around a third of the industrial equipment from eastern Germany to be shipped back to the Soviet Union, with a further $10bn in reparations extracted by the early 1950s in the form of agricultural and industrial products. The increasing economic prosperity of West Germany led large numbers of East Germans to flee to the West. Since the 1940s, East Germans had been leaving the Soviet zone of Germany to emigrate to the west. The ongoing emigration of East Germans further strained the East German economy. The border between the two German states was largely closed by the mid-1950s (see Inner German border). Due to the lure of higher salaries in the West and the political oppression in the East, many skilled workers (such as doctors) crossed into the West, causing a 'brain drain' in the East. However, on the night of 13 August 1961, East German troops sealed the border between West and East Berlin and started to build the Berlin Wall, literally and physically enclosing West Berlin. Travel was greatly restricted into, and out of, East Germany. The Ministry of State Security (or Stasi), a highly effective security force, monitored the lives of East German citizens to suppress dissenters through its pervasive network of informants and agents.
In 1971, Ulbricht was forced out as head of state under Soviet pressure and replaced by Erich Honecker. Ulbricht had experimented with a few reforms, but Honecker tightened the reins and imposed a new constitution that used the word "German" sparingly and defined the country as a "republic of workers and peasants." Under Honecker, East Germany came to be generally regarded as the most economically advanced member of the Warsaw Pact.
Until the 1970s, West Germany regarded East Germany as an illegally constituted state, and under the Hallstein Doctrine refused to have diplomatic relations with any country (except the Soviet Union) that recognized East Germany as a separate country. In the early 1970s, Ostpolitik led by Willy Brandt led to a form of mutual recognition between East and West Germany. The Treaty of Moscow (August 1970), the Treaty of Warsaw (December 1970), the Four Power Agreement on Berlin (September 1971), the Transit Agreement (May 1972), and the Basic Treaty (December 1972) helped to normalize relations between East and West Germany and led to both German states joining the United Nations.
Track suit diplomacy Edit
Competition with the West was also conducted on a sporting level. East German athletes dominated several Olympic disciplines. Of special interest was the only football match ever to occur 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.
The "Wende" Edit
- Main article: Die Wende
In 1989, following widespread public anger over the results of local government elections that spring, many citizens applied for exit visas, or left the country illegally. In August 1989 Hungary removed its border restrictions and unsealed its border and more than 13,000 people left East Germany by crossing the "green" border via Czechoslovakia into Hungary and then on to Austria and West Germany. Many others demonstrated against the ruling party, especially in the city of Leipzig. Kurt Masur, the conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra led local negotiations with the government, and held town meetings in the concert hall. The demonstrations eventually led Erich Honecker to resign in October, and he was replaced by a slightly more moderate Communist, Egon Krenz.
On 9 November 1989, a few sections of the Berlin Wall were opened, resulting in thousands of East Germans crossing into West Berlin and West Germany for the first time. Soon, the governing party of East Germany resigned. Although there were some small attempts to create a permanent, democratic East Germany, these were soon overwhelmed by calls for unification with West Germany. After some negotiations (2+4 Talks were held involving the two German states and the former Allied Powers (United States, France, United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union) which led to agreement on the conditions for German unification. The five original East German states that had been abolished in 1952 were recreated. On 3 October 1990, the five states officially joined the Federal Republic of Germany, while East and West Berlin united as a third city-state (in the same manner as Bremen and Hamburg).
To this day, there remain vast differences between the former East Germany and West Germany (for example, in lifestyle, wealth, political beliefs and other matters) and thus it is still common to speak of eastern and western Germany distinctly. The eastern German economy has struggled since unification, and large subsidies are still transferred from west to east.
- Main article: Politics of East Germany
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The ruling political party in East Germany was the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (Socialist Unity Party of Germany, SED). It was created in 1946 through the Soviet-directed merger of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in the Soviet controlled zone.
All parties operating in East Germany were obliged to join the National Front of Democratic Germany, ostensibly a united coalition of anti-fascist political parties. It was completely controlled by the SED. Members included:
- Christlich-Demokratische Union Deutschlands (Christian Democratic Union of Germany, CDU), merged with the West-German CDU after reunification
- Demokratische Bauernpartei Deutschlands (Democratic Farmers' Party of Germany, DBD). This party was of special importance because of farmers' role in the economy. The party merged with the West German CDU after reunification.
- Liberal-Demokratische Partei Deutschlands (Liberal Democratic Party of Germany, LDPD), merged with the West German FDP after reunification
- Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (National Democratic Party of Germany, NDPD), merged with the West German FDP after reunification.
Elections took place to the Volkskammer, but were effectively controlled by the SED/state hierarchy, as Hans Modrow has noted. Elections were held in less-than-secret conditions, with voters given the choice of approving or rejecting "unity lists" put forward by the National Front. As was the case in most Communist countries, approval rates of 90 percent or more were routine.
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 of East Germany, there was a Democratic Women's Federation of Germany, with seats in the Volkskammer.
Important non-parliamentary mass organisations 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 was the Society for German-Soviet Friendship.
The Stasi infiltrated and reported on most private activity in East Germany, limiting opportunity for non-sanctioned political organisation. All formal organisations except for churches were directly controlled by the East German government. Churches were permitted to operate more or less free from government control, as long as they abstained from political activity.
Following German reunification, the SED was renamed the "Party of Democratic Socialism" (PDS) which subsequently merged with the West German WASG to form the Left Party (Die Linke). The Left Party continues to be a political force in many parts of Germany, albeit drastically less powerful than the SED.
Persons of note in East GermanyEdit
- Main article: Leaders of East Germany
- Hermann Axen, editor-in-chief of the SED paper "Neues Deutschland" 1956–1978, SED secretary for international relations 1966-1989
- Johannes R. Becher, first minister for culture 1954–1958, wrote the lyrics of the national anthem
- Hilde Benjamin, Vice President of the GDR Supreme Court 1949–1953, Minister of Justice 1953–1967, dubbed "red guillotine" for her relentless persecution of political opponents
- Otto Grotewohl, Chairman of the East German SPD 1945–1946; joint chairman of the SED 1946–1954; Chairman of the Council of Ministers 1949–1964
- Erich Honecker, General Secretary of the SED Central Committee 1971–1989; Chairman of the Council of State 1976–1989
- Margot Honecker née Feist, minister for education 1963–1989
- Heinz Kessler, Minister of Defence 1985–1989 (deputy minister since 1957)
- Egon Krenz, General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party and chairman of Council of State from October to December 1989; he had been Honecker's deputy and "crown prince" since 1983
- Erich Mielke, Minister of State Security 1957–1989
- Günter Mittag, SED secretary for economics 1962–1973, 1976–1989
- Hans Modrow, SED district secretary for Dresden 1973–1989, last SED prime minister November 1989 – March 1990
- Wilhelm Pieck, Chairman of the East German KPD 1945–1946; joint chairman of the SED 1946–1954; State President 1949–1960
- Günter Schabowski, SED district secretary for Berlin 1985–1989; as party spokesperson he caused the fall of the Berlin wall
- Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski, head of the department of "commercial coordination" in the Ministry of Foreign Trade.
- Karl Schirdewan, SED secretary 1953–1958, dismissed for "faction building"
- Peter Schreier, tenor
- Horst Sindermann, Chairman of the Council of Ministers 1973–1976; president of parliament 1976–1989
- Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler, telecaster on East German television, infamous for his propaganda programme "Der schwarze Kanal"
- Willi Stoph, Chairman of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister) 1964–1973 and 1976–1989; Chairman of the Council of State 1973–1976
- Harry Tisch, head of the Free German Trade Union Federation 1975–1989
- Walter Ulbricht, General Secretary of the SED Central Committee 1950–1971; Chairman of the Council of State 1960–1973)
- Markus "Mischa" Wolf, head of the GDR's foreign intelligence department 1952–1986
Other notable East GermansEdit
- Johannes R. Becher, East German poet and politician (writer of the national anthem of the GDR)
- Jurek Becker, writer ("Jacob the Liar")
- Frank Beyer, film director
- Wolf Biermann, singer/songwriter and dissident, citizenship withdrawn in 1976 when he was on tour in West Germany
- Thomas Brasch, writer, poet and dramatist
- Bertolt Brecht, dramatist, poet and director, reopened the "Berliner Ensemble" in 1949, moved back to East Germany from America after persecution by House Un-American Activities Committee.
- Ernst Busch (1900–1980), actor and singer
- Hanns Eisler, composer (national anthem of the GDR)
- Fritz Geißler, composer
- Erwin Geschonneck, actor ("Jacob the Liar")
- Peter Hacks, dramatist
- John Heartfield, photographer
- Bernhard Heisig, painter ("Leipziger Schule")
- Gustav Just, journalist
- Hermann Kant, writer ("Der Aufenthalt")
- Manfred Krug, actor and jazz singer
- Kurt Masur, conductor and political activist
- Wolfgang Mattheuer, painter ("Leipziger Schule")
- Armin Mueller-Stahl, actor
- Heiner Müller, writer and dramatist, worked with the director Benno Besson at Volksbühne
- Erwin Strittmatter, writer (Tinko), (Der Laden)
- Werner Tübke, painter ("Leipziger Schule")
- Christa Wolf, writer ("Kassandra")
- Paul Van Dyk, DJ & Artist
- Rudolf Bahro, journalist and politician
- Ibrahim Böhme, first chairman of the East German Social Democrats in 1989–1990, resigned after being detected as a former Stasi informer
- Bärbel Bohley, opposition figure (co-founders of the Initiative for Peace and Human Rights and the New Forum)
- Rainer Eppelmann, Protestant pastor and opposition figure, minister for defence and disarmament from March to October 1990
- Gregor Gysi, lawyer to artists, chairman of the SED/PDS November 1989–1998
- Wolfgang Harich, intellectual and East German dissident (sentenced to prison for counterrevolutionary activities)
- Robert Havemann, communistic resistance fighter in World War 2 and East German dissident (was put under house arrest from 1976 until his death in 1982)
- Walter Janka, communist resistance fighter in WW2 and East German dissident (sentenced in 1957 for "counterrevolutionary activities")
- Lothar de Maizière, first (and only) freely elected prime minister, from April to 3 October 1990 and Federal Minister for Special Affairs of Germany from 3 October 1990 (but resigned after being detected as a former Stasi informer)
- Markus Meckel, Protestant pastor, deputy chairman of the East German Social Democrats 1989–1990, GDR foreign minister from April to August 1990
- Wolfgang Schnur, lawyer to dissidents, opposition politician (Democratic Awakening in 1990, but resigned after being detected as a former Stasi informer)
- Manfred von Ardenne, physicist and inventor
- Klaus Fuchs, Nuclear physicist and spy
- Sigmund Jähn, cosmonaut, first German in space
- Peggy Jungke, east German scientist
- Uwe Ampler, racing cyclist
- Karin Büttner-Janz, gymnast
- Ernst Degner, Grand Prix motorcycle road racer
- Thomas Doll, football player
- Heike Drechsler, athlete
- Mikhail Grabovski, professional hockey player
- Marita Koch, athlete
- Olaf Ludwig, racing cyclist
- Uwe Raab, racing cyclist
- Jürgen Sparwasser, football player
- Jens Weissflog, ski jumper
- Katarina Witt, figure skater
Major cities in East GermanyEdit
(With est. 1988 populations)
- Berlin, Hauptstadt der DDR (English: Berlin, Capital of the GDR) (1,200,000)
- Leipzig* (556,000)
- Dresden* (520,000)
- Karl-Marx-Stadt* (317,000)
- Magdeburg* (290,000)
- Rostock* (250,000)
- Halle (Saale)* (236,000)
- Erfurt* (215,000)
- Potsdam* (140,000)
- Gera* (131,000)
- Schwerin* (130,000)
- Cottbus* (125,000)
- Zwickau (120,000)
- Jena (107,000)
- Dessau (105,000)
* "Bezirksstadt" (centre of district)
- Main article: Nationale Volksarmee
Like all Soviet bloc countries, East Germany had its own armed forces, known as the Nationale Volksarmee (National People's Army - NVA) with four branches of service. Since East Germany was at the frontline of the Cold War, the GDR's military was considered to be the most advanced in the whole Warsaw Pact, excluding the Soviet Union. It was battle ready at all times, ready to be mobilized in a future war with NATO. The NVA was divided into the following four branches:
- Army (Landstreitkräfte)
- Navy (Volksmarine - People's Navy)
- Air Force/Air Defence (Luftstreitkräfte/Luftverteidigung)
- Border Troops of the GDR (Grenztruppen der DDR)
In addition, the GDR possessed various paramilitary forces in reserve in case war broke out, such as the "Combat Groups of the Working Class" (Kampfgruppen der Arbeiterklasse) and in some cases, the Stasi.
All young East German men had to join the NVA. Attendance was compulsory for 18 months, except for serious medical reasons. As an alternative to military service for conscientious objectors, the so-called Baueinheiten (construction units) were created in 1964 under pressure from the national Protestant church. However, service in the Baueinheiten was strongly discouraged; these soldiers were subjected to various forms of harassment during their service, and there were also consequences after their term of service was complete - e.g., denial or difficulty in obtaining admission to higher education, etc. East Germany alone offered alternative service for COs among Eastern Bloc countries.
- Main article: Subdivisions of the German Democratic Republic
In 1952, as part of the reforms designed to centralize power in the hands of the SED's Politbüro, the five Länder of East Germany were abolished, and East Germany was divided into fifteen Bezirke (districts), each named after the largest city: the northern Land Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was divided between the Bezirke Rostock, Schwerin and Neubrandenburg; Brandenburg (surrounding Berlin) was reorganized into the Bezirke of Potsdam, Frankfurt (Oder) and Cottbus; Saxony-Anhalt split into the Bezirke of Halle and Magdeburg; the south-western Land Thuringia became the Bezirke of Erfurt, Gera and Suhl; finally, the south-eastern Land Saxony was divided between Leipzig, Dresden and Karl-Marx-Stadt (formerly and following the GDR's collapse again known as Chemnitz). The GDR capital, East Berlin formed the 15th Bezirk, though it retained a special legal status in the GDR until 1968, when East Berliners voted with the rest of the GDR to approve the draft of the new constitution. From this point onwards, irrespective of the Four Power Status and the western allies' objections that East Berlin was merely the Soviet occupied sector of the German capital, East Berlin was treated as a Bezirk like any other.
The East German population declined steadily throughout its existence, from 19 million in 1948 to 16 million in 1990. Around 4 million of the 1948 population were German expellees from areas east of the Oder-Neisse line. This was primarily a result of emigration – about one quarter of East Germans left the country before the Berlin Wall was completed in 1961, and after that time, East Germany had very low birth rates. This compares starkly with Poland, which increased during that time from 24 million in 1950 (a little more than East Germany) to 38 million (more than twice East Germany's population).
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- Main article: Economy of East Germany
East Germany's economy had a poor start in the aftermath of World War II. During 1945 and 1946 the Soviet Army dismantled train lines and factories. By the early 1950s the Soviet Union had seized reparations in form of agricultural and industrial products and demanded further heavy reparation payments. Lower Silesia, which contained coal mines, and Stettin, a prominent natural port, were given to Poland.
Like other East European socialist states, East Germany had a centrally planned economy, similar to that of the Soviet Union, in contrast to the market economies or mixed economies of most Western states. The GDR joined the COMECON trading block in 1950. The state established production targets and prices and allocated resources, codifying these decisions in a comprehensive plan or set of plans. The means of production were almost entirely state owned. In 1985, for example, state-owned enterprises or collectives earned 96.7 percent of total net national income.
To secure constant prices for inhabitants, the state bore 80% of costs of basic supplies, from bread to housing. The per capita income in 1984 has been estimated at $9,800 (approximately $21,000 in 2008 dollars), though the currency conversion rate used to establish this figure may be questionable. In 1976 average annual GDP growth was roughly 5.9%.
To the East German consumer, there were always shortages. Until the 1960s there were shortages of basic products like sugar and coffee, although there were some disparities; whilst coffee stayed expensive (approx. 1US$ for 200g), rolls were less than a cent. The time one had to wait for a new Wartburg was around 13 years in 1989. East Germans with friends or relatives in the West (or other access to hard currency), and the necessary Staatsbank foreign currency account, could buy both Western products and East German products only intended for export at the Intershop. Other ways of accessing rare consumer goods was through the Danish company Jauerfood, or via the mail-order gift company Genex.
The ultimate directing force in the economy, as in every aspect of the society, was the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (SED), particularly its top leadership. The party exercised its leadership role formally during the party congress, when it accepted the report of the general secretary, and when it adopted the draft plan for the upcoming five-year period.
The private sector was small but not nonexistent. In 1985 about 2.8 percent of the net national product came from private enterprises. The private sector included farmers and gardeners; independent craftsmen, wholesalers, and retailers; and people employed in so-called free-lance activities (artists, writers, and others). Although self-employed, such people were strictly regulated; in some cases the tax rate exceeded 90%. In 1985, for the first time in many years, the number of people working in the private sector increased slightly. According to East German statistics, in 1985 there were about 176,800 private entrepreneurs, an increase of about 500 over 1984. Certain private sector activities were quite important to the system because those craftsmen provided scarce spare parts, the production of which was a common shortcoming of the GDR's planned economy.
- Main article: Culture of East Germany
Artists were expected to sing songs only in German at first, which changed with the end of the sixties. This seemed a logical constraint by the Party leaders but it was rather unpopular among young people. There were strict rules that regulated that all artistic activity ought to be censored for any open or implied anti-socialist tendencies. The band Renft, for example, was prone to political misbehaviour, which eventually led to its split.
The Puhdys and Karat were some of the most popular mainstream bands, managing to hint at critical thoughts in their lyrics without being explicit. Like most mainstream acts, they appeared in popular youth magazines such as Neues Leben and Magazin. Other popular rock bands were Wir, Dean Reed, City, Silly and Pankow. Most of these artists recorded on the state-owned AMIGA label.
Influences from the West were heard everywhere, because TV and radio that came from the Klassenfeind (class enemy, meaning "enemy of the working class") could be received in many parts of the East, too (a notorious exception being Dresden, with its geographically disadvantageous position in the Elbe valley, giving it the nickname of “Valley of the Clueless” -although limited reception of Western radio was still possible there). The Western influence led to the formation of more "underground" groups with a decisively western-oriented sound. A few of these bands were Die Skeptiker, Die Art and Feeling B. Additionally, hip hop culture reached the ears of the East German youth. With videos such as Beat Street and Wild Style, young East Germans were able to develop a hip hop culture of their own. East Germans accepted hip hop as more than just a music form. The entire street culture surrounding rap entered the region and became an outlet for oppressed youth.
Classical music was highly supported, so that there existed over 50 classical symphony orchestras in a country with a population of about 16 million. See also:
- Thomanerchor Leipzig
- Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden
- Berliner Sinfonie Orchester
- Staatsoper Unter den Linden Berlin
Johann Sebastian Bach was born in East German territory and his birthplace in Eisenach was turned into a museum of his life, which, among other things, included more than 300 instruments from Bach's life. In 1980 this museum was receiving more than 70,000 visitors annually.
In Leipzig, an enormous archive with recordings of all of Bach's music was compiled, along with many historical documents and letters both to and from him.
Every other year, school children from across East Germany gathered for a Bach competition held in East Berlin. Every four years an international Bach competition for keyboard and strings was held.
- Main article: Jazz in Germany
East German theatre was originally dominated by Bertolt Brecht, who brought back many artists out of exile and reopened the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm with his Berliner Ensemble. Alternatively, other influences tried to establish a "Working Class Theatre", played for the working class by the working class.
After Brecht's death, conflicts began to arise between his family (around Helene Weigel) and other artists about Brecht's heritage. Heinz Kahlau, Slatan Dudow, Erwin Geschonneck, Erwin Strittmatter, Peter Hacks, Benno Besson, Peter Palitzsch and Ekkehard Schall were considered to be among Bertolt Brecht's scholars and followers.
In the 1950s the Swiss director Benno Besson with the Deutsches Theater successfully toured Europe and Asia including Japan with "The Dragon" by Jewgenij Schwarz. In the 1960s, he became the Intendant of the Volksbühne often working with Heiner Müller.
After 1975 many artists left the GDR due to increasing censorship. A parallel theatre scene sprung up, creating theatre "outside of Berlin" in which artists played at provincial theatres. For example Peter Sodann founded the neues theater in Halle/Saale and Frank Castorf at the theater Anklam.
Theatre and Cabaret had high status in the GDR, which allowed it to be very pro-active. This often brought it into confrontation with the State. Benno Besson once said: "In contrast to artists in the west, they took us seriously, we had a bearing."
In the GDR, the movie industry was very active. The head-group for film-productions was the DEFA, Deutsche Film AG, which was subdivided in different local groups, for example Gruppe Berlin, Gruppe Babelsberg or Gruppe Johannisthal, where the local teams shot and produced films. Besides folksy movies, the movie-industry became known worldwide for its productions, especially children's movies ("Das kalte Herz", film versions of the Brothers Grimm fairy-tales and modern productions such as "Das Schulgespenst").
Frank Beyer's "Jakob der Lügner" (Jacob the Liar; about persecution of Jews in Third Reich) and, "Fünf Patronenhülsen"(Five Bullet Shells) about resistance against fascism, became internationally famous.
The film industry was remarkable for its production of Ostern, or Western-like movies. Indians in these films often took the role of displaced people who fight for their rights, in contrast to the American westerns of the time, where Indians were often either not mentioned at all or are portrayed as the villains. Yugoslavians were often cast as the Indians, due to the small number of American Indians in eastern Europe. Gojko Mitić was well-known in these roles, often playing the righteous, kindhearted and charming chief ("Die Söhne der großen Bärin" directed by Josef Mach). He became an honorary Sioux chief when he visited the United States of America in the 90s and the television crew accompanying him showed the tribe one of his movies. American actor and singer Dean Reed, an expatriate who lived in East Germany, also starred in several films. These films were part of the phenomenon of Europe producing alternative films about the colonization of America. See also Spaghetti Western and the West German Winnetou films (adaptations of novels of Karl May).
Because of censorship a certain number of very remarkable movies were forbidden at this time and reissued after the Wende in 1990. Examples are "Spur der Steine" (directed by Frank Beyer) and "Der geteilte Himmel" (directed by Konrad Wolf).
Cinemas in the GDR also showed foreign films. Czechoslovak and Polish productions were more common, but also certain western movies were shown, but the numbers were limited because it cost foreign exchange to buy the licences. Further, movies representing or glorifying capitalistic ideology were not bought. Comedies enjoyed great popularity, such as the Danish "Olsen Gang" or movies with the French comedian Louis de Funès.
For a small country, the people of East Germany achieved some remarkable results in many sports including cycling, weightlifting, swimming, track and field, boxing, skating and other winter sports. One reason for the success was the leadership of Dr. Manfred Hoeppner which started in the late 1960s.
Another supporting reason was Anabolic steroid doping, which has been the most detected doping substances in IOC-accredited laboratories for many years  and is now banned by all major sporting bodies. It allowed East Germany, with its small population, to become a world leader in the following two decades, winning a large number of Olympic and world gold medals and records.
Another factor for success was the furtherance-system for young people in GDR. When some children were aged around 6 until 10 years old (or older) sport-teachers at school were encouraged to look for certain talents in every pupil. For older pupils it was possible to attend grammar-schools with a focus on sports (for example sailing, football and swimming). This policy was also used for talented pupils with regard to music or mathematics.
Sports clubs were highly subsidized, especially sports in which it was possible to get international fame. For example, the major leagues for ice hockey and basketball just included each 2 teams (excluding the school and university sport). Football (soccer) was the most popular sport. Club football sides like Dynamo Dresden, 1. FC Magdeburg, FC Carl Zeiss Jena, 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig and BFC Dynamo did have some success in European competition. Many East German players became integral parts of the reunified national football team, for example Matthias Sammer and Ulf Kirsten. Other sports enjoyed great popularity like figure skating, especially because of sportswomen like Katharina Witt.
East Germans patriotically supported their athletes to success in international competitions for similar reasons as those in other countries, and this no doubt played its part in the success that state enjoyed. However, as with other Soviet states, a widely held perception existed that international athletic success advertised their political and economic system to a worldwide audience. In the special case of East Germany, being the minority section of the divided Cold War era Germany, the particular success of that state was considered to foster international acceptance of the GDR as a state in its own right.
Stamps and philatelyEdit
- Main article: Deutsche Post of the GDR
Communist States gave much importance to philately and the GDR was one of those which printed the most beautiful stamps. However, their philatelic value was sometimes questioned in the West since GDR stamps were usually part of a 3- or 4-stamp series and one of them would be very difficult to find and then would acquire an expensive value in the philatelic market.
Television and radioEdit
- Main article: Broadcasting in East Germany
Television and radio in East Germany was state controlled. Rundfunk der DDR was the official radio broadcasting organisation from 1952 until German reunification. The organization was based in the Funkhaus Nalepastraße in East Berlin. Deutscher Fernsehfunk (DFF), from 1972–1990 known as Fernsehen der DDR or DDR-FS, was the state television broadcaster from 1952. Reception of Western radio (and even television) broadcasts was widespread.
By the mid-1980s, East Germany possessed a well-developed communications system. There were approximately 3.6 million telephones in usage (21.8 for every 100 inhabitants), and 16,476 telex stations. Both of these networks were run by the Deutsche Post der DDR (East German Post Office). East Germany was assigned telephone country code 37; in 1991, several months after reunification, East German telephone exchanges were incorporated into country code 49.
An unusual feature of the telephone network was that in most cases, direct dialing for long distance calls was not possible. Although area codes were assigned to all major towns and cities, they were only used for switching international calls. Instead, each location had its own list of dialing codes - with shorter codes for local calls, and longer codes for long distance calls. This was due to the way the calls were routed over the trunk network. After reunification, the existing network was largely replaced, and area codes and dialing became standardised.
In 1976 East Germany inaugurated the operation of a ground-based radio station at Fürstenwalde for the purpose of relaying and receiving communications from Soviet satellites, and serve as a participant in the international telecommunications organization established by the Soviet government, Intersputnik.
|Date||English Name||German Name||Remarks|
|1 January||New Year's Day||Neujahr|
|Moveable feast||Good Friday||Karfreitag|
|Moveable feast||Easter Sunday||Ostersonntag|
|Moveable feast||Easter Monday||Ostermontag||Was not an official Holiday after 1967.|
|1 May||May Day||Tag der Arbeit||International Workers' Day|
|8 May||Victory in Europe Day||Tag der Befreiung||The translation means "Day of Liberation"|
|Moveable feast||Father's Day / Ascension Day||Vatertag / Christi Himmelfahrt||Thursday after the 5th Sunday after Easter. Was not an official Holiday after 1967.|
|Moveable feast||Whitmonday||Pfingstmontag||50 days after Easter Sunday|
|7 October||Republic Day||Tag der Republik||National holiday|
|25 December||First Day of Christmas||1. Weihnachtsfeiertag|
|26 December||Second Day of Christmas||2. Weihnachtsfeiertag|
- Thomas A. Baylis, David H Childs and Marilyn Rueschemeyer, eds.; East Germany in Comparative Perspective Routledge. 1989
- Fulbrook, Mary. The People's State: East German Society from Hitler to Honecker Yale University Press, 2005. 352 pp. ISBN 0-300-10884-2.
- Fulbrook; Mary. Anatomy of a Dictatorship: Inside the GDR, 1949-1989 Oxford University Press, 1995
- William Glenn Gray; Germany's Cold War: The Global Campaign to Isolate East Germany, 1949–1969 University of North Carolina Press. 2003
- Jonathan Grix; The Role of the Masses in the Collapse of the GDR Macmillan, 2000
- Konrad H. Jarausch and Eve Duffy; Dictatorship as Experience: Towards a Socio-Cultural History of the GDR Berghahn Books, 1999
- Andrew I. Port, Conflict and Stability in the German Democratic Republic Cambridge University Press, 2007.
- Jonathan R. Zatlin, The Currency of Socialism - Money and Political Culture in East Germany. Cambridge University Press, 2007 ISBN 0521869560
- ↑ Top-Level-Domain .DD Information site about .dd in German language
- ↑ East Berlin 17 June 1953: Stones Against Tanks, Deutsche Welle, Accessed 2007-05-16
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Norman M. Naimark. The Russians in Germany: A History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation, 1945-1949. Harvard University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-674-78405-7 pp. 167-9
- ↑ The Berlin Wall (1961–1989) German Notes, Accessed 2006-10-24
- ↑ Darnton, Robert, Berlin Journal (New York, 1992, W.W. Norton) pp.98–99
- ↑ East Germany : country population
- ↑ Germany Population - Historical Background
- ↑ "Business America. (27 February 1989). German Democratic Republic: long history of sustained economic growth continues; 1989 may be an advantageous year to consider this market - Business Outlook Abroad: Current Reports from the Foreign Service.". http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1052/is_n4_v110/ai_7373809. Retrieved on 2007-10-02.
- ↑ Brown, Timothy S. “‘Keeping it Real’ in a Different ‘Hood: (African-) Americanization and Hip-hop in Germany.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. by Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, pp.137-150. London; A
- ↑ Elfein, Dietmar. From Krauts with Atittudes to Turks with Attitudes: Some a Aspects of Hip-Hop History in Germany. pp.225-265 Popular Music vol. 17:3. October 1998.
- ↑ Deutsches Theater: Home
- ↑ Das BE - ein Theater für Zeitgenossen
- ↑ Volksbühne Berlin
- ↑ www.gorki.de
- ↑ DEFA - Stiftung - Home
- ↑ Hartgens and Kuipers (2004), p. 515
- ↑ Kicman AT, Gower DB (July 2003). "Anabolic steroids in sport: biochemical, clinical and analytical perspectives". Annals of clinical biochemistry 40 (Pt 4): 321–56. doi:10.1258/000456303766476977. PMID 12880534. Archived from the original. You must specify the date the archive was made using the |archivedate= parameter. http://acb.rsmjournals.com/cgi/pmidlookup?view=long&pmid=12880534.
- ↑ Tagliabue, John. - "Political Pressure Dismantles East German Sports Machine" - New York Times - 12 February 1991 | Janofsky, Michael. - "OLYMPICS; Coaches Concede That Steroids Fueled East Germany's Success in Swimming" - New York Times - 3 December 1991 | Kirschbaum, Erik. - "East German dope still leaves tracks" - Rediff from Reuters - 15 September 2000 | Ungerleider, Steven (2001). Faust's Gold: Inside The East German Doping Machine. Thomas Dunne Books ISBN 0312269773 | "Little blue pills and a lot of gold..." - Shorel.com | Culture & Lifestyle: "Sports Doping Statistics Reach Plateau in Germany" - Deutsche Welle - 26 February 2003 | "The East German Doping Machine" - International Swimming Hall of Fame | Culture & Lifestyle: "East Germany's Doping Legacy Returns" - Deutsche Welle - 10 January 2004 | Longman, Jere. - "East German Steroids' Toll: 'They Killed Heidi'" - New York Times - 26 January 2004 | Harding, Luke. - "Forgotten victims of East German doping take their battle to court" - The Guardian - 1 November 2005 | Jackson, Guy. Winning at Any Cost?: "Doping for glory in East Germany" - UNESCO - September 2006 | "Ex-East German athletes compensated for doping" - Associated Press - (c/o ESPN) - 13 December 2006 | "East German doping victims to get compensation" - Associated Press - (c/o CBC Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) - 13 December 2006 | Starcevic, Nesha. - "East German doping victims to get compensation" - Associated Press - (c/o San Diego Union-Tribune) - 13 December 2006 | "Germany completes $4.1M payout to doping victims" - USA Today - 11 October 2007 | "East Germany’s Secret Doping Program" - Secrets of the Dead - Thirteen/WNET - 7 May 2008
- AHF - Nationale Volksarmee (NVA)
- (German) Auferstanden aus Ruinen
- Translations of propaganda materials from the GDR.
- DDR Museum Berlin - Culture of the GDR
- East Berlin, Past and Present
- Pictures of the GDR 1949–1973
- The Lives of Others official website
- RFE/RL East German Subject Files Open Society Archives, Budapest
- Stamps Catalog of the German Democratic Republic
- East German anthem with English and German lyrics
Allied Occupation Zones in Germany
|German Democratic Republic|
(concurrent with the
Federal Republic of Germany)
1949 – 1990
| Succeeded by|
Federal Republic of Germany
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