Deutsche Demokratische Republik
German Democratic Republic

Satellite state of the ‌Soviet Union
C-Pennant 1949–1990 Flag of Germany
Flag of East Germany Coat of Arms of East Germany
Proletarier aller Länder, vereinigt Euch!
Auferstanden aus Ruinen
Location of East Germany
Occupied Berlin
Government Socialist Republic
Chairman of the Council of State
- 1949-1960Wilhelm Pieck
- 1960-1973Walter Ulbricht
- 1973-1976Willi Stoph
- 1976-1989Erich Honecker
- 1989Egon Krenz
- 1989-1990Manfred Gerlach
Chairman of the Council of Ministers
- 1949-1964Otto Grotewohl
- 1964-1973Willi Stoph
- 1973-1976Horst Sindermann
- 1976-1989Willi Stoph
- 1989-1990Hans Modrow
- 1990Lothar de Maizière
Legislature Legislature
- Upper houseLänderkammer
- Lower houseVolkskammer
May 23, 1949 Establishment of West Germany
October 7, 1949Established
August 12, 1961Berlin Wall erected
November 9, 1989Fall of the Berlin Wall
September 25, 1990Settlement Treaty
October 3, 1990Unification
Area108,333 km²
- 199016,111,000
CurrencyMark of the DDR
C-Pennant Occupied Germany Unified Germany Flag of Germany

The German Democratic Republic, or East Germany, was a satellite state of the Soviet Union that existed between 1949 and 1990. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, the communist regime collapsed and it was replaced by a democratic system of government. On October 3, 1990 it was united with West Germany and became a part of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Background Edit

Soviet dictator Stalin died in March 1953. In large portions of the East German population, particularly among workers suffering under the high production quotas set by the SED, Stalin's death gave rise to hopes for an improvement in living conditions and for an easing of political terror. In an attempt to stave off increasing unrest among the population as living standards were worsening and production quotas were being raised, the East German leadership, headed by General Secretary Walter Ulbricht, announced new economic policies that would end price hikes and increase the availability of consumer goods. Ulbricht refused, however, to lower production goals for industry and construction, which had been increased by 10 percent on May 28, 1953.

On the new parade grounds at East Berlin's Stalin Allee, a symbol of communist pride, enraged workers assembled in protest on June 16. The following day, demonstrations were held in most industrial cities of East Germany. Demands were made for comprehensive economic reforms and political changes, including Ulbricht's resignation and free elections. Overwhelmed by such widespread opposition to their policies, the East German authorities were unable to quell the protests. Soviet military units stationed in East Germany were called in and, with the help of East German police units, suppressed the unrest within two days. Order was restored at a cost of an estimated several dozen deaths and 1,000 arrests. Ulbricht, the figure largely responsible for the causes of the demonstrations, had triumphed, but the uprising demonstrated the frailty of the East German regime and signaled the East German population's "will to freedom."

Born in Leipzig in 1893, Ulbricht had served on the Western Front in World War I and had joined the KPD in 1919. He advanced quickly in the party hierarchy, becoming Reichstag deputy in 1928. After Hitler's seizure of power, Ulbricht went into exile. From 1937 to 1945, he worked for the party in Moscow. After the war, he returned to Berlin to build up the KPD under the protection of the Soviet Union. By 1950 he was chairman of the SED and through a variety of positions ruled the East German state with an iron fist for the next two decades by successfully eliminating every potential competitor within the SED leadership.[1]

Consolidation of the New State Edit

The most important instrument employed by East German authorities to guarantee their absolute rule was the State Security Service (Staatssicherheitsdienst, commonly referred to as the Stasi). Founded in early 1950 as the secret service branch of the Ministry for State Security (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit – MfS), the Stasi came to exercise almost complete control over the population of East Germany. During the first five years of its existence, Stasi personnel were trained by Soviet instructors. In addition to its surveillance of the East German population – which was carried out with sinister thoroughness up until the final days of East Germany – the Stasi conducted extensive espionage activities in the West, particularly in West Germany.

Aside from its approximately 100,000 full-time employees, the Stasi could also rely on the assistance of nearly 2 million civilian spies, or so-called informal employees (Informelle Mitarbeiter – IM), who reported regularly from domestic listening posts or from abroad. Experts agree that before its dissolution in 1990, the Stasi had developed the most perfect spying system ever devised to watch over its own citizens. It had truly realized the idea of the "glass-citizen," whose every activity was known to and controlled by the state. In Stasi headquarters in East Berlin (|), detailed information on individual citizens was collected in huge archives, which survived, largely intact, the downfall of the East German state.

An equally important role in building a permanent power base for the SED was played by mass organizations. One of the most important was the Free German Youth (Freie Deutsche Jugend – FDJ), founded in March 1946, in which young people between the ages of fourteen and twenty-five were to be indoctrinated as members of a new socialist society. Together with its suborganization for youngsters from six to fourteen years of age, the Young Pioneers – later called the Pioneer Organization "Ernst Thälmann," in memory of the chief of the KPD during the Weimar Republic, who was killed in a concentration camp – the FDJ soon became an effective instrument for influencing the coming generations. An important part of its influence was that membership in the FDJ soon determined access to institutions of higher learning, recreation and sports facilities, and ultimately career opportunities.

Another important mass organization was the Free German Trade Union Federation (Freier Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund – FDGB), which attempted to motivate the workforce to achieve production goals and also provided members with opportunities for inexpensive vacations at FDGB-owned seashore resorts. Similarly, the interests of women were served by the Democratic Women's Federation of Germany.

By the end of 1947, all facets of society were organized in associations and groupings under the control of the SED. The East German authorities also sought to deprive potential enemies within the state of the traditions and institutions upon which the state and society had been founded. A primary target for complete transformation was the court system. Judges and attorneys soon came to be used as mere instruments to carry out Marxist-Leninist goals. The legality of actions was determined by the political leadership.

The SED also declared the traditional administrative division of East Germany into five Länder an obstacle to "efficient" governance. The five Länder , all grown out of long historical traditions, were abolished and fourteen administrative districts established. This measure gave the central government in East Berlin much greater control over the activities in these districts, which were now much smaller, and, equally important, allowed it to break with another aspect of Germany's despised bourgeois history.[2]

Planned Economy Edit

In East Germany, as in the other new "people's republics," the authorities' goal of abolishing private property and every trace of capitalism was to be implemented in several steps. By taking possession of all resources, as well as of the means of production and distribution, the socialist state hoped to be able to compete successfully with the capitalist West and finally demonstrate the superiority of the socialist system.

Patterned on the Soviet model, the East German economy was transformed into a state-controlled, centrally planned production and distribution system by 1948. Beginning in 1945, large tracts of real estate and factories were taken over by the state under reform programs for agriculture and industry. After the foundation of East Germany, these reforms were pursued with vigor. In 1949 the new state became a member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (|) (Comecon), which included all other Soviet satellite states and had been created in order to coordinate economic planning in socialist states worldwide.

The concept of multiyear plans was introduced with the First Five-Year Plan of 1951. It was intended to make up war losses and also make possible reparations payments to the Soviet Union. For this purpose, heavy industry was built up on a large scale. Production goals could not be reached, however, because of a chronic shortage of raw materials. The manufacture of consumer products was neglected completely.

The Second Five-Year Plan, started in 1956, aimed to complete the nationalization of all industrial concerns and the collectivization of agricultural enterprises. By the early 1960s, Kombinate (collective farms) accounted for about 90 percent of all farm production. Private farmers who resisted collectivization were arrested.

When production began to decline in the early 1960s, the SED introduced the so-called New Economic System of decentralized planning, which delegated some production decisions previously the prerogative of the central planning authorities to the Association of Publicly Owned Enterprises (Vereinigung Volkseigener Betriebe – VVB). The VVB was to foster specialized production within individual branches of industry, including the previously neglected production of consumer goods. Production declined even further, however, and it became increasingly evident to many East Germans that their "planned economy" had lost the economic battle with the capitalist West.[3]

Warsaw Pact Edit

The Warsaw Pact (|), which included the Soviet Union and all its satellite states in Eastern Europe, was created on May 14, 1955, just days after West Germany joined NATO. Like NATO, its Western counterpart, the Warsaw Pact guaranteed mutual military assistance to its members in the event of an attack and coordination of all member forces in a unified command. The existence of this command, which was situated in Moscow, allowed the Soviet Union to station troops on its allies' territories. Each member state was also obligated to establish its own armed forces. In East Germany, the People's Police (Volkspolizei, or Vopo) had created paramilitary units in 1952. The Soviet Union had unofficially helped form East German naval and air force units beginning in 1950.

On March 1, 1956, the National People's Army (Nationale Volksarmee – NVA) was officially created by transferring the existing paramilitary units of the People's Police to the NVA. The new army was officially under the leadership of the SED and under the direction of the newly created Ministry for National Defense. Initially, the NVA was to be staffed by volunteers only, but in 1962, when recruitment presented increasing difficulties for the SED and its support organizations, conscription was introduced. Before the construction of the Berlin Wall, conscription had been seen as impossible to enforce.

As early as the 1950s, the NVA became the most effective and best-equipped fighting force in the Warsaw Pact aside from the Soviet army. By the early 1980s, the NVA had an active strength of 167,000, of which approximately 60,000 were professional soldiers; there were approximately 3 million reservists. Most weapons were of Soviet origin.[4]

Berlin Wall Edit

Besides its increasing economic difficulties, by the end of the 1950s East Germany encountered another problem that began to threaten its existence: large numbers of people were leaving East Germany for the West. Nearly half of those who fled East Germany were under twenty-five years of age. Although crossing the border between the two German states had become dangerous after new security measures were introduced in the early 1950s and severe penalties for the crime of "flight from the republic" (Republikflucht ) were introduced by East German authorities in 1957, a relatively safe escape route remained via West Berlin, which could be reached from East Berlin using the city's public transportation network. Once in West Berlin, refugees were registered and then transported to West Germany by air.

Alarmed by the continuous population drain, the East German Politburo ordered the erection of a wall along the border between West Berlin and East Berlin. On Sunday morning, August 13, 1961, workers began building a three-meter-high concrete wall along the border of the Soviet sector of the city. Within a few hours, public transportation lines were cut, and West Berlin was sealed off from East Germany. Chancellor Adenauer and West Berlin's governing mayor, Willy Brandt, sought to calm the outraged West Berliners. The Western Allies did not react with force because they were unwilling to endanger world peace. Up to that date, nearly 3.5 million had left East Germany for West Germany. After the building of the wall, the stream of refugees decreased to a mere trickle.

Despite the construction of the Berlin Wall, many East Germans still tried to escape. Several hundred of those attempting to leave East Germany were killed; others were captured, perhaps after being wounded by automatic guns or mines along the border, and sentenced to long prison terms. With the sealing off of East Berlin, the East German regime had solved the refugee situation.[5]

International Relations Edit

The building of the Wall effectively halted large-scale emigration from East Germany. Although the SED failed to gain the active support of the majority of the population, young people, especially, began to tolerate the regime, at least passively. In the absence of any alternatives, they fulfilled their routine duties in youth organizations, schools, and workplaces. By the mid-1960s, the regime could afford to lessen internal pressures on its citizens, who, encouraged by increased production of consumer goods, had largely given up their open resentment against the SED and had turned their attention to improving their standard of living.

Ulbricht's state visit to Egypt in 1965 ended East Germany's political isolation. A previously unknown pride in East German achievements and a feeling of distinct East German identity began to develop, first among ruling party functionaries and then gradually among segments of the population. In 1967 the East German leadership, encouraged by these developments, attempted to gain official recognition of its autonomy from West Germany. When West Germany refused to grant recognition, the East German government proclaimed a separate East German citizenship and introduced a visa requirement for West Germans traveling to West Berlin and to East Germany. With these measures, East Germany began to practice a policy of new assertiveness and ideological delimitation (Abgrenzung) in response to West Germany's policy of recognizing only one German citizenship.

Membership in the UN was a primary foreign policy goal of East Germany in the late 1960s. A veto by the Western powers in the UN Security Council blocked East Germany's bid, however. East Germany did gain admission to the International Olympic Committee, which permitted East German athletes to participate in the Olympic games as a separate team. For East Germany, however, the ultimate breakthrough in the area of foreign policy – a treaty with West Germany – came only after international political tensions began to ease under the new spirit of détente.

Following the conclusion of the Treaty of Moscow between West Germany and the Soviet Union in January 1970, a new era of communication began between the two German states that culminated in the signing of the Basic Treaty in December 1972. The next year, both states became members of the UN, and most countries came to recognize East Germany. Permanent diplomatic representations, in lieu of embassies, were established, respectively, by West Germany in East Berlin and by East Germany in Bonn, demonstrating the new climate of mutual respect and cooperation between the two German states.

In this new setting, there was no longer room for Walter Ulbricht (), who had maintained a policy of confrontation with the West for many years. The Soviet Union, which had demonstrated considerably more flexibility than the East German leadership during its negotiations with West Germany, was also irritated by the failure of Ulbricht's economic program and by his attempts to demonstrate ideological independence by adhering to conservative Marxist principles. In 1971 the Soviet authorities ordered that Ulbricht be relieved of power. His replacement was Erich Honecker, who, as secretary of the Central Committee of the SED for security matters, had been directly responsible for the building of the Berlin Wall.[6]

Relations with West Germany Edit

Although Honecker pursued a tough policy against internal dissidents and carefully guarded East Germany's unique identity as the state in which the old Marxist dream of socialism had become a reality, he was keenly aware of the necessity for communication and reasonable working relations with West Germany. His dream of being received at the White House as a guest of state by United States president Ronald Reagan was never realized, but Honecker opened more lines of communication to Western politicians than had his predecessors.

As a consequence of the Helsinki Accords, the reception of Western news media broadcasts was tacitly allowed in East Germany. In the early 1980s, it also became possible for citizens of East Germany who were not yet pensioners to visit relatives in the West in cases involving urgent family matters. Under a new regulation, refugees who had gone to the West before 1981 and had therefore automatically lost their East German citizenship could now enter East Germany with their West German passport. These measures benefited East Germans and, together with access to Western television, helped to create a new relaxed atmosphere in East Germany.

On the economic side, East Germany fully utilized the advantages of the Interzone Trading Agreement, which allowed special consideration for the export of goods from East Germany to West Germany and other EC member states, as well as the import of vital industrial products from the West. Diplomatic relations with the EC were established in 1988, a reversal of the former policy that saw the organization as a threat to East Germany's sovereignty. The annual Leipzig Industrial Fair also provided a convenient forum for meeting Western politicians and industrialists.

The severe shortage of Western currency in East Germany, one of the key concerns of the SED leadership, was alleviated by agreements with West Germany that tripled the bulk contributions to the East German postal administration by West Germany. Similar agreements, financially advantageous to East Germany, improved the highway links to West Berlin. More significant, however, was the granting of bank credits amounting to DM2 billion to East Germany during 1983 and 1984. The CSU leader and minister president of Bavaria, Franz Josef Strauss, was the principal negotiator of these credit agreements.

At first, the credits appeared to yield positive results along the inner-German border, where mines and automatic guns, which had so long posed a deadly threat to East Germans attempting to flee to West Germany, were dismantled. Later, however, it became clear that these devices had been replaced by nearly impenetrable electronic warning systems and with trained dogs at certain sectors along the border. The order to shoot at refugees was not rescinded but remained in effect almost until the end of East Germany regime. Also remaining in effect were strict controls for West German citizens at East German border crossings and on transit routes to and from West Berlin, although there were no further reports of people being abused at border checkpoints.

However much relations improved between the two states in some areas, the stance of the SED leadership toward West Germany's NATO membership remained hostile. Harsh attacks in the East German press labeling West Germany as an "American missile launcher" became more frequent during the debates on the stationing of Pershing II and cruise missiles. On occasion, high-level official visits were canceled to signal East Germany's opposition to Western military policies. West Germany responded in kind. For example, Federal President Karl Carstens (1979-84) did not attend as planned the East German celebrations on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther in 1983.

In October 1987, when the two superpowers were striving for détente and disarmament and the relations between the two Germanys were cordial, Honecker visited Bonn as East German head of state. The visit, postponed several times, was in response to Chancellor Schmidt's visit to East Germany in 1981. Honecker was in the West German capital for an "official working meeting." He signed agreements for cooperation in the areas of science and technology, as well as environmental protection. Honecker's statement that the border dividing the two Germanys would one day be seen as a line "connecting" the two states, similar to the border between East Germany and Poland, attracted thoughtful public attention in the West. Honecker was cordially received by members of the government, in the words of Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker (1984-94), as a "German among Germans." However, at various stages of the visit – which subsequently took him to several federal states, including his native Saarland – large numbers of demonstrators chanted, "The wall must go."

The East German media coverage of the visit provided the opportunity for Chancellor Kohl to speak to "all the people in Germany" and to call for the breaking down of barriers "in accordance with the wishes of the German people." Although the visit yielded no immediate concrete results and Honecker's hopes of increased political recognition for East Germany were not realized, a dialogue had begun that could make the division of Germany more bearable for the people involved. As of late 1987, however, there was still little hope of overcoming the division itself.[7]

Internal Opposition Edit

The East German leadership welcomed protests against weapons and war as long as they occurred in West Germany. However, when a small group of East German pacifists advocating the conversion of "swords into plowshares" demonstrated in 1981 against the presence of Soviet missiles on East German soil, as well as against the destruction of the environment by the dumping of industrial waste and the use of nuclear power generally, they were arrested, prosecuted, and in some cases expelled from East Germany. Church organizations in East Germany – considered subversive by their mere existence – and individual pastors who protected and defended demonstrators at risk to their own safety became targets of increased surveillance by the Stasi, as did individual churchgoers, who by 1988 were frequently arrested and interrogated.

The mounting nervousness of the East German leadership became evident in June 1987 when large crowds of East Berlin youth gathered on their side of the Wall, along with young people from all over East Germany, to hear two rock concerts being held in West Berlin near the Reichstag building. When the crowd broke into frenzied cries for freedom and unification, police cleared the area, arresting and forcibly removing Western news reporters filming the incident.

In the local elections of May 17, 1989, the "united list" led by the SED received 98.9 percent of the vote, obviously the result of massive manipulation, which enraged large segments of the population who had previously remained silent. In the next months, persistent public complaints against the prevailing living conditions and lack of basic freedoms, voiced by church groups and by opposition groups, inspired the population to take to the streets in large numbers. The largest of the new opposition groups was the New Forum, founded in September 1989 by Bärbel Bohley, Jens Reich, and others.

During the fall of 1989, mass demonstrations of several hundred thousand people were taking place, first in what soon became traditional Monday demonstrations in Leipzig and later in Berlin and other large cities. For the first time, East German rulers realized that they were losing control: the demonstrations were too massive to be quelled by intimidation or even mass arrests; and shooting at the demonstrators was out of the question because of the sheer size of the crowds and the absence of Soviet support for draconian measures.

Beginning in the summer of 1989, the regime was threatened by another development. Among the thousands of East German citizens that traveled by car on "vacation" to the socialist "brother country" Hungary, some 600 were successful in crossing illegally into Austria, where they were enthusiastically welcomed before traveling on to West Germany. Others wanting to escape East Germany took refuge in the embassies of West Germany in Budapest, Prague, and Warsaw. On September 11, Hungary legalized travel over the border to Austria for East German citizens heading for West Germany, enabling 15,000 to take this route within a few days. Eventually, the East German leadership was forced to allow special trains to carry thousands of East German refugees who had received permission to emigrate to the West after taking sanctuary in West Germany's embassies in Prague and Warsaw. As the trains traveled through East Germany, many more refugees tried to climb aboard, so the government refused to further allow such transports.[8]

Last Days Edit

In January 1988, Honecker paid a state visit to France. By all indications, the long stretch of international isolation appeared to have been successfully overcome. East Germany finally seemed to be taking its long-sought place among the international community of nations. In the minds of East Germany's old-guard communists, the long-awaited international political recognition was seen as a favorable omen that seemed to coincide symbolically with the fortieth anniversary of the East German state.

In spite of Honecker's declaration as late as January 1989 that "The Wall will still stand in fifty and also in a hundred years," the effects of glasnost and perestroika had begun to be evident in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe. Although the East German leadership tried to deny the reality of these developments, for most East Germans the reforms of Soviet leader Gorbachev were symbols of a new era that would inevitably also reach East Germany. The East German leadership's frantic attempts to block the news coming out of the Soviet Union by preventing the distribution of Russian newsmagazines only strengthened growing protest within the population.

In Berlin, on October 7, the East German leadership celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the foundation of the East German state. In his address, Honecker sharply condemned West Germany for interfering in East Germany's internal affairs and for encouraging protesters. Still convinced of his mission to secure the survival of East Germany as a state, he proclaimed: "Socialism will be halted in its course neither by ox, nor ass." The prophetic retort by Gorbachev, honored guest at the celebrations, as quoted to the international press, more accurately reflected imminent realities: "He who comes too late will suffer the consequences of history."

The consequences of not having held in check the earlier large demonstrations against the regime's inflexibility came two days later when 70,000 protesters shouting "We are the people" demonstrated in Leipzig. When the police took no action during these historic hours of October 9, 1989, it became clear to everyone that the days of East Germany were numbered. After the crowds in Leipzig reached over 100,000 protesters on October 16, the Central Committee of the SED – previously kept in the background by Honecker and his comrades in the party leadership – took control. Honecker resigned from his offices as head of state and party leader on October 18.

Egon Krenz, longtime member of the Politburo and FDJ chairman, became Honecker's successor as general secretary of the SED. On October 24, Krenz also assumed the chairmanship of the Council of State. On his orders, all police actions against demonstrators were discontinued. On November 4, the largest demonstration in East German history took place, with over 1 million people in East Berlin demanding democracy and free elections. Confronted with this wave of popular opposition, the East German government, under Prime Minister Willi Stoph, resigned on November 7. The Politburo followed suit on November 8. Finally, on the evening of November 9, Politburo member Günter Schabowski announced the opening of the border crossings into West Germany.[9]

Fall of the the Berlin Wall Edit

November 9, 1989, will be remembered as one of the great moments of German history. On that day, the dreadful Berlin Wall, which for twenty-eight years had been the symbol of German division, cutting through the heart of the old capital city, was unexpectedly opened by East German border police. In joyful disbelief, Germans from both sides climbed up on the Wall, which had been called "the ugliest edifice in the world." They embraced each other and sang and danced in the streets. Some began chiseling away chips of the Wall as if to have a personal hand in tearing it down, or at least to carry away a piece of German history. East Germans immediately began pouring into West Germany. Within a few days, over 1 million persons per day had seized the chance to see their western neighbor firsthand.

On November 13, Hans Modrow was elected minister president of East Germany. After Chancellor Kohl had presented his Ten-Point Plan for the step-by-step unification of Germany to the Bundestag on November 28, the Volkskammer (|) struck the leadership role of the SED from the constitution of East Germany on December 1. The SED Politburo resigned on December 3, and Krenz stepped down as chairman of the Council of State on December 6. One day later, the Round Table talks started among the SED, East Germany's other political parties, and the opposition. On December 22, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin was opened for pedestrian traffic.

During January 1990, negotiations at the Round Table continued. Free elections to the Volkskammer were scheduled for March 18. The conservative opposition, under CDU leadership, waged a joint campaign under the banner of the Alliance for Germany, consisting of the CDU, the German Social Union (Deutsche Soziale Union – DSU), a sister party of the CSU, and the Democratic Awakening (Demokratischer Aufbruch – DA). The elections on March 18 produced a clear majority for the Alliance for Germany. On April 12, a CDU politician, Lothar de Maizière, was elected the new minister president.

The unusually poor showing of the SPD in these final East German elections may be explained by the party's reluctance to support German unification and also by the fact that the public was aware of the close contacts that the SPD leadership had maintained with the SED over the years. The success of the conservative parties was repeated in the communal elections on May 6, which were seen as a correction to the manipulated vote of the previous year.

As a precondition for German unity, the Two-Plus-Four Talks among the two German governments and the four victorious powers of World War II began on May 5. Held in four sessions, the last of which was on September 12, the talks culminated in the signing of the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany (the Two-Plus-Four Treaty). These talks settled questions relating to the eastern border of Germany, the strength of Germany's military forces, and the schedule of Allied troop withdrawal from German soil.

During a visit to Moscow in early February, Chancellor Kohl had received assurances from Gorbachev that the Soviet Union would respect the wishes of both Germanys to unite. Kohl realized that in order to seize this historic opportunity for Germany, swift action and final determination were crucial. In a cordial meeting between Gorbachev and Chancellor Kohl on July 16, unified Germany's membership in NATO and its full sovereignty were conceded by the Soviet president.

The first concrete step toward unification was the monetary, economic, and social union of West Germany and East Germany on July 1, as had been agreed in May in a treaty between the two German states. The monetary union introduced the deutsche mark into East Germany. Although there had been concern about East Germany's precarious financial situation, the full extent of the disastrous consequences of forty years of communist rule only came to light in the summer of 1990. It was soon clear that the first massive aid package for the East German economy, comprising DM115 billion, was just the beginning of a long and expensive rebuilding of a country reduced to shambles by the SED.

Divided by futile discussions about the speed of unification, the new government coalition in East Berlin had begun to fall apart during July 1990, when its SPD members resigned. Persuaded by the mounting economic and social problems that unification was necessary, the Volkskammer finally agreed on October 3, 1990, as the date of German unification.

On the occasion of the first free elections in East Germany, Chancellor Kohl took the opportunity to publicly express his gratitude to the United States, which had been Germany's most reliable ally during the process of unification. Once the first prerequisite for future unification had been established, namely, the willingness of Gorbachev to consider negotiations on unification in light of the dramatic events of the fall of 1989, the consent of the other victorious powers had to be secured.

Statements voicing concerns and even fears of a reemergence of an aggressive unified Germany suddenly appeared in the international press and media, as well as in unofficial remarks made by political figures throughout Europe. Even West Germany's major NATO partners in Europe – Britain and France – had become rather comfortable with the prevailing situation, that is, being allied with an economically potent, but politically weak, semisovereign West Germany.

Although lip service in support of future unification of Germany was common in the postwar era, no one dreamed of its eventual realization. When the historic constellation allowing unification appeared, swift and decisive action on the part of Chancellor Kohl and the unwavering, strong support given by the United States government for the early completion of the unification process were key elements in surmounting the last hurdles during the final phase of the Two-Plus-Four Talks.

The unification treaty, consisting of more than 1,000 pages, was approved by a large majority in the Bundestag and the Volkskammer on September 20, 1990. After this last procedural step, nothing stood in the way of formal unification. At midnight on October 3, the German Democratic Republic joined the Federal Republic of Germany. Unification celebrations were held all over Germany, especially in Berlin, where leading political figures from West and East joined the joyful crowds who filled the streets between the Reichstag (|) building and Alexanderplatz to watch a fireworks display. Germans celebrated unity without a hint of nationalistic pathos, but with dignity and in an atmosphere reminiscent of a country fair. Yet the world realized that an historic epoch had come to a peaceful end.[10]

Leaders of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany Edit

General Secretary of the Central Committee

  • Wilhelm Pieck (October 7, 1949 - Jul 25, 1950)
  • Walter Ulbricht (Jul 25, 1950 – May 3, 1971)
  • Erich Honecker (May 3, 1971 - Oct 18, 1989)
  • Egon Krenz (Oct 18, 1989 - Dec 6, 1989)

Heads of State Edit


  • Wilhelm Pieck (October 7, 1949 - Sep 7, 1960)

Chairman of the Council of State

  • Walter Ulbricht (Sep 7, 1960 - Aug 1, 1973)
  • Willi Stoph (Aug 1, 1973 - Oct 29, 1976)
  • Erich Honecker (Oct 29, 1976 - Oct 24, 1989)
  • Egon Krenz (Oct 24, 1989 - Dec 6, 1989)
  • Manfred Gerlach (Dec 6, 1989 - Apr 5, 1990)

Chairman of the People's Chamber

  • Sabine Bergmann-Pohl (Apr 5, 1990 - October 3, 1990)

Heads of Government Edit

Chairman of the Council of Ministers

  • Otto Grotewohl (October 7, 1949 - Sep 21, 1964)
  • Willi Stoph (Sep 21, 1964 - Oct 3, 1973)
  • Horst Sindermann (Oct 3, 1973 - Oct 29, 1976)
  • Willi Stoph (Oct 29, 1976 - Nov 13, 1989)
  • Hans Modrow (Nov 13, 1989 - Apr 12, 1990)
  • Lothar de Maizière (Apr 12, 1990 - October 3, 1990)


Germany After World War II


  1. The Library of Congress: Germany - A Country Study, Chapter 2
  2. The Library of Congress: Germany - A Country Study, Chapter 2
  3. The Library of Congress: Germany - A Country Study, Chapter 2
  4. The Library of Congress: Germany - A Country Study, Chapter 2
  5. The Library of Congress: Germany - A Country Study, Chapter 2
  6. The Library of Congress: Germany - A Country Study, Chapter 2
  7. The Library of Congress: Germany - A Country Study, Chapter 2
  8. The Library of Congress: Germany - A Country Study, Chapter 2
  9. The Library of Congress: Germany - A Country Study, Chapter 2
  10. The Library of Congress: Germany - A Country Study, Chapter 2
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