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Which country is gdr?

4 Answer(s) Available
Answer # 1 #

The Soviets responded by forming the German Democratic Republic (GDR) to govern their occupation zone. The United States refused to recognize the GDR until 1974. The GDR was absorbed by the FRG in 1990 when Germany reunified .

Answer # 2 #

The partitioning of Germany was a reflection of the claims laid down by the victorious Allied forces in 1945. On one side there were the US, France and the UK; on the other, the Soviet Union. They had joined forces to defeat fascist Germany, but went their separate ways after that.

The Western Allies established a parliamentary democracy in West Germany, while Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's territorial dominion spread across almost all of Eastern Europe. The most clearly recognizable characteristics of Eastern European states: Planned economies, no rule of law, no freedom of the press, no freedom of movement. Poland, Hungary, Romania and East Germany were just some of the countries forced to live under those rules until the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989/1990. Ideologically, they saw themselves as people's democracies, but were, in fact, dictatorships.

East Germany occupied a special geographic and political role within the Eastern Bloc, for free Europe was situated at its western border. Moreover, the similarly divided city of Berlin — the former capital of Nazi Germany — was situated in the heart of its territory. The city had been a symbol of Nazi Germany and all of the Allies wanted a piece of it. Thus, West Berlin also became an island of freedom in communist East Germany.

Read more: How did West Germany respond to the building of the Berlin Wall?

Berlin Wall ends mass exodus in 1961

In divided Berlin, the clash between the competing systems of capitalism and socialism could not have been more stark. The city, with a total of 3.3 million residents, was the hotspot of the Cold War — and, until 1961, it was also the hole through which refugees fled. But that hole was plugged with the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Until that point, more than one million people, fed up with the economy of lack and the intellectual climate of an unfree society, had turned their backs on the GDR.

After the Wall went up, people across Germany became ever more estranged. Still, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt's policy of detente with the East led to diplomatic rapprochement in the 1970s. Brandt, a Social Democrat, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. In 1973, both German states became full members of the United Nations (UN), cementing their existence.

Gorbachev expedites GDR downfall

Despite that, relative stability in the GDR was short-lived, lasting only a few years. The regime was simply not economically viable. Historian Frank Bösch says economic hardship was one of the main reasons for the collapse of the East German dictatorship. As an example, Bösch, who is director of the Leibniz Center for Contemporary History Potsdam (ZZF), points to the large amount of debt the GDR had amassed with Western countries.

He says another contributing factor was the dissatisfaction of the citizenry, "which manifested itself in an incredible desire to leave." When Mikhail Gorbachev, who was seen as a reformer, took the helm in the Soviet Union in 1985, many people in the GDR hoped he would also bring change to their system. Yet, East German leader Erich Honecker remained steadfast.

The people expressed their anger not only through mass demonstrations in the streets, but also by filing in ever more applications for permission to travel outside the GDR. Within two years, the number of applications for travel documents doubled from 53,000 to more than 105,000. That said, only a fraction of applicants were in fact allowed to travel outside the country.

Read more: A dangerous escape from East Germany

October 7, 1989: The GDR's last birthday celebration

Honecker and the Ministry for State Security, known colloquially as the Stasi, could no longer halt the collapse of the GDR. People were also protesting in other East European countries, especially Poland and Hungary. Historian Bösch says that was only possible because the Soviet Union had dismantled its traditional military support for local regimes.

On October 7, 1989, the communist regime celebrated the founding of the GDR for the very last time: 40 years of the German Democratic Republic. Just one month later, on November 9, the Berlin Wall fell. Millions of Germans, in both the East and the West, were ecstatic. Still, that was not the death knell for the GDR; that would not come for another year, on October 3, 1990, when Germany was reunified.

Read more: Reunification is an 'ongoing process,' says Merkel on German Unity Day

'East Germans have different taste in music'

Meanwhile, the relatively small country, which had only 17 million residents before it was dissolved, has spent the past 29 years as part of the larger Federal Republic of Germany, today home to 83 million people. Still, no one would think of describing the whole as a unified fatherland. The economy in the west is far stronger than in the east. Workers earn more in the west and very few companies have managers from the east.

Frank Bösch also points to the different attitudes and memories that characterize people from the former GDR: "East Germans have different taste in music and media, they travel differently and make political decisions differently as well."

The historian says he is not betting on assimilation happening any time soon, saying it will take a long time before the GDR disappears from the minds of its former citizens like it disappeared from the world. He says lived history encompasses roughly three generations. Many people know what their grandparents went through because of family stories.

Read more: The next generation must step up for German unification

The GDR will be history — but not until 2070

"The Berlin Wall and similar things have become such powerful icons that they will remain present as living memories for some time to come." Pointing to experience with the legacy of Nazism, Bösch predicts the GDR will not truly become a closed chapter in history until 70 or 80 years from now.

Looking back to the era of Nazism that preceded the separation of Germany, he says that dark chapter of history is only now slowly coming to an end as "the last witnesses are no longer alive." Using that metric, the chapter on the GDR won't be closed until 2070 at the earliest.

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Answer # 3 #

East Germany (German: Ostdeutschland), officially the German Democratic Republic (GDR; Deutsche Demokratische Republik, pronounced (listen), DDR, pronounced (listen)), was a country in Central Europe that existed from its creation on 7 October 1949 until its dissolution on 3 October 1990. Until 1989, it was commonly viewed as a communist state, and it described itself as a socialist "workers' and peasants' state". Before the establishment, its territory was administered and occupied by Soviet forces with the autonomy of the native communists following the Berlin Declaration abolishing German sovereignty in World War II; when the Potsdam Agreement established the Soviet-occupied zone, bounded on the east by the Oder–Neisse line. The GDR was dominated by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) a communist party from 1949 to 1989 before being democratized and liberalized under the impact of the Revolutions of 1989 against the communist states, helping East Germany be united with the West. Unlike West Germany, SED did not see its state as the successor one of the German Reich (1871–1945) and abolished the goal of unification in the constitution (1974). Under the SED rule, GDR was often judged as a Soviet satellite state; most scholars and academics described it as a totalitarian regime.

The GDR was established in the Soviet-occupied zone of former Nazi Germany (1933–1945) of the German Reich by the SED on 7 October 1949, while the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) (preceded by the fragmentary self-governance of West German politicians), commonly referred to as West Germany, was established as a liberal democracy in the three Western US–UK–French occupied zones before. It was a satellite state of the Soviet Union. Soviet occupation authorities began transferring administrative responsibility to German communist leaders in 1948 and the GDR began to function as an independent state on 7 October 1949, gaining nearly full sovereignty from the Soviet Union in 1955, although the Soviet Union was still deeply involved in this country's situation. In 1972, East Germany was recognized by West Germany and vice versa as well as these two German independent countries together became two separate members of the United Nations the following year. Until 1989, the GDR was governed by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, a communist party founded in the Soviet-occupied zone in 1946; although other parties nominally participated in its alliance organization, the National Front of the German Democratic Republic. The SED made the teaching of Marxism–Leninism and the Russian language compulsory in schools in the GDR.

The economy of this country was centrally planned and state-owned. Prices of housing, basic goods and services were heavily subsidized and set by central government planners rather than rising and falling through supply and demand. Although the GDR had to pay substantial war reparations to the Soviets, it became the most successful economy in the Eastern Bloc. Emigration to the West was a significant problem as many of the emigrants were well-educated young people; such emigration weakened the state economically. In response, the GDR government fortified its inner German border and later built the Berlin Wall in 1961. Many people attempting to flee were killed by border guards or booby traps such as landmines. Those captured spent long periods of time imprisoned for attempting to escape. In 1951, a referendum in the GDR regarding the remilitarization of Germany was held, with 95% of the population voting in favour.

In 1989, numerous social, economic and political forces in the GDR and abroad, one of the most notable being peaceful protests starting in the city of Leipzig, led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the establishment of a government committed to liberalization. The following year, a free and fair election was held in the country and international negotiations between four occupation Allied countries and two German countries led to the signing of the Final Settlement treaty to replace the Potsdam Agreement on the status and border of future-reunited Germany. The GDR ceased to exist when its five states ("Länder") joined the Federal Republic of Germany under Article 23 of the Basic Law and its East Berlin was also united with West Berlin into a single city of the FRG, on 3 October 1990. Several of the GDR's leaders, notably its last communist leader Egon Krenz, were later prosecuted for offenses committed during the GDR's times.

Geographically, the GDR bordered the Baltic Sea to the north, Poland to the east, Czechoslovakia to the southeast and West Germany to the southwest and west. Internally, the GDR also bordered the Soviet sector of Allied-occupied Berlin, known as East Berlin, which was also administered as the country's de facto capital. It also bordered the three sectors occupied by the United States, United Kingdom, and France known collectively as West Berlin (de facto part of the FRG). The three sectors occupied by the Western countries were sealed off from the GDR by the Berlin Wall from its construction in 1961 until it was opened in 1989 as part of the Peaceful Revolution against East Germany.

The official name was Deutsche Demokratische Republik (German Democratic Republic), usually abbreviated to DDR (GDR). Both terms were used in East Germany, with increasing usage of the abbreviated form, especially since East Germany considered West Germans and West Berliners to be foreigners following the promulgation of its second constitution in 1968. West Germans, the western media and statesmen initially avoided the official name and its abbreviation, instead using terms like Ostzone (Eastern Zone), Sowjetische Besatzungszone (Soviet Occupation Zone; often abbreviated to SBZ) and sogenannte DDR or "so-called GDR".

The centre of political power in East Berlin was – in the West – referred to as Pankow (the seat of command of the Soviet forces in Germany was in Karlshorst, a district in the East of Berlin.). Over time, however, the abbreviation "DDR" was also increasingly used colloquially by West Germans and West German media.

When used by West Germans, Westdeutschland (West Germany) was a term almost always in reference to the geographic region of Western Germany and not to the area within the boundaries of the Federal Republic of Germany. However, this use was not always consistent and West Berliners frequently used the term Westdeutschland to denote the Federal Republic. Before World War II, Ostdeutschland (eastern Germany) was used to describe all the territories east of the Elbe (East Elbia), as reflected in the works of sociologist Max Weber and political theorist Carl Schmitt.

Explaining the internal impact of the GDR government from the perspective of German history in the long term, historian Gerhard A. Ritter (2002) has argued that the East German state was defined by two dominant forces – Soviet communism on the one hand, and German traditions filtered through the interwar experiences of German communists on the other. The GDR always was constrained by the example of the richer West, to which East Germans compared their nation. The changes implemented by the communists were most apparent in ending capitalism and in transforming industry and agriculture, in the militarization of society, and in the political thrust of the educational system and of the media. On the other hand, the new regime made relatively few changes in the historically independent domains of the sciences, the engineering professions,: 185–189  the Protestant churches,: 190  and in many bourgeois lifestyles.: 190  Social policy, says Ritter, became a critical legitimization tool in the last decades and mixed socialist and traditional elements about equally.

At the Yalta Conference during World War II, the Allies, ie the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK), and the Soviet Union (USSR), agreed on dividing a defeated Nazi Germany into occupation zones, and on dividing Berlin, the German capital, among the Allied powers as well. Initially, this meant the formation of three zones of occupation, i.e., American, British, and Soviet. Later, a French zone was carved out of the US and British zones.

The ruling communist party, known as the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), formed on 21 April 1946 from the merger between the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). The two former parties were notorious rivals when they were active before the Nazis consolidated all power and criminalized them, and official East German and Soviet histories portrayed this merger as a voluntary pooling of efforts by the socialist parties and symbolic of the new friendship of German socialists after defeating their common enemy; however, there is much evidence that the merger was more troubled than commonly portrayed, and that the Soviet occupation authorities applied great pressure on the SPD's eastern branch to merge with the KPD, and the communists, who held a majority, had virtually total control over policy. The SED remained the ruling party for the entire duration of the East German state. It had close ties with the Soviets, which maintained military forces in East Germany until the dissolution of the Soviet regime in 1991 (Russia continued to maintain forces in the territory of the former East Germany until 1994), with the purpose of countering NATO bases in West Germany.

As West Germany was reorganized and gained independence from its occupiers (1945–1949), the GDR was established in East Germany in October 1949. The emergence of the two sovereign states solidified the 1945 division of Germany. On 10 March 1952, (in what would become known as the "Stalin Note") the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin, issued a proposal to reunify Germany with a policy of neutrality, with no conditions on economic policies and with guarantees for "the rights of man and basic freedoms, including freedom of speech, press, religious persuasion, political conviction, and assembly" and free activity of democratic parties and organizations. The West demurred; reunification was not then a priority for the leadership of West Germany, and the NATO powers declined the proposal, asserting that Germany should be able to join NATO and that such a negotiation with the Soviet Union would be seen as a capitulation. There have been several debates about whether Germany missed a chance for reunification in 1952.

In 1949 the Soviets turned control of East Germany over to the SED, headed by Wilhelm Pieck (1876–1960), who became President of the GDR and held the office until his death, while the SED general secretary Walter Ulbricht assumed most executive authority. Socialist leader Otto Grotewohl (1894–1964) became prime minister until his death.

The government of East Germany denounced West German failures in accomplishing denazification and renounced ties to the Nazi past, imprisoning many former Nazis and preventing them from holding government positions. The SED set a primary goal of ridding East Germany of all traces of Nazism. It is estimated that between 180,000 and 250,000 people were sentenced to imprisonment on political grounds.

In the Yalta and Potsdam conferences of 1945, the Allies established their joint military occupation and administration of Germany via the Allied Control Council (ACC), a four-power (US, UK, USSR, France) military government effective until the restoration of German sovereignty. In eastern Germany, the Soviet Occupation Zone (SBZ – Sowjetische Besatzungszone) comprised the five states (Länder) of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia. Disagreements over the policies to be followed in the occupied zones quickly led to a breakdown in cooperation between the four powers, and the Soviets administered their zone without regard to the policies implemented in the other zones. The Soviets withdrew from the ACC in 1948; subsequently, as the other three zones were increasingly unified and granted self-government, the Soviet administration instituted a separate socialist government in its zone.

Seven years after the Allies' 1945 Potsdam Agreement on common German policies, the USSR via the Stalin Note (10 March 1952) proposed German reunification and superpower disengagement from Central Europe, which the three Western Allies (the United States, France, the United Kingdom) rejected. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, a Communist proponent of reunification, died in early March 1953. Similarly, Lavrenty Beria, the First Deputy Prime Minister of the USSR, pursued German reunification, but he was removed from power that same year before he could act on the matter. His successor, Nikita Khrushchev, rejected reunification as equivalent to returning East Germany for annexation to the West; hence reunification was off the table until the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989.

East Germany regarded East Berlin as its capital, and the Soviet Union and the rest of the Eastern Bloc diplomatically recognized East Berlin as the capital. However, the Western Allies disputed this recognition, considering the entire city of Berlin to be occupied territory governed by the Allied Control Council. According to Margarete Feinstein, East Berlin's status as the capital was largely unrecognized by the West and by most Third World countries. In practice, the ACC's authority was rendered moot by the Cold War, and East Berlin's status as occupied territory largely became a legal fiction, the Soviet sector of Berlin became fully integrated into the GDR.

The deepening Cold War conflict between the Western Powers and the Soviet Union over the unresolved status of West Berlin led to the Berlin Blockade (24 June 1948 – 12 May 1949). The Soviet army initiated the blockade by halting all Allied rail, road, and water traffic to and from West Berlin. The Allies countered the Soviets with the Berlin Airlift (1948–49) of food, fuel, and supplies to West Berlin.

On 21 April 1946 the Communist Party of Germany (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands – KPD) and the part of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands – SPD) in the Soviet zone merged to form the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED – Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands), which then won the elections of October 1946. The SED government nationalised infrastructure and industrial plants.

In March 1948 the German Economic Commission (Deutsche Wirtschaftskomission—DWK) under its chairman Heinrich Rau assumed administrative authority in the Soviet occupation zone, thus becoming the predecessor of an East German government.

On 7 October 1949 the SED established the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (German Democratic Republic – GDR), based on a socialist political constitution establishing its control of the Anti-Fascist National Front of the German Democratic Republic (NF, Nationale Front der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik), an omnibus alliance of every party and mass organisation in East Germany. The NF was established to stand for election to the Volkskammer (People's Chamber), the East German parliament. The first and only president of the German Democratic Republic was Wilhelm Pieck. However, after 1950, political power in East Germany was held by the First Secretary of the SED, Walter Ulbricht.

On 16 June 1953, workers constructing the new Stalinallee boulevard in East Berlin according to the GDR's officially promulgated Sixteen Principles of Urban Design, rioted against a 10% production-quota increase. Initially a labour protest, the action soon included the general populace, and on 17 June similar protests occurred throughout the GDR, with more than a million people striking in some 700 cities and towns. Fearing anti-communist counter-revolution, on 18 June 1953 the government of the GDR enlisted the Soviet Occupation Forces to aid the police in ending the riot; some fifty people were killed and 10,000 were jailed (see Uprising of 1953 in East Germany).

The German war reparations owed to the Soviets impoverished the Soviet Zone of Occupation and severely weakened the East German economy. In the 1945–46 period the Soviets confiscated and transported to the USSR approximately 33% of the industrial plant and by the early 1950s had extracted some US$10 billion in reparations in agricultural and industrial products. The poverty of East Germany, induced or deepened by reparations, provoked the Republikflucht ("desertion from the republic") to West Germany, further weakening the GDR's economy. Western economic opportunities induced a brain drain. In response, the GDR closed the inner German border, and on the night of 12 August 1961, East German soldiers began erecting the Berlin Wall.

In 1971, Ulbricht was removed from leadership after Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev supported his ouster; Erich Honecker replaced him. While the Ulbricht government had experimented with liberal reforms, the Honecker government reversed them. The new government introduced a new East German Constitution which defined the German Democratic Republic as a "republic of workers and peasants".

Initially, East Germany claimed an exclusive mandate for all of Germany, a claim supported by most of the Communist bloc. It claimed that West Germany was an illegally-constituted puppet state of NATO. However, from the 1960s onward, East Germany began recognizing itself as a separate country from West Germany and shared the legacy of the united German state of 1871–1945. This was formalized in 1974 when the reunification clause was removed from the revised East German constitution. West Germany, in contrast, maintained that it was the only legitimate government of Germany. From 1949 to the early 1970s, West Germany maintained that East Germany was an illegally constituted state. It argued that the GDR was a Soviet puppet-state, and frequently referred to it as the "Soviet occupation zone". West Germany's allies shared this position until 1973. East Germany was recognized primarily by socialist countries and by the Arab bloc, along with some "scattered sympathizers". According to the Hallstein Doctrine (1955), West Germany did not establish (formal) diplomatic ties with any country—except the Soviets—that recognized East German sovereignty.

In the early 1970s, the Ostpolitik ("Eastern Policy") of "Change Through Rapprochement" of the pragmatic government of FRG Chancellor Willy Brandt, established normal diplomatic relations with the East Bloc states. This policy saw 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), which relinquished any separate claims to an exclusive mandate over Germany as a whole and established normal relations between the two Germanies. Both countries were admitted into the United Nations on 18 September 1973. This also increased the number of countries recognizing East Germany to 55, including the US, UK and France, though these three still refused to recognize East Berlin as the capital, and insisted on a specific provision in the UN resolution accepting the two Germanies into the UN to that effect. Following the Ostpolitik, the West German view was that East Germany was a de facto government within a single German nation and a de jure state organisation of parts of Germany outside the Federal Republic. The Federal Republic continued to maintain that it could not within its own structures recognize the GDR de jure as a sovereign state under international law; but it fully acknowledged that, within the structures of international law, the GDR was an independent sovereign state. By distinction, West Germany then viewed itself as being within its own boundaries, not only the de facto and de jure government, but also the sole de jure legitimate representative of a dormant "Germany as whole". The two Germanies each relinquished any claim to represent the other internationally; which they acknowledged as necessarily implying a mutual recognition of each other as both capable of representing their own populations de jure in participating in international bodies and agreements, such as the United Nations and the Helsinki Final Act.

This assessment of the Basic Treaty was confirmed in a decision of the Federal Constitutional Court in 1973;

Travel between the GDR and Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary became visa-free from 1972.

From the beginning, the newly formed GDR tried to establish its own separate identity. Because of the imperial and military legacy of Prussia, the SED repudiated continuity between Prussia and the GDR. The SED destroyed a number of symbolic relics of the former Prussian aristocracy: Junker manor-houses were torn down, the Berliner Stadtschloß was razed, and the equestrian statue of Frederick the Great was removed from East Berlin. Instead, the SED focused on the progressive heritage of German history, including Thomas Müntzer's role in the German Peasants' War of 1524–1525 and the role played by the heroes of the class struggle during Prussia's industrialization.

Especially after the Ninth Party Congress in 1976, East Germany upheld historical reformers such as Karl Freiherr vom Stein (1757–1831), Karl August von Hardenberg (1750–1822), Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835), and Gerhard von Scharnhorst (1755–1813) as examples and role models.

East Germany was elected as a member of the UN Security Council 1980–81.

In the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, partly thanks to the U.S.-led boycott, East Germany won over a total of 126 Olympic medals, finishing second place behind the Soviet Union.

Palace of the Republic was constructed in Berlin.

The communist regime of the GDR based its legitimacy on the struggle of anti-fascist militants. A form of resistance "cult" was established in the Buchenwald camp memorial site, with the creation of a museum in 1958, and the annual celebration of the Buchenwald oath taken on 19 April 1945 by the prisoners who pledged to fight for peace and freedom. In the 1990s, the 'state anti-fascism' of the GDR gave way to the 'state anti-communism' of the FRG. From then on, the dominant interpretation of GDR history, based on the concept of totalitarianism, led to the equivalence of communism and Nazism. The historian Anne-Kathleen Tillack-Graf shows, with the help of the newspaper Neues Deutschland, how the national memorials of Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and Ravensbrück were politically instrumentalised in the GDR, particularly during the celebrations of the liberation of the concentration camps.

Although officially built in opposition to the 'fascist world' in West Germany, in 1954, 32.2 per cent of public administration employees were former members of the Nazi Party. However, in 1961, the share of former NSDAP members among the senior administration staff was less than 10% in the GDR, compared to 67% in the FRG. While in West Germany, a work of memory on the resurgence of Nazism was carried out, this was not the case in the East. Indeed, as Axel Dossmann, professor of history at the University of Jena, notes, 'this phenomenon was completely hidden. For the state-SED (the East German communist party), it was impossible to admit the existence of neo-Nazis, since the foundation of the GDR was to be an anti-fascist state. The Stasi kept an eye on them, but they were considered to be outsiders or thick-skinned bullies. These young people grew up hearing double talk. At school, it was forbidden to talk about the Third Reich and, at home, their grandparents told them how, thanks to Hitler, we had the first motorways. On 17 October 1987, thirty or so skinheads violently threw themselves into a crowd of 2,000 people at a rock concert in the Zionskirche without the police intervening. In 1990, the writer Freya Klier received a death threat for writing an essay on antisemitism and xenophobia in the GDR. SPDA Vice President Wolfgang Thierse, for his part, complained in Die Welt about the rise of the extreme right in the everyday life of the inhabitants of the former GDR, in particular the terrorist group NSU, with the German journalist Odile Benyahia-Kouider explaining that "it is no coincidence that the neo-Nazi party NPD has experienced a renaissance via the East ".

The historian Sonia Combe observes that until the 1990s, the majority of West German historians described the Normandy landings in June 1944 as an "invasion", exonerated the Wehrmacht of its responsibility for the genocide of the Jews and fabricated the myth of a diplomatic corps that "did not know". On the contrary, Auschwitz was never a taboo in the GDR. The Nazis' crimes were the subject of extensive film, theatre and literary productions. In 1991, 16% of the population in West Germany and 6% in East Germany had antisemitic prejudices. In 1994, 40 per cent of West Germans and 22 per cent of East Germans felt that too much emphasis was placed on the genocide of the Jews.

The historian Ulrich Pfeil nevertheless recalls the fact that anti-fascist commemoration in the GDR had "a hagiographic and indoctrination character". As in the case of the memory of the protagonists of the German labour movement and the victims of the camps, it was "staged, censored, ordered" and, during the 40 years of the regime, was an instrument of legitimisation, repression and maintenance of power.

In May 1989, following widespread public anger over the faking of results of local government elections, many GDR citizens applied for exit visas or left the country contrary to GDR laws. The impetus for this exodus of East Germans was the removal of the electrified fence along Hungary's border with Austria on 2 May 1989. Although formally the Hungarian frontier was still closed, many East Germans took the opportunity to enter Hungary via Czechoslovakia, and then make the illegal crossing from Hungary to Austria and to West Germany beyond. By July, 25,000 East Germans had crossed into Hungary; most of them did not attempt the risky crossing into Austria but remained instead in Hungary or claimed asylum in West German embassies in Prague or Budapest.

The opening of a border gate between Austria and Hungary at the Pan-European Picnic on 19 August 1989 then set in motion a chain reaction leading to the end of the GDR and disintegration of the Eastern Bloc. It was the largest mass escape from East Germany since the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961. The idea of opening the border at a ceremony came from Otto von Habsburg, who proposed it to Miklós Németh, then Hungarian Prime Minister, who promoted the idea. The patrons of the picnic, Habsburg and Hungarian Minister of State Imre Pozsgay, who did not attend the event, saw the planned event as an opportunity to test Mikhail Gorbachev's reaction to an opening of the border on the Iron Curtain. In particular, it tested whether Moscow would give the Soviet troops stationed in Hungary the command to intervene. Extensive advertising for the planned picnic was made by the Paneuropean Union through posters and flyers among the GDR holidaymakers in Hungary. The Austrian branch of the Paneuropean Union, which was then headed by Karl von Habsburg, distributed thousands of brochures inviting GDR citizens to a picnic near the border at Sopron (near Hungary's border with Austria). The local Sopron organizers knew nothing of possible GDR refugees, but envisaged a local party with Austrian and Hungarian participation. But with the mass exodus at the Pan-European Picnic, the subsequent hesitant behavior of the Socialist Unity Party of East Germany and the non-intervention of the Soviet Union broke the dams. Thus the barrier of the Eastern Bloc was broken. The reaction to this from Erich Honecker in the "Daily Mirror" of 19 August 1989 was too late and showed the present loss of power: "Habsburg distributed leaflets far into Poland, on which the East German holidaymakers were invited to a picnic. When they came to the picnic, they were given gifts, food and Deutsche Mark, and then they were persuaded to come to the West." Tens of thousands of East Germans, alerted by the media, made their way to Hungary, which was no longer ready to keep its borders completely closed or force its border troops to open fire on escapees. The GDR leadership in East Berlin did not dare to completely lock down their own country's borders.

The next major turning point in the exodus came on 10 September 1989, when Hungarian Foreign Minister Gyula Horn announced that his country would no longer restrict movement from Hungary into Austria. Within two days, 22,000 East Germans crossed into Austria; tens of thousands more did so in the following weeks.

Many other GDR citizens demonstrated against the ruling party, especially in the city of Leipzig. The Leipzig demonstrations became a weekly occurrence, with a turnout of 10,000 people at the first demonstration on 2 October, peaking at an estimated 300,000 by the end of the month. The protests were surpassed in East Berlin, where half a million demonstrators turned out against the regime on 4 November. Kurt Masur, 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; he was replaced by a slightly more moderate communist, Egon Krenz.

The massive demonstration in East Berlin on 4 November coincided with Czechoslovakia formally opening its border to West Germany. With the West more accessible than ever before, 30,000 East Germans made the crossing via Czechoslovakia in the first two days alone. To try to stem the outward flow of the population, the SED proposed a law loosening travel restrictions. When the Volkskammer rejected it on 5 November, the Cabinet and Politburo of the GDR resigned. This left only one avenue open for Krenz and the SED: completely abolishing travel restrictions between East and West.

On 9 November 1989, a few sections of the Berlin Wall were opened, resulting in thousands of East Germans crossing freely into West Berlin and West Germany for the first time in nearly 30 years. Krenz resigned a month later, and the SED opened negotiations with the leaders of the incipient Democratic movement, Neues Forum, to schedule free elections and begin the process of democratization. As part of this process, the SED eliminated the clause in the East German constitution guaranteeing the Communists leadership of the state. The change was approved in the Volkskammer on 1 December 1989 by a vote of 420 to 0.

East Germany held its last election in March 1990. The winner was a coalition headed by the East German branch of West Germany's Christian Democratic Union, which advocated speedy reunification. Negotiations (2+4 Talks) were held involving the two German states and the former Allies, which led to agreement on the conditions for German unification. By a two-thirds vote in the Volkskammer on 23 August 1990, the German Democratic Republic declared its accession to the Federal Republic of Germany. The five original East German states that had been abolished in the 1952 redistricting were restored. 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). On 1 July, a currency union preceded the political union: the "Ostmark" was abolished, and the Western German "Deutsche Mark" became the common currency.

Although the Volkskammer's declaration of accession to the Federal Republic had initiated the process of reunification, the act of reunification itself (with its many specific terms, conditions and qualifications, some of which involved amendments to the West German Basic Law) was achieved constitutionally by the subsequent Unification Treaty of 31 August 1990 – that is, through a binding agreement between the former Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic, now recognising each other as separate sovereign states in international law. The treaty was then voted into effect prior to the agreed date for Unification by both the Volkskammer and the Bundestag by the constitutionally required two-thirds majorities, effecting on the one hand the extinction of the GDR, and on the other the agreed amendments to the Basic Law of the Federal Republic.

The great economic and socio-political inequalities between the former Germanies required government subsidies for the full integration of the German Democratic Republic into the Federal Republic of Germany. Because of the resulting deindustrialization in the former East Germany, the causes of the failure of this integration continue to be debated. Some western commentators claim that the depressed eastern economy is a natural aftereffect of a demonstrably inefficient command economy. But many East German critics contend that the shock-therapy style of privatization, the artificially high rate of exchange offered for the Ostmark, and the speed with which the entire process was implemented did not leave room for East German enterprises to adapt.

There were four periods in East German political history. These included: 1949–61, which saw the building of socialism; 1961–1970 after the Berlin Wall closed off escape was a period of stability and consolidation; 1971–85 was termed the Honecker Era, and saw closer ties with West Germany; and 1985–90 saw the decline and extinction of East Germany.

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. However, the SED quickly transformed into a full-fledged Communist party as the more independent-minded Social Democrats were pushed out.

The Potsdam Agreement committed the Soviets to support a democratic form of government in Germany, though the Soviets' understanding of democracy was radically different from that of the West. As in other Soviet-bloc countries, non-communist political parties were allowed. Nevertheless, every political party in the GDR was forced to join the National Front of Democratic Germany, a broad coalition of parties and mass political organisations, including:

The member parties were almost completely subservient to the SED and had to accept its "leading role" as a condition of their existence. However, the parties did have representation in the Volkskammer and received some posts in the government.

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. There was also 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.

After the fall of Socialism, the SED was renamed the "Party of Democratic Socialism" (PDS) which continued for a decade after reunification before merging 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.

The flag of the German Democratic Republic consisted of three horizontal stripes in the traditional German-democratic colors black-red-gold with the national coat of arms of the GDR in the middle, consisting of hammer and compass, surrounded by a wreath of corn as a symbol of the alliance of workers, peasants and intelligentsia. First drafts of Fritz Behrendt's coat of arms contained only a hammer and wreath of corn, as an expression of the workers' and peasants' state. The final version was mainly based on the work of Heinz Behling.

By law of 26 September 1955, the state coat of arms with hammer, compass and wreath of corn was determined, as the state flag continues black-red-gold. By law of 1 October 1959, the coat of arms was inserted into the state flag. Until the end of the 1960s, the public display of this flag in the Federal Republic of Germany and West Berlin was regarded as a violation of the constitution and public order and prevented by police measures (cf. the Declaration of the Interior Ministers of the Federation and the Länder, October 1959). It was not until 1969 that the Federal Government decreed "that the police should no longer intervene anywhere against the use of the flag and coat of arms of the GDR."

At the request of the DSU, the first freely elected People's Chamber of the GDR decided on 31 May 1990 that the GDR state coat of arms should be removed within a week in and on public buildings. Nevertheless, until the official end of the republic, it continued to be used in a variety of ways, for example on documents.

The text Resurrected from Ruins of the National Anthem of the GDR is by Johannes R. Becher, the melody by Hanns Eisler. From the beginning of the 1970s to the end of 1989, however, the text of the anthem was no longer sung due to the passage "Deutschland einig Vaterland".

Standard of the President of the German Democratic Republic The first standard of the president had the shape of a rectangular flag in the colors black-red-gold with the inscription "President" in yellow in the red stripe, as well as "D.D.R." (contrary to the official abbreviation with dots) in the stripe below in black letters. The flag was surrounded by a stripe of yellow color. An original of the standard is in the German Historical Museum in Berlin.

The flags of the military units of the GDR bore the national coat of arms with a wreath of two olive branches on a red background in the black-red-gold flag.

The flags of the People's Navy for combat ships and boats bore the coat of arms with olive branch wreath on red, for auxiliary ships and boats on blue flag cloth with a narrow and centrally arranged black-red-gold band. As Gösch, the state flag was used in a reduced form.

The ships and boats of the Border Brigade Coast on the Baltic Sea and the boats of the border troops of the GDR on the Elbe and Oder carried a green bar on the Liekjust like the service flag of the border troops.

After being a member of the Thälmann Pioneers, which was for schoolchildren ages 6 to 14, East German youths would usually join the FDJ.

Young Pioneers and the Thälmann Pioneers, was a youth organisation of schoolchildren aged 6 to 14 in East Germany. They were named after Ernst Thälmann, the former leader of the Communist Party of Germany, who was executed at the Buchenwald concentration camp.

The group was a subdivision of the Freie Deutsche Jugend (FDJ, Free German Youth), East Germany's youth movement. It was founded on 13 December 1948 and broke apart in 1989 on German reunification. In the 1960s and 1970s, nearly all schoolchildren between ages 6 and 14 were organised into Young Pioneer or Thälmann Pioneer groups, with the organisations having "nearly two million children" collectively by 1975.

The pioneer group was loosely based on Scouting, but organised in such a way as to teach schoolchildren aged 6 – 14 socialist ideology and prepare them for the Freie Deutsche Jugend, the FDJ.

The program was designed to follow the Soviet Pioneer program Vladimir Lenin All-Union Pioneer Organization. The pioneers' slogan was Für Frieden und Sozialismus seid bereit – Immer bereit" ("For peace and socialism be ready – always ready"). This was usually shortened to "Be ready – always ready". This was recited at the raising of the flag. One person said the first part, "Be ready!": this was usually the pioneer leader, the teacher or the head of the local pioneer group. The pioneers all answered "Always ready", stiffening their right hand and placing it against their forehead with the thumb closest and their little finger facing skywards.

Both Pioneer groups would often have massive parades, honoring and celebrating the Socialist success of their nations.

Membership in the Young Pioneers and the Thälmann Pioneers was formally voluntary. On the other hand, it was taken for granted by the state and thus by the school as well as by many parents. In practice, the initiative for the admission of all students in a class came from the school. As the membership quota of up to 98 percent of the students (in the later years of the GDR) shows, the six- or ten-year-olds (or their parents) had to become active on their own in order not to become members. Nevertheless, there were also children who did not become members. Rarely, students were not admitted because of poor academic performance or bad behavior "as a punishment" or excluded from further membership.

The pioneers' uniform consisted of white shirts and blouses bought by their parents, along with blue trousers or skirts until the 1970s and on special occasions. But often the only thing worn was the most important sign of the future socialist – the triangular necktie. At first this was blue, but from 1973, the Thälmann pioneers wore a red necktie like the pioneers in the Soviet Union, while the Young Pioneers kept the blue one. Pioneers wore their uniforms at political events and state holidays such as the workers' demonstrations on May Day, as well as at school festivals and pioneer events.

The pioneer clothing consisted of white blouses and shirts that could be purchased in sporting goods stores. On the left sleeve there was a patch with the embroidered emblem of the pioneer organization and, if necessary, a rank badge with stripes in the color of the scarf. These rank badges were three stripes for Friendship Council Chairmen, two stripes for Group Council Chairmen and Friendship Council members, one stripe for all other Group Council members. In some cases, symbols for special functions were also sewn on at this point, for example a red cross for a boy paramedic. Dark blue trousers or skirts were worn and a dark blue cap with the pioneer emblem served as a cockadeas a headgear. At the beginning of the 1970s, a windbreaker/blouson and a dark red leisure blouse were added.

However, the pioneer clothing was only worn completely on special occasions, such as flag appeals, commemoration days or festive school events, but it was usually not prescribed.

From the 1960s, the requirement of trousers/skirt was dispensed with in many places, and the dress code was also relaxed with regard to the cap. For pioneer afternoons or other activities, often only the triangular scarf was worn. In contrast to the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries, a blue scarf was common in the GDR. It was not until 1973, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the organization, that the red scarf was introduced for the Thälmann pioneers, while the young pioneers remained with the blue scarf. The change of color of the scarf was solemnly designed in the pioneer organization.

From 1988 there was an extended clothing range, consisting of a Nicki in the colors white, light yellow, turquoise or pink (with an imprint of the symbol of the pioneer organization), long and short trousers with a snap belt and, for the colder months, a lined windbreaker in red for girls and gray for boys.

Suitable pioneers were trained as paramedics; after their training, they wore the badge "Young Paramedic".

The Pioneer songs were sung at any opportunity, including the following titles:

Freie Deutsche Jugend, organization was meant for young people, both male and female, between the ages of 14 and 25 and comprised about 75% of the young population of former East Germany. In 1981–1982, this meant 2.3 million members. After being a member of the Thälmann Pioneers, which was for schoolchildren ages 6 to 14, East German youths would usually join the FDJ.

The FDJ increasingly developed into an instrument of communist rule and became a member of the 'democratic bloc' in 1950. However, the FDJ's focus of 'happy youth life', which had characterised the 1940s, was increasingly marginalised following Walter Ulbricht's emphasis of the 'accelerated construction of socialism' at the 4th Parliament and a radicalisation of SED policy in July 1952. In turn, a more severe anti-religious agenda, whose aim was to obstruct the Church youths' work, grew within the FDJ, ultimately reaching a high point in mid-April 1953 when the FDJ newspaper Junge Welt reported on details of the 'criminal' activities of the 'illegal' Junge Gemeinden. FDJ gangs were sent to church meetings to heckle those inside and school tribunals interrogated or expelled students who refused to join the FDJ for religious reasons.

Upon request, the young people were admitted to the FDJ from the age of 14. Membership was voluntary according to the statutes, but non-members had to fear considerable disadvantages in admission to secondary schools as well as in the choice of studies and careers and were also exposed to strong pressure from line-loyal teachers to join the organization. By the end of 1949, around one million young people had joined it, which corresponded to almost a third of the young people. Only in Berlin, where other youth organizations were also admitted due to the four-power status, the proportion of FDJ members in youth was limited to just under 5 percent in 1949. In 1985, the organization had about 2.3 million members, corresponding to about 80 percent of all GDR youths between the ages of 14 and 25. Most young people tacitly ended their FDJ membership after completing their apprenticeship or studies when they entered the workforce. However, during the period of military service in the NVA, those responsible (political officer, FDJ secretary) attached great importance to reviving FDJ membership. The degree of organisation was much higher in urban areas than in rural areas.

The FDJ clothing was the blue FDJ shirt ("blue shirt")– for girls the blue FDJ blouse – with the FDJ emblem of the rising sun on the left sleeve. The greeting of the FDJers was "friendship". Until the end of the GDR, the income-dependent membership fee was between 0.30 and 5.00 marks per month.

The Festival of Political Songs (German: Festival des politischen Liedes) was one of the largest music events in East Germany, held between 1970 and 1990. It was hosted by the Free German Youth and featured international artists.

The blue shirt (also: FDJ shirt or FDJ blouse) was since 1948 the official organizational clothing of the GDR youth organization Freie Deutsche Jugend (FDJ). On official occasions, FDJ members had to wear their blue shirts. The FDJ shirt – an FDJ blouse for girls – was a long-sleeved shirt of blue color with a folding collar, epaulettes and chest pockets. On the left sleeve was the FDJ symbol of the rising sun sewn up. Until the 1970s, the blue shirts were only made of cotton, later there was a cheaper variant made of polyester mixture.

The epaulettes of the blue shirt, in contrast to epaulettes on military uniforms, did not serve to make visible rank or unit membership, but were used at most to put a beret through. Official functions in the FDJ, for example FDJ secretary of a school or apprentice class, had no rank badges and could not be read on the FDJ shirt. However, the members of the FDJ order groups officially wore the FDJ shirt together with a red armband during their missions.

From the 1970s onwards, official patches and pins were issued for certain events, which could be worn on the FDJ shirt. There was no fixed wearing style. The orders and decorations that ordinary FDJ members received until the end of their membership at the age of 19 to 24 – usually the badge of good knowledge – were usually not worn. As a rule, only full-time FDJ members on the way to the nomenklatura at an older age achieved awards, which were also worn.

About 600,000 children and youth were subordinate to East German residential child care system.

The East German population declined by three million people throughout its forty-one year history, from 19 million in 1948 to 16 million in 1990; of the 1948 population, some four million were deported from the lands east of the Oder-Neisse line, which made the home of millions of Germans part of Poland and the Soviet Union. This was a stark contrast from Poland, which increased during that time; from 24 million in 1950 (a little more than East Germany) to 38 million (more than twice of East Germany's population). 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, except for a recovery in the 1980s when the birth rate in East Germany was considerably higher than in West Germany.

(1988 populations)

Until 1952, East Germany comprised the capital, East Berlin (though legally it was not fully part of the GDR's territory), and the five German states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (in 1947 renamed Mecklenburg), Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, and Saxony, their post-war territorial demarcations approximating the pre-war German demarcations of the Middle German Länder (states) and Provinzen (provinces of Prussia). The western parts of two provinces, Pomerania and Lower Silesia, the remainder of which were annexed by Poland, remained in the GDR and were attached to Mecklenburg and Saxony, respectively.

The East German Administrative Reform of 1952 established 14 Bezirke (districts) and de facto disestablished the five Länder. The new Bezirke, named after their district centres, were as follows: (i) Rostock, (ii) Neubrandenburg, and (iii) Schwerin created from the Land (state) of Mecklenburg; (iv) Potsdam, (v) Frankfurt (Oder), and (vii) Cottbus from Brandenburg; (vi) Magdeburg and (viii) Halle from Saxony-Anhalt; (ix) Leipzig, (xi) Dresden, and (xii) Karl-Marx-Stadt (Chemnitz until 1953 and again from 1990) from Saxony; and (x) Erfurt, (xiii) Gera, and (xiv) Suhl from Thuringia.

East Berlin was made the country's 15th Bezirk in 1961 but retained special legal status until 1968, when the residents approved the new (draft) constitution. Despite the city as a whole being legally under the control of the Allied Control Council, and diplomatic objections of the Allied governments, the GDR administered the Bezirk of Berlin as part of its territory.

The government of East Germany had control over a large number of military and paramilitary organisations through various ministries. Chief among these was the Ministry of National Defence. Because of East Germany's proximity to the West during the Cold War (1945–92), its military forces were among the most advanced of the Warsaw Pact. Defining what was a military force and what was not is a matter of some dispute.

The Nationale Volksarmee (NVA) was the largest military organisation in East Germany. It was formed in 1956 from the Kasernierte Volkspolizei (Barracked People's Police), the military units of the regular police (Volkspolizei), when East Germany joined the Warsaw Pact. From its creation, it was controlled by the Ministry of National Defence (East Germany). It was an all-volunteer force until an eighteen-month conscription period was introduced in 1962. It was regarded by NATO officers as the best military in the Warsaw Pact. The NVA consisted of the following branches:

The border troops of the Eastern sector were originally organised as a police force, the Deutsche Grenzpolizei, similar to the Bundesgrenzschutz in West Germany. It was controlled by the Ministry of the Interior. Following the remilitarisation of East Germany in 1956, the Deutsche Grenzpolizei was transformed into a military force in 1961, modeled after the Soviet Border Troops, and transferred to the Ministry of National Defense, as part of the National People's Army. In 1973, it was separated from the NVA, but it remained under the same ministry. At its peak, it numbered approximately 47,000 men.

After the NVA was separated from the Volkspolizei in 1956, the Ministry of the Interior maintained its own public order barracked reserve, known as the Volkspolizei-Bereitschaften (VPB). These units were, like the Kasernierte Volkspolizei, equipped as motorised infantry, and they numbered between 12,000 and 15,000 men.

The Ministry of State Security (Stasi) included the Felix Dzerzhinsky Guards Regiment, which was mainly involved with facilities security and plain clothes events security. They were the only part of the feared Stasi that was visible to the public, and so were very unpopular within the population. The Stasi numbered around 90,000 men, the Guards Regiment around 11,000–12,000 men.

The Kampfgruppen der Arbeiterklasse (combat groups of the working class) numbered around 400,000 for much of their existence, and were organised around factories. The KdA was the political-military instrument of the SED; it was essentially a "party Army". All KdA directives and decisions were made by the ZK's Politbüro. They received their training from the Volkspolizei and the Ministry of the Interior. Membership was voluntary, but SED members were required to join as part of their membership obligation.

Every man was required to serve eighteen months of compulsory military service; for the medically unqualified and conscientious objector, there were the Baueinheiten (construction units) or the Volkshygienedienst (people's sanitation service) both established in 1964, two years after the introduction of conscription, in response to political pressure by the national Lutheran Protestant Church upon the GDR's government. In the 1970s, East German leaders acknowledged that former construction soldiers and sanitation service soldiers were at a disadvantage when they rejoined the civilian sphere.

After receiving wider international diplomatic recognition in 1972–73, the GDR began active cooperation with Third World socialist governments and national liberation movements. While the USSR was in control of the overall strategy and Cuban armed forces were involved in the actual combat (mostly in the People's Republic of Angola and socialist Ethiopia), the GDR provided experts for military hardware maintenance and personnel training, and oversaw creation of secret security agencies based on its own Stasi model.

Already in the 1960s, contacts were established with Angola's MPLA, Mozambique's FRELIMO and the PAIGC in Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde. In the 1970s official cooperation was established with other self-proclaimed socialist governments and people's republics: People's Republic of the Congo, People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, Somali Democratic Republic, Libya, and the People's Republic of Benin.

The first military agreement was signed in 1973 with the People's Republic of the Congo. In 1979 friendship treaties were signed with Angola, Mozambique and Ethiopia.

It was estimated that altogether, 2,000–4,000 DDR military and security experts were dispatched to Africa. In addition, representatives from African and Arab countries and liberation movements underwent military training in the GDR.

East Germany pursued an anti-Zionist policy; Jeffrey Herf argues that East Germany was waging an undeclared war on Israel. According to Herf, "the Middle East was one of the crucial battlefields of the global Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West; it was also a region in which East Germany played a salient role in the Soviet bloc's antagonism toward Israel." While East Germany saw itself as an "anti-fascist state", it regarded Israel as a "fascist state" and East Germany strongly supported the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in its armed struggle against Israel. In 1974, the GDR government recognized the PLO as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people". The PLO declared the Palestinian state on 15 November 1988 during the First Intifada, and the GDR recognized the state prior to reunification. After becoming a member of the UN, East Germany "made excellent use of the UN to wage political warfare against Israel an enthusiastic, high-profile, and vigorous member" of the anti-Israeli majority of the General Assembly.

Ba'athist Iraq, due to its wealth of unexploited natural resources, was sought out as an ally of East Germany, with Iraq being the first Arab country to recognise East Germany on 10 May 1969, paving the way for other Arab League states to later do the same. East Germany attempted to play a decisive role in mediating the conflict between the Iraqi Communist Party and the Ba'ath Party and supported the creation of the National Progressive Front. The East German government also attempted to foster close relations with the Ba'athist regime of Hafez al-Assad during the early years of Assad's regime and, as it did in Iraq, used its influence to minimise tensions between the Syrian Communist Party and the Ba'athist regime.

During the Cold War, especially during its early years, the East German government attempted to build closer diplomatic relations and trade links between Iceland and East Germany. By the 1950s, East Germany had become Iceland's fifth largest trading partner. East German influence in Iceland significantly declined in the 1970s and 1980s following a schism between the Socialist Unity Party of Germany and the Icelandic Socialist Party over the Prague Spring, along with free market economic reforms implemented by Iceland during the 1960s.

The East German economy began poorly because of the devastation caused by the Second World War; the loss of so many young soldiers, the disruption of business and transportation, the allied bombing campaigns that decimated cities, and reparations owed to the USSR. The Red Army dismantled and transported to Russia the infrastructure and industrial plants of the Soviet Zone of Occupation. By the early 1950s, the reparations were paid in agricultural and industrial products; and Lower Silesia, with its coal mines and Szczecin, an important natural port, were given to Poland by the decision of Stalin and in accordance with the Potsdam Agreement.

The socialist centrally planned economy of the German Democratic Republic was like that of the USSR. In 1950, the GDR joined the COMECON trade bloc. In 1985, collective (state) enterprises earned 96.7% of the net national income. To ensure stable prices for goods and services, the state paid 80% of basic supply costs. The estimated 1984 per capita income was $9,800 ($22,600 in 2015 dollars) (this is based on an unreal official exchange rate). In 1976, the average annual growth of the GDP was approximately five percent. This made the East German economy the richest in all of the Soviet Bloc until reunification in 1990.

Notable East German exports were photographic cameras, under the Praktica brand; automobiles under the Trabant, Wartburg, and the IFA brands; hunting rifles, sextants, typewriters and wristwatches.

Until the 1960s, East Germans endured shortages of basic foodstuffs such as sugar and coffee. East Germans with friends or relatives in the West (or with any access to a hard currency) and the necessary Staatsbank foreign currency account could afford Western products and export-quality East German products via Intershop. Consumer goods also were available, by post, from the Danish Jauerfood, and Genex companies.

The government used money and prices as political devices, providing highly subsidised prices for a wide range of basic goods and services, in what was known as "the second pay packet". At the production level, artificial prices made for a system of semi-barter and resource hoarding. For the consumer, it led to the substitution of GDR money with time, barter, and hard currencies. The socialist economy became steadily more dependent on financial infusions from hard-currency loans from West Germany. East Germans, meanwhile, came to see their soft currency as worthless relative to the Deutsche Mark (DM). Economic issues would also persist in the east of Germany after the reunification of the west and the east. According to the federal office of political education (23 June 2009) 'In 1991 alone, 153 billion Deutschmarks had to be transferred to eastern Germany to secure incomes, support businesses and improve infrastructure... by 1999 the total had amounted to 1.634 trillion Marks net... The sums were so large that public debt in Germany more than doubled.'

Many western commentators have maintained that loyalty to the SED was a primary criterion for getting a good job, and that professionalism was secondary to political criteria in personnel recruitment and development.

Beginning in 1963 with a series of secret international agreements, East Germany recruited workers from Poland, Hungary, Cuba, Albania, Mozambique, Angola and North Vietnam. They numbered more than 100,000 by 1989. Many, such as future politician Zeca Schall (who emigrated from Angola in 1988 as a contract worker) stayed in Germany after the Wende.

Religion became contested ground in the GDR, with the governing Communists promoting state atheism, although some people remained loyal to Christian communities. In 1957 the State authorities established a State Secretariat for Church Affairs to handle the government's contact with churches and with religious groups; the SED remained officially atheist.

In 1950, 85% of the GDR citizens were Protestants, while 10% were Catholics. In 1961, the renowned philosophical theologian Paul Tillich claimed that the Protestant population in East Germany had the most admirable Church in Protestantism, because the Communists there had not been able to win a spiritual victory over them. By 1989, membership in the Christian churches had dropped significantly. Protestants constituted 25% of the population, Catholics 5%. The share of people who considered themselves non-religious rose from 5% in 1950 to 70% in 1989.

When it first came to power, the Communist party asserted the compatibility of Christianity and Marxism-Leninism and sought Christian participation in the building of socialism. At first, the promotion of Marxist-Leninist atheism received little official attention. In the mid-1950s, as the Cold War heated up, atheism became a topic of major interest for the state, in both domestic and foreign contexts. University chairs and departments devoted to the study of scientific atheism were founded and much literature (scholarly and popular) on the subject was produced. This activity subsided in the late 1960s amid perceptions that it had started to become counterproductive. Official and scholarly attention to atheism renewed beginning in 1973, though this time with more emphasis on scholarship and on the training of cadres than on propaganda. Throughout, the attention paid to atheism in East Germany was never intended to jeopardise the cooperation that was desired from those East Germans who were religious.

East Germany, historically, was majority Protestant (primarily Lutheran) from the early stages of the Protestant Reformation onwards. In 1948, freed from the influence of the Nazi-oriented German Christians, Lutheran, Reformed and United churches from most parts of Germany came together as the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) at the Conference of Eisenach (Kirchenversammlung von Eisenach).

In 1969 the regional Protestant churches in East Germany and East Berlin broke away from the EKD and formed the Federation of Protestant Churches in the German Democratic Republic  (German: Bund der Evangelischen Kirchen in der DDR, BEK), in 1970 also joined by the Moravian Herrnhuter Brüdergemeinde. In June 1991, following the German reunification, the BEK churches again merged with the EKD ones.

Between 1956 and 1971 the leadership of the East German Lutheran churches gradually changed its relations with the state from hostility to cooperation. From the founding of the GDR in 1949, the Socialist Unity Party sought to weaken the influence of the church on the rising generation. The church adopted an attitude of confrontation and distance toward the state. Around 1956 this began to develop into a more neutral stance accommodating conditional loyalty. The government was no longer regarded as illegitimate; instead, the church leaders started viewing the authorities as installed by God and, therefore, deserving of obedience by Christians. But on matters where the state demanded something which the churches felt was not in accordance with the will of God, the churches reserved their right to say no. There were both structural and intentional causes behind this development. Structural causes included the hardening of Cold War tensions in Europe in the mid-1950s, which made it clear that the East German state was not temporary. The loss of church members also made it clear to the leaders of the church that they had to come into some kind of dialogue with the state. The intentions behind the change of attitude varied from a traditional liberal Lutheran acceptance of secular power to a positive attitude toward socialist ideas.

Manfred Stolpe became a lawyer for the Brandenburg Protestant Church in 1959 before taking up a position at church headquarters in Berlin. In 1969 he helped found the Bund der Evangelischen Kirchen in der DDR (BEK), where he negotiated with the government while at the same time working within the institutions of this Protestant body. He won the regional elections for the Brandenburg state assembly at the head of the SPD list in 1990. Stolpe remained in the Brandenburg government until he joined the federal government in 2002.

Apart from the Protestant state churches (German: Landeskirchen) united in the EKD/BEK and the Catholic Church there was a number of smaller Protestant bodies, including Protestant Free Churches (German: Evangelische Freikirchen) united in the Federation of the Free Protestant Churches in the German Democratic Republic  and the Federation of the Free Protestant Churches in Germany , as well as the Free Lutheran Church, the Old Lutheran Church and Federation of the Reformed Churches in the German Democratic Republic. The Moravian Church also had its presence as the Herrnhuter Brüdergemeine. There were also other Protestants such as Methodists, Adventists, Mennonites and Quakers.

The smaller Catholic Church in eastern Germany had a fully functioning episcopal hierarchy in full accord with the Vatican. During the early postwar years, tensions were high. The Catholic Church as a whole (and particularly the bishops) resisted both the East German state and Marxist-Leninist ideology. The state allowed the bishops to lodge protests, which they did on issues such as abortion.

After 1945, the Church did fairly well in integrating Catholic exiles from lands to the east (which mostly became part of Poland) and in adjusting its institutional structures to meet the needs of a church within an officially atheist society. This meant an increasingly hierarchical church structure, whereas in the area of religious education, press, and youth organisations, a system of temporary staff was developed, one that took into account the special situation of Caritas, a Catholic charity organisation. By 1950, therefore, there existed a Catholic subsociety that was well adjusted to prevailing specific conditions and capable of maintaining Catholic identity.

With a generational change in the episcopacy taking place in the early 1980s, the state hoped for better relations with the new bishops, but the new bishops instead began holding unauthorised mass meetings, promoting international ties in discussions with theologians abroad, and hosting ecumenical conferences. The new bishops became less politically oriented and more involved in pastoral care and attention to spiritual concerns. The government responded by limiting international contacts for bishops.

List of apostolic administrators:

East Germany's culture was strongly influenced by communist thought and was marked by an attempt to define itself in opposition to the west, particularly West Germany and the United States. Critics of the East German state have claimed that the state's commitment to Communism was a hollow and cynical tool, Machiavellian in nature, but this assertion has been challenged by studies that have found that the East German leadership was genuinely committed to the advance of scientific knowledge, economic development, and social progress. However, Pence and Betts argue, the majority of East Germans over time increasingly regarded the state's ideals to be hollow, though there was also a substantial number of East Germans who regarded their culture as having a healthier, more authentic mentality than that of West Germany.

GDR culture and politics were limited by the harsh censorship. Compared to the music of the FRG, the freedom of art was less restricted by private-sector guidelines, but by guidelines from the state and the SED. Nevertheless, many musicians strove to explore the existing boundaries. Despite the state's support for music education, there were politically motivated conflicts with the state, especially among rock, blues and folk musicians and songwriters, as well as composers of so-called serious music.

A special feature of GDR culture is the broad spectrum of German rock bands. The Puhdys and Karat were some of the most popular mainstream bands in East Germany. Like most mainstream acts, they were members of the SED, appeared in state-run popular youth magazines such as Neues Leben and Magazin. Other popular rock bands were Wir , City, Silly and Pankow. Most of these artists recorded on the state-owned AMIGA label. All were required to open live performances and albums with the East German national anthem.

Schlager, which was very popular in the west, also gained a foothold early on in East Germany, and numerous musicians, such as Gerd Christian , Uwe Jensen , and Hartmut Schulze-Gerlach  gained national fame. From 1962 to 1976, an international schlager festival was held in Rostock, garnering participants from between 18 and 22 countries each year. The city of Dresden held a similar international festival for schlager musicians from 1971 until shortly before reunification. There was a national schlager contest hosted yearly in Magdeburg from 1966 to 1971 as well.

Bands and singers from other socialist countries were popular, e.g. Czerwone Gitary from Poland known as the Rote Gitarren. Czech Karel Gott, the Golden Voice from Prague, was beloved in both German states. Hungarian band Omega performed in both German states, and Yugoslavian band Korni Grupa toured East Germany in the 1970s.

West German television and radio could be received in many parts of the East. The Western influence led to the formation of more "underground" groups with a decisively western-oriented sound. A few of these bands – the so-called Die anderen Bands ("the other 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.

The government of the GDR was invested in both promoting the tradition of German classical music, and in supporting composers to write new works in that tradition. Notable East German composers include Hanns Eisler, Paul Dessau, Ernst Hermann Meyer, Rudolf Wagner-Régeny, and Kurt Schwaen.

The birthplace of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), Eisenach, was rendered as a museum about him, featuring more than three hundred instruments, which, in 1980, received some 70,000 visitors. In Leipzig, the Bach archive contains his compositions and correspondence and recordings of his music.

Governmental support of classical music maintained some 168 publicly funded concert, opera, chamber, and radio orchestras, such as Gewandhausorchester and Thomanerchor in Leipzig; Sächsische Staatskapelle in Dresden; and Berliner Sinfonie Orchester and Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin. Kurt Masur was their prominent conductor.

All productions were subject to censorship. Texts had to be submitted and shows approved in advance, performances were watched. No one was exempt from this, not even famous artists with connections to the highest circles of the SED government. Under this pressure, strategies were developed to bring critical texts to the audience despite censorship. For example, Heinz Quermann always deliberately built an extreme gag into his entertainment programme so that the censors would have something to cut and the other gags would be less critically scrutinised. Tamara Danz of Silly, who pursued a similar strategy with political lyrics, founded the term "green elephant" (grüner Elefant) for such passages. In light music, messages were smuggled past the censors between the lines, wrapped in images and metaphors, such as in the song Am Fenster by City. Occasionally, lyrics were censored that were not meant critically at all, such as in the song Tritt ein in den Dom by the Electra combo, which reached first places in rating programmes but was then largely banned because it allegedly called for people to enter the church.

At the beginning of the 1960s, the youth of the GDR were also under the influence of the Beatles and their music. In the beginning, this music was still tolerated and supported by the GDR leadership, especially with the help of the FDJ. The high point of this era was 1965, when GDR bands not only got radio and television appearances, but were even allowed to make recordings. In addition, Amiga released an LP by the Beatles. However, the SED realised that it could not control this movement, which was basically rebellious and oriented towards the West, and steer it in a direction it liked. The Leipzig Beat Revolt was a response, that most of the bands were therefore simply banned, the others were strictly controlled. For example, Thomas Natschinski's band had to change its English name "Team 4" to the German name "Thomas Natschinski and his group". Other bands were not so conformist. Renft in particular was repeatedly banned from performing and later also the blues rock band Freygang, whose members went into hiding and then played under pseudonyms.

Even convinced socialists like the singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann were banned from performing because they had different ideas of socialism than the SED realised. In 1976, Wolf Biermann was allowed to tour in the West and this was immediately taken as an opportunity to denaturalise him and refuse him permission to return. Numerous artists protested against this and were forced to leave the country - some after serving prison sentences - including members of Renft, as well as Manfred Krug and Nina Hagen. Other artists left voluntarily. Veronika Fischer, for example, did not return from a performance in West Berlin in 1981, whereupon her songs were no longer allowed to be played by GDR radio stations.

But West German productions were also subject to censorship. For example, the song by Udo Jürgens Es war einmal ein Luftballon (Once Upon a Time There Was a Balloon) was put on the Index because of the line "They know no borders, the balloons of the world". It was not until 1987 that Udo Jürgens was allowed to perform again in the GDR. Udo Lindenberg, for example, had similar problems. Despite all his efforts (such as his song Sonderzug nach Pankow (Special Train to Pankow)), he was only allowed to perform once before the fall of the Wall, at the Palast der Republik on the occasion of the event "Rock für den Frieden" (Rock for Peace) on 25 October 1983.

In the 1980s, censorship seemed to loosen up. Lyrics about the longing for freedom (including Albatros by Karat) became possible. But it was only in the course of the peaceful revolution that songs by Veronika Fischer were heard on the radio again in October 1989.

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 legacy, including Slatan Dudow, Erwin Geschonneck, Erwin Strittmatter, Peter Hacks, Benno Besson, Peter Palitzsch and Ekkehard Schall.

In the 1950s, the Swiss director Benno Besson with the Deutsches Theater successfully toured Europe and Asia including Japan with The Dragon by Evgeny Schwartz. In the 1960s, he became the Intendant of the Volksbühne often working with Heiner Müller.

In the 1970s, 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 proactive. 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."

The Friedrichstadt-Palast in Berlin is the last major building erected by the GDR, making it an exceptional architectural testimony to how Germany overcame its former division. Here, Berlin's great revue tradition lives on, today bringing viewers state-of-the-art shows.

Important theatres include the Berliner Ensemble, the Deutsches Theater, the Maxim Gorki Theater, and the Volksbühne.

The prolific cinema of East Germany was headed by 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. The East German 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 the Holocaust, and Fünf Patronenhülsen (Five Cartridges), about resistance against fascism, became internationally famous.

Films about daily life, such as Die Legende von Paul und Paula, by Heiner Carow, and Solo Sunny, directed by Konrad Wolf and Wolfgang Kohlhaase, were very popular.

The film industry was remarkable for its production of Ostern, or Western-like movies. Amerindians in these films often took the role of displaced people who fight for their rights, in contrast to the North American westerns of the time, where they were often either not mentioned at all or are portrayed as the villains. Yugoslavs were often cast as Native Americans because of the small number of Native Americans in 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 in the 1990s, 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 the Americas.

Cinemas in the GDR also showed foreign films. Czechoslovak and Polish productions were more common, but certain western movies were shown, though the numbers of these were limited because it cost foreign exchange to buy the licences. Further, films representing or glorifying what the state viewed as capitalist ideology were not bought. Comedies enjoyed great popularity, such as the Danish Olsen Gang or movies with the French comedian Louis de Funès.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, several films depicting life in the GDR have been critically acclaimed. Some of the most notable were Good Bye Lenin! by Wolfgang Becker, Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (won the Academy Award for best Film in a Foreign Language) in 2006, and Alles auf Zucker! (Go for Zucker) by Dani Levi. Each film is heavily infused with cultural nuances unique to life in the GDR.

East Germany was very successful in the sports of cycling, weight-lifting, swimming, gymnastics, track and field, boxing, ice skating, and winter sports. The success is largely attributed to doping under the direction of Manfred Höppner, a sports doctor, described as the architect of East Germany's state-sponsored drug program.

Anabolic steroids were the most detected doping substances in IOC-accredited laboratories for many years. The development and implementation of a state-supported sports doping program helped East Germany, with its small population, to become a world leader in sport during the 1970s and 1980s, winning a large number of Olympic and world gold medals and records. Another factor for success was the furtherance system for young people in the GDR. Sports teachers at school were encouraged to look for certain talents in children of ages 6 to 10. For older pupils it was possible to attend grammar schools with a focus on sports (for example sailing, football and swimming).

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 2 teams each. Football was the most popular sport. Club football teams such as Dynamo Dresden, 1. FC Magdeburg, FC Carl Zeiss Jena, 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig and BFC Dynamo had successes in European competition. Many East German players such as Matthias Sammer and Ulf Kirsten became integral parts of the reunified national football team.

The East and the West also competed via sport; GDR athletes dominated several Olympic sports; the SV Dynamo club of the security agencies won more than 200 Olympic medals. Of special interest was the only football match between the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic, a first-round match during the 1974 FIFA World Cup, which the East won 1–0; but West Germany, the host, went on to win the World Cup.

Television and radio in East Germany were state-run industries; the Rundfunk der DDR was the official radio broadcasting organisation from 1952 until unification. The organization was based in the Funkhaus Nalepastraße in East Berlin. Deutscher Fernsehfunk (DFF), from 1972 to 1990 known as Fernsehen der DDR or DDR-FS, was the state television broadcaster from 1952. Reception of Western broadcasts was widespread.

East Germany had a revolutionary technology for two-stroke engines called expansion chamber, allowing them to win motorcycle races with little competition. However, the main actor in this story, racer Ernst Degner, defected to Japan, taking the technology secret with him over to Suzuki. After the defection, East German motorcycle racing effectively ended.

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 distance 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. After unification, 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 to serve as a participant in the international telecommunications organization established by the Soviet government, Intersputnik.

There is general consensus among academics that the GDR fulfilled most of the criteria to be considered a totalitarian state. There is, however, ongoing debate as to whether the more positive aspects of the regime can sufficiently dilute the harsher aspects so as to make the totalitarian tag seem excessive. According to the historian Mary Fulbrook:

The state security service (SSD) was commonly known as the Stasi, and it was fundamental to the socialist leadership's attempts to reach their historical goal. It was an open secret in the GDR that the Stasi read people's mail and tapped phone calls. They also employed a vast network of unofficial informers who would spy on people more directly and report to their Stasi handlers. These collaborators were hired in all walks of life and had access to nearly every organisation in the country. At the end of the GDR in 1990 there were approximately 109,000 still active informants at every grade. Repressive measures carried out by the Stasi can be roughly divided into two main chronological groupings: pre and post 1971, when Honecker came to power. According to the historian Nessim Ghouas, "There was a change in how the Stasi operated under Honecker in 1971. The more brutal aspects of repression seen in the Stalinist era (torture, executions, and physical repression descending from the GDR's earlier days) was changed with a more selective use of power."

The more direct forms of repression such as arrest and torture could mean significant international condemnation for the GDR. However, the Stasi still needed to paralyse and disrupt what it considered to be 'hostile-negative' forces (internal domestic enemies) if the socialist goal was to be properly realised. A person could be targeted by the Stasi for expressing politically, culturally, or religiously incorrect views; for performing hostile acts; or for being a member of a group which was considered sufficiently counter-productive to the socialist state to warrant intervention. As such, writers, artists, youth sub-cultures, and members of the church were often targeted. If after preliminary research the Stasi found an individual warranted action against them then they would open an 'operational case' in regard to them. There were two desirable outcomes for each case: that the person was either arrested, tried, and imprisoned for an ostensibly justified reason, or if this could not be achieved that they were debilitated through the application of Zersetzung (transl. decomposition) methods. In the Honecker era, Zersetzung became the primary method of Stasi repression, due in large part to an ambition to avoid political fallout from wrongful arrest.

Zersetzung methods varied and were tailored depending on the individual being targeted. They are known to have included sending offensive mail to a person's house, the spreading of malicious rumours about them, banning them from traveling, sabotaging their career, breaking into their house and moving objects around etc. These acts could be intensely intimidating and confusing for the person targeted. They frequently led to unemployment, social isolation, and poor mental health. Many people had various forms of mental or nervous breakdown. Similarly to physical imprisonment, Zersetzung methods had the effect of paralysing a person's ability to operate but with the advantage of the source being unknown or at least unprovable. There is ongoing debate as to whether weaponised directed energy devices, such as X-ray transmitters, were used in combination with the psychological warfare methods of Zersetzung. The historian Mike Dennis states that "Between 1985–1988, the Stasi conducted about 4,500 to 5,000 OVs (operational cases) per year." The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims considers that there are between 300,000 and 500,000 victims of direct physical torture, Zersetzung, and gross human rights violations due to the Stasi. In the modern day, victims of historical Zersetzung can draw a special pension from the German state.

About 135,000 were educated in special residential homes, the worst of them was Torgau penal institution (till 1975). 27,000 ex-institutionalized children demand reimbursement.

Almost all East German highways, railroads, sewage systems and public buildings were in a state of disrepair at the time of reunification, as little was done to maintain infrastructure in the GDR's last decades. Unified German public spending has had to pour more than $2 trillion into the former East Germany, to make up for the region's neglect and malaise and bring it up to a minimal standard.

The Greifswald Nuclear Power Plant narrowly avoided a Chernobyl-scale meltdown in 1976. All East German nuclear power plants had to be shut down after reunification, because they did not meet Western safety standards.

German historian Jürgen Kocka in 2010 summarized the consensus of most recent scholarship:

Many East Germans initially regarded the dissolution of the GDR positively, but this reaction partly turned sour. West Germans often acted as if they had "won" and East Germans had "lost" in unification, leading many East Germans (Ossis) to resent West Germans (Wessis). In 2004, Ascher Barnstone wrote, "East Germans resent the wealth possessed by West Germans; West Germans see the East Germans as lazy opportunists who want something for nothing. East Germans find 'Wessis' arrogant and pushy, West Germans think the 'Ossis' are lazy good-for-nothings."

In addition, many East German women found the west more appealing, and left the region never to return, leaving behind an underclass of poorly educated and jobless men.

For the people who stayed in East Germany, a majority of them (57%) defend the GDR, with 49% of those polled saying that "The GDR had more good sides than bad sides. There were some problems, but life was good there", while 8% oppose all criticism of East Germany and say that "The GDR had, for the most part, good sides. Life there was happier and better than in reunified Germany today".

As of 2014, the vast majority of residents in the former GDR prefer to live in a unified Germany. However, a feeling of nostalgia persists among some, termed "Ostalgie" (a blend of Ost "east" and Nostalgie "nostalgia"). This was depicted in the Wolfgang Becker film Goodbye Lenin!. According to Klaus Schroeder, a historian and political scientist at the Free University of Berlin, some of the original residents of the GDR "still feel they don't belong or that they're strangers in unified Germany" as life in the GDR was "just more manageable". He warns German society should watch out in case Ostalgie results in a distortion and romanticization of the past.

The divide between the East and the West can be seen in contemporary German elections. The left-wing populist Die Linke party (which has roots in the SED) continues to have a stronghold and occasionally wins a plurality in the East, such as in the German State of Thuringia where it remains one of the major party. The region also sees disproportionate support for the Alternative for Germany, a right-wing populist party, particularly in the state of Saxony. This is in stark distinction from the West where the more centrist parties such as the CDU/CSU, SPD, The Greens, and the FDP dominate.

Another way the divide between the West and the East can be seen in modern Germany is religion. As of 2009, more Germans are non-believers in Eastern Germany than Western Germany. Eastern Germany, which was historically Protestant, is perhaps the least religious region in the world. An explanation for this, popular in other regions, is the aggressive state atheist policies of the German Democratic Republic's Socialist Unity Party of Germany. However, the enforcement of atheism existed only for the first few years. After that, the state allowed churches to have a relatively high level of autonomy. Atheism is embraced by Germans of all ages, though irreligion is particularly common among younger Germans. One study in September 2012 was unable to find a single person under 28 who believes in God.

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The German Democratic Republic (GDR), German: Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR), often known in English as East Germany, existed from 1949 to 1990. It covered the area of the present-day German states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg, Berlin (excluding West Berlin), Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt, and Thüringen. This area was occupied by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II excluding the former eastern lands annexed by Poland and the Soviet Union, with the remaining German territory to the west occupied by the British, American, and French armies. Following the economic and political unification of the three western occupation zones under a single administration and the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, known colloquially as West Germany) in May 1949, the German Democratic Republic (GDR or East Germany) was founded on 7 October 1949 as a sovereign nation.

East Germany's political and economic system reflected its status as a part of the Eastern Bloc of Soviet-allied Communist countries, with the nation ruled by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) and operating with a command economy for almost 41 years until 3 October 1990 when the two countries East and West Germany were unified with the former being absorbed into the latter's existing system of liberal democracy and a market economy.

At the Yalta Conference, held in February 1945, the United States, United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union agreed on the division of Germany into occupation zones. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin favored the maintenance of German unity, but supported its division among the Allies, a view that he reiterated at Potsdam. Estimating the territory that the converging armies of the western Allies and the Soviet Union would overrun, the Yalta Conference determined the demarcation line for the respective areas of occupation. It was also decided that a "Committee on Dismemberment of Germany" was to be set up. The purpose was to decide whether Germany was to be divided into several nations, and if so, what borders and inter-relationships the new German states were to have. Following Germany's surrender, the Allied Control Council, representing the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union, assumed governmental authority in postwar Germany. Economic demilitarization however (especially the stripping of industrial equipment) was the responsibility of each zone individually.

The Potsdam Conference of July/August 1945 officially recognized the zones and confirmed jurisdiction of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany (German: Sowjetische Militäradministration in Deutschland, SMAD) from the Oder and Neisse rivers to the demarcation line. The Soviet occupation zone included the former states of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia. The city of Berlin was placed under the control of the four powers. The German territory east of the Oder-Neisse line, equal in size to the Soviet occupation zone, was handed over to Poland and the Soviet Union for de facto annexation. This territory transfer was seen as a compensation for Nazi German military occupation of Poland and parts of the Soviet Union. The millions of Germans still remaining in these areas under the Potsdam Agreement were over a period of several years expelled and replaced by Polish settlers (see Expulsion of Germans after World War II), while millions of ethnic Germans from other Eastern European countries poured into Allied-occupied Germany. This migration was to such an extent that by the time the German Democratic Republic was founded, between a third and a quarter of the population of East Germany was Heimatvertriebene, i.e. ethnic German migrants who fled or were expelled as part of a wider trend of population transfer among the countries and regions of Eastern Europe following World War II.

Each occupation power assumed rule in its zone by June 1945. The powers originally pursued a common German policy, focused on denazification and demilitarization in preparation for the restoration of a democratic German nation-state. Over time, however, the western zones and the Soviet zone drifted apart economically, not least because of the Soviets' much greater use of disassembly of German industry under its control as a form of reparations. Reparations were officially agreed among the Allies from 2 August 1945, with 'removals' prior to this date not included. According to Soviet Foreign Ministry data, Soviet troops, organised in specialised "trophy" battalions, removed 1.28m tons of materials and 3.6m tons of equipment, as well as large quantities of agricultural produce). No agreement on reparations could be reached at the Potsdam Conference, but by December 1947 it was clear that Western governments were unwilling to accede to the Soviet request for $10bn in reparations (which the Soviets placed into perspective by calculating total war damage of $128bn). (In contrast the Germans estimate a total loss of German property, due to the border changes promoted by the USSR and the population expulsions, of 355.3 billion Deutschmarks). As a result, the Soviets sought to extract the $10bn from its occupation zone in eastern Germany, in addition to the trophy removals; Naimark (1995) estimates that $10bn was transferred in material form by the early 1950s, including in 1945 and 1946 over 17,000 factories, amounting to a third of the productive capital of the eastern occupation zone.

In the western zones, dismantling and/or destruction of German industry continued until 1951 in accordance to the (several times modified) "German level of industry" agreement connected with the Potsdam conference whereby Germany was to be treated as a single unit and converted into an "agricultural and light industry economy". By the end of 1948 the US had dismantled or destroyed all war-related manufacturing capability in its occupation zone. In accordance with the agreements with the USSR, shipment of dismantled industrial installations from the west began on March 31, 1946. Under the terms of the agreement the Soviet Union would in return ship raw materials such as food and timber to the western zones. When the Soviets did not fulfil their side of the agreement, the US temporarily halted shipments east, and they were never resumed. It was later shown that although these events were subsequently used for cold war propaganda purposes against the Soviet Union, the main reason for halting shipments east was not the behaviour of the USSR but rather the recalcitrance of France. Material received by the USSR included equipment from the Kugel-Fischer ballbearing plant at Schweinfurt, the Daimler-Benz underground aircraft-engine plant at Obrigheim, the Deschimag shipyards at Bremen-Weser, and Gendorf power station.

Military industries and those owned by the state, by Nazi activists, and by war criminals were confiscated by the Soviet occupation authority. These industries amounted to about 60% of total industrial production in the Soviet zone. Most heavy industry (constituting 20% of total production) was claimed by the Soviet Union as reparations, and Soviet joint stock companies (German: Sowjetische Aktiengesellschaften—SAG) were formed. The remaining confiscated industrial property was nationalized, leaving 40% of total industrial production to private enterprise.

The agrarian reform (Bodenreform) expropriated all land belonging to owners of more than 100 hectares of land as well as former Nazis and war criminals and generally limited ownership to 1 square kilometre (0.39 sq mi). Some 500 Junker estates were converted into collective people's farms (German: Landwirtschaftliche Produktionsgenossenschaft—LPG), and more than 30,000 square kilometres (12,000 sq mi) were distributed among 500,000 peasant farmers, agricultural laborers, and refugees. State farms were also set up, called Volkseigenes Gut (State-owned Property).

Growing economic differences combined with developing political tensions between the US and the Soviet Union (which would eventually develop into the Cold War) were manifested in the refusal in 1947 of the SMAD to take part in the USA's Marshall Plan. In March 1948, the United States, Britain and France met in London and agreed to unite the Western zones and to establish a West German republic. The Soviet Union responded by leaving the Allied Control Council, and prepared to create an East German state. The division of Germany was made clear with the currency reform of 20 June 1948, which was limited to the western zones. Three days later a separate currency reform was introduced in the Soviet zone. The introduction of the Deutsche Mark to the western sectors of Berlin, against the will of the Soviet supreme commander, led the Soviet Union to introduce the Berlin Blockade to try to gain control of the whole of Berlin. The Western Allies decided to supply Berlin via an airbridge. This lasted 11 months until the Soviet Union lifted the blockade on 12 May 1949.

An SMAD decree of June 10, 1945 allowed the formation of antifascist democratic political parties in the Soviet zone; elections to new state legislatures were scheduled for October 1946. A democratic-antifascist coalition, which included the KPD, the SPD, the new Christian Democratic Union (Christlich-Demokratische Union—CDU), and the Liberal Democratic Party of Germany (Liberal Demokratische Partei Deutschlands—LDPD), was formed in July 1945. The KPD (with 600,000 members, led by Wilhelm Pieck) and the SPD in East Germany (with 680,000 members, led by Otto Grotewohl), which was under strong pressure from the Communists, merged in April 1946 to form the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands—SED) under pressure from the occupation authorities. In the October 1946 elections, the SED polled approximately 50% of the vote in each state in the Soviet zone. However, a truer picture of the SED's support was revealed in Berlin, which was still undivided. The Berlin SPD managed to preserve its independence and, running on its own, polled 48.7% of the vote while the SED, with 19.8%, was third in the voting behind the SPD and the CDU.

In May 1949, elections were held in the Soviet zone for the German People's Congress to draft a constitution for a separate East German state. Members of the Nazi party were drawn and elections were held from the slate of candidates drawn from different organizations of the anti-fascist coalition. Communists won this election, thereby holding a majority of seats in the People's Congress. According to official results, two-thirds of voters approved the unity lists.

The SED was structured as a Soviet-style "party of the new type". To that end, German communist Walter Ulbricht became first secretary of the SED, and the Politburo, Secretariat, and Central Committee were formed. According to the Leninist principle of democratic centralism, each party body was controlled by its members, meaning that Ulbricht, as party chief, theoretically carried out the will of the members of his party.

Incidentally, the party system was designed to allow re-entry of only those former NSDAP adherents who had earlier decided to join the National Front, which was originally formed by emigrants and prisoners of war in the Soviet Union during World War II. Political denazification in the Soviet zone was thus handled rather more transparently than in the Western zones, where the issue soon came second to considerations of practicality or even just privacy.

In November 1948, the German Economic Commission (Deutsche Wirtschaftskomission—DWK), including antifascist bloc representation, assumed administrative authority. Five months after declaration of the western Federal Republic of Germany (better known as West Germany), on October 7, 1949, the DWK formed a provisional government and proclaimed establishment of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). Wilhelm Pieck, a party leader, was elected first president. On October 9, the Soviet Union withdrew her East Berlin headquarters, and subsequently it outwardly surrendered the functions of the military government to the new German state.

The SED controlled the National Front coalition, a federation of all political parties and mass organizations that preserved political pluralism. The 1949 constitution formally defined East Germany as a quasi-unitary republic with a bicameral parliament comprising an upper house called the Länderkammer (States Chamber) and a lower house called the Volkskammer (People's Chamber). The Volkskammer, defined as the highest state body, was vested with legislative sovereignty. The SED controlled the Council of Ministers and reduced the legislative function of the Volkskammer to that of acclamation. Election to the Volkskammer and the state legislatures (later replaced by district legislatures) was based on a joint ballot prepared by the National Front: voters could register their approval or disapproval.

All members of the SED who were active in state organs carried out party resolutions. The State Security Service (Staatssicherheitsdienst, better known as the Stasi) and the Ministry of State Security had a role similar to Soviet intelligence agencies.

The Third SED Party Congress convened in July 1950 and emphasized industrial progress. The industrial sector, employing 40% of the working population, was subjected to further nationalization, which resulted in the formation of the People's Enterprises (Volkseigener Betrieb—VEB). These enterprises incorporated 75% of the industrial sector. The First Five-Year Plan (1951–55) introduced centralized state planning; it stressed high production quotas for heavy industry and increased labor productivity. The pressures of the plan caused an exodus of East German citizens to West Germany. The second Party Conference (less important than Party Congress) convened on July 9–12, 1952. 1,565 delegates, 494 guest-delegates, and over 2,500 guests from the GDR and from many other countries in the world participated in it. In the conference a new economic policy was adopted, "Planned Construction of Socialism". The plan called to strengthen the state-owned sector of the economy, further to implement the principles of uniform socialist planning, and to use the economic laws of socialism systematically.

Under a law passed by the Volkskammer in 1950, the age at which Germany's youth may reject parental supervision was lowered from 21 to 18. The churches, while nominally assured of religious freedom, were, nevertheless, subjected to considerable pressure. To retaliate, Cardinal von Preysing, Bishop of Berlin, put the SED in East Germany under an Episcopal ban. There were also other indications of opposition, even from within the government itself. In the fall of 1950 several prominent members of the SED were expelled and arrested as "saboteurs" or "for lacking trust in the Soviet Union." Among them were the Deputy Minister of Justice, Helmut Brandt; the Vice-President of the Volkskammer, Joseph Rambo; Bruno Foldhammer, the deputy to Gerhard Eisler; and the editor, Lex Ende. At the end of 1954 the draft of a new family code was published.

In 1951 monthly emigration figures fluctuated between 11,500 and 17,000. By 1953 an average of 37,000 men, women, and children were leaving each month.

Stalin died in March 1953. In June the SED, hoping to give workers an improved standard of living, announced the New Course which replaced the Planned Construction of Socialism. The New Course in East Germany was based on the economic policy initiated by Georgi Malenkov in the Soviet Union. Malenkov's policy, which aimed at improvement in the standard of living, stressed a shift in investment toward light industry and trade and a greater availability of consumer goods. The SED, in addition to shifting emphasis from heavy industry to consumer goods, initiated a program for alleviating economic hardships. This led to a reduction of delivery quotas and taxes, the availability of state loans to private business, and an increase in the allocation of production material.

While the New Course increased the consumer goods workers could get, there were still high production quotas. When work quotas were raised in 1953, it led to the 1953 Uprising. Strikes and demonstrations happened in major industrial centers. The workers demanded economic reforms. The Volkspolizei and the Soviet Army suppressed the uprising, in which approximately 100 participants were killed.

In 1954 the Soviet Union granted East Germany sovereignty, and the Soviet Control Commission in Berlin was disbanded. By this time, reparations payments had been completed, and the SAGs had been restored to East German ownership. The five states formerly constituting the Soviet occupation zone also had been dissolved and replaced by fifteen districts (Bezirke) in 1952; the United States, Britain, and France did not recognize the fifteenth district, East Berlin. East Germany began active participation in the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) in 1950. In 1955 Prime Minister Otto Grotewohl was invited to Moscow and, between September 17 and 20, concluded the Treaty on Relations between the USSR and the GDR with the Soviet Union which entered into force on October 6. According to its terms the German Democratic Republic was henceforth "free to decide questions of its internal and foreign policy, including its relations with the German Federal Republic as well as with other states." Although Soviet forces would temporarily remain in the country on conditions to be agreed upon, they would not interfere in the internal conditions of its social and political life. The two governments would strengthen the economic, scientific-technical, and cultural relations between them and would consult with each other on questions affecting their interests. On 14 May 1955, East Germany became a member of the Warsaw Pact and in 1956 the National People's Army (Nationale Volksarmee—NVA) was created.

In 1956, at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev repudiated Stalinism. Around this time, an academic intelligentsia within the SED leadership demanded reform. To this end, Wolfgang Harich issued a platform advocating radical changes in East Germany. In late 1956, he and his associates were quickly purged from the SED ranks and imprisoned.

An SED party plenum in July 1956 confirmed Ulbricht's leadership and presented the Second Five-Year Plan (1956–1960). The plan employed the slogan "modernization, mechanization, and automation" to emphasize the new focus on technological progress. At the plenum, the regime announced its intention to develop nuclear energy, and the first nuclear reactor in East Germany was activated in 1957. The government increased industrial production quotas by 55% and renewed emphasis on heavy industry.

The Second Five-Year Plan committed East Germany to accelerated efforts toward agricultural collectivization and nationalization and completion of the nationalization of the industrial sector. By 1958 the agricultural sector still consisted primarily of the 750,000 privately owned farms that comprised 70% of all arable land; only 6,000 Agricultural Cooperatives (Landwirtschaftliche Produktionsgenossenschaften—LPGs) had been formed. In 1958–59 the SED placed quotas on private farmers and sent teams to villages in an effort to encourage voluntary collectivization. In November and December 1959 some law-breaking farmers were arrested by the SSD.

By mid-1960 nearly 85% of all arable land was incorporated in more than 19,000 LPGs; state farms comprised another 6%. By 1961 the socialist sector produced 90% of East Germany's agricultural products. An extensive economic management reform by the SED in February 1958 included the transfer of a large number of industrial ministries to the State Planning Commission. In order to accelerate the nationalization of industry, the SED offered entrepreneurs 50-percent partnership incentives for transforming their firms into VEBs. At the close of 1960, private enterprise controlled only 9% of total industrial production. Production Cooperatives (Produktionsgenossenschaften—PGs) incorporated one-third of the artisan sector during 1960–61, a rise from 6% in 1958.

The Second Five-Year Plan encountered difficulties, and the regime replaced it with the Seven-Year Plan (1959–65). The new plan aimed at achieving West Germany's per capita production by the end of 1961, set higher production quotas, and called for an 85% increase in labor productivity. Emigration again increased, totaling 143,000 in 1959 and 199,000 in 1960. The majority of the emigrants were white collar workers, and 50% were under 25 years of age. The labour drain exceeded a total of 2.5 million citizens between 1949 and 1961.

The annual industrial growth rate declined steadily after 1959. The Soviet Union therefore recommended that East Germany implement the reforms of Soviet economist Evsei Liberman, an advocate of the principle of profitability and other market principles for communist economies. In 1963 Ulbricht adapted Liberman's theories and introduced the New Economic System (NES), an economic reform program providing for some decentralization in decision-making and the consideration of market and performance criteria. The NES aimed at creating an efficient economic system and transforming East Germany into a leading industrial nation.

Under the NES, the task of establishing future economic development was assigned to central planning. Decentralization involved the partial transfer of decision-making authority from the central State Planning Commission and National Economic Council to the Associations of People's Enterprises (Vereinigungen Volkseigener Betriebe—VVBs), parent organizations intended to promote specialization within the same areas of production. The central planning authorities set overall production goals, but each VVB determined its own internal financing, utilization of technology, and allocation of manpower and resources. As intermediary bodies, the VVBs also functioned to synthesize information and recommendations from the VEBs. The NES stipulated that production decisions be made on the basis of profitability, that salaries reflect performance, and that prices respond to supply and demand.

The NES brought forth a new elite in politics as well as in management of the economy, and in 1963 Ulbricht announced a new policy regarding admission to the leading ranks of the SED. Ulbricht opened the Politburo and the Central Committee to younger members who had more education than their predecessors and who had acquired managerial and technical skills. As a consequence of the new policy, the SED elite became divided into political and economic factions, the latter composed of members of the new technocratic elite. Because of the emphasis on professionalization in the SED cadre policy after 1963, the composition of the mass membership changed: in 1967 about 250,000 members (14%) of the total 1.8 million SED membership had completed a course of study at a university, technical college, or trade school.

The SED emphasis on managerial and technical competence also enabled members of the technocratic elite to enter the top echelons of the state bureaucracy, formerly reserved for political dogmatists. Managers of the VVBs were chosen on the basis of professional training rather than ideological conformity. Within the individual enterprises, the number of professional positions and jobs for the technically skilled increased. The SED stressed education in managerial and technical sciences as the route to social advancement and material rewards. In addition, it promised to raise the standard of living for all citizens. From 1964 until 1967, real wages increased, and the supply of consumer goods, including luxury items, improved much.

Ulbricht in 1968 launched a spirited campaign to convince the Comecon states to intensify their economic development "by their own means." Domestically the East German regime replaced the NES with the Economic System of Socialism (ESS), which focused on high technology sectors in order to make self-sufficient growth possible. Overall, centralized planning was reintroduced in the so-called structure-determining areas, which included electronics, chemicals, and plastics. Industrial combines were formed to integrate vertically industries involved in the manufacture of vital final products. Price subsidies were restored to accelerate growth in favored sectors. The annual plan for 1968 set production quotas in the structure-determining areas 2.6% higher than in the remaining sectors in order to achieve industrial growth in these areas. The state set the 1969–70 goals for high-technology sectors even higher. Failure to meet ESS goals resulted in the conclusive termination of the reform effort in 1970.

The Main Task, introduced by Honecker in 1971, formulated domestic policy for the 1970s. The program re-emphasized Marxism–Leninism and the international class struggle. During this period, the SED launched a massive propaganda campaign to win citizens to its Soviet-style socialism and to restore the "worker" to prominence. The Main Task restated the economic goal of industrial progress, but this goal was to be achieved within the context of centralized state planning. Consumer socialism—the new program featured in the Main Task—was an effort to magnify the appeal of socialism by offering special consideration for the material needs of the working class. The state extensively revamped wage policy and gave more attention to increasing the availability of consumer goods.

The regime also accelerated the construction of new housing and the renovation of existing apartments; 60% of new and renovated housing was allotted to working-class families. Rents, which were subsidized, remained extremely low. Because women constituted nearly 50% of the labor force, child-care facilities, including nurseries and kindergartens, were provided for the children of working mothers. Women in the labor force received salaried maternity leave which ranged from six months to one year. The state also increased retirement annuities.

Ulbricht's foreign policy from 1967 to 1971 responded to the beginning of the era of détente with the West. Although détente offered East Germany the opportunity to overcome its isolation in foreign policy and to gain Western recognition as a sovereign state, the SED leader was reluctant to pursue a policy of rapprochement with West Germany. Both German states had retained the goal of future unification; however, both remained committed to their own irreconcilable political systems. In 1968, the SED recast the constitution into a fully Communist document. It declared East Germany to be a socialist state whose power derived from the working class under the leadership of "its Marxist-Leninist party"—thus codifying the actual state of affairs that had existed since 1949. The new constitution proclaimed the victory of socialism and restated the country's commitment to unification under Communist leadership.

However, the SED leadership, although successful in establishing socialism in East Germany, had limited success in winning popular support for the repressive social system. In spite of the epithet "the other German miracle", the democratic politics and higher material progress of West Germany continued to attract East German citizens. Ulbricht feared that hopes for a democratic government or a reunification with West Germany would cause unrest among East German citizens, who since 1961 appeared to have come to terms with social and living conditions.

In the late 1960s, Ulbricht made the Council of State as main governmental organ. The 24-member, multiparty council, headed by Ulbricht and dominated by its fifteen SED representatives, generated a new era of political conservatism. Foreign and domestic policies in the final years of the Ulbricht era reflected strong commitment to an aggressive strategy toward the West and toward Western ideology. Ulbricht's foreign policy focused on strengthening ties with Warsaw Pact countries and on organizing opposition to détente. In 1967 he persuaded Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria to conclude bilateral mutual assistance treaties with East Germany. The Ulbricht Doctrine, subsequently signed by these states, committed them to reject the normalization of relations with West Germany unless Bonn formally recognized East German sovereignty.

Ulbricht also encouraged the abrogation of Soviet bloc relations with the industrialized West, and in 1968 he launched a spirited campaign to convince the Comecon states to intensify their economic development "by their own means." Considering claims for freedom and democracy within the Soviet bloc a danger to its domestic policies, the SED, from the beginning, attacked Prague's new political course, which resulted in intervention by the Soviet military and other Warsaw Pact contingents in 1968.

In August 1970, the Soviet Union and West Germany signed the Moscow Treaty, in which the two countries pledged nonaggression in their relations and in matters concerning European and international security and confirmed the Oder-Neisse line. Moscow subsequently pressured East Germany to begin bilateral talks with West Germany. Ulbricht resisted, further weakening his leadership, which had been damaged by the failure of the ESS. In May 1971, the SED Central Committee chose Erich Honecker to succeed Ulbricht as the party's first secretary. Although Ulbricht was allowed to retain the chairmanship of the Council of State until his death in 1973, the office had been reduced in importance.

Honecker combined loyalty to the Soviet Union with flexibility toward détente. At the Eighth Party Congress in June 1971, he presented the political program of the new regime. In his reformulation of East German foreign policy, Honecker renounced the objective of a unified Germany and adopted the "defensive" position of ideological Abgrenzung (demarcation or separation). Under this program, the country defined itself as a distinct "socialist state" and emphasized its allegiance to the Soviet Union. Abgrenzung, by defending East German sovereignty, in turn contributed to the success of détente negotiations that led to the Four Power Agreement on Berlin (Berlin Agreement) in 1971 and the Basic Treaty with West Germany in December 1972.

The Berlin Agreement and the Basic Treaty normalized relations between East Germany and West Germany. The Berlin Agreement (effective June 1972), signed by the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union, protected trade and travel relations between West Berlin and West Germany and aimed at improving communications between East Berlin and West Berlin. The Soviet Union stipulated, however, that West Berlin would not be incorporated into West Germany. The Basic Treaty (effective June 1973) politically recognized two German states, and the two countries pledged to respect one another's sovereignty. Under the terms of the treaty, diplomatic missions were to be exchanged and commercial, tourist, cultural, and communications relations established. In September 1973, both countries joined the United Nations, and thus East Germany received its long-sought international recognition.

From the mid-1970s, East Germany remained poised between East and West. The 1974 amendment to the Constitution deleted all references to the "German nation" and "German unity" and designated East Germany "a socialist nation-state of workers and peasants" and "an inseparable constituent part of the socialist community of states." However, the SED leadership had little success in inculcating East Germans with a sense of ideological identification with the Soviet Union. Honecker, conceding to public opinion, devised the formula "citizenship, GDR; nationality, German." In so doing, the SED first secretary acknowledged the persisting psychological and emotional attachment of East German citizens to German traditions and culture and, by implication, to their German neighbors in West Germany.

Although Abgrenzung constituted the foundation of Honecker's policy, détente strengthened ties between the two German states. Between 5 and 7 million West Germans and West Berliners visited East Germany each year. Telephone and postal communications between the two countries were significantly improved. Personal ties between East German and West German families and friends were being restored, and East German citizens had more direct contact with West German politics and material affluence, particularly through radio and television. West Germany was East Germany's supplier of high-quality consumer goods, including luxury items, and the latter's citizens frequented both the Intershops, which sold goods for Western currency, and the Exquisit and Delikat shops, which sold imported goods for East German currency.

As part of the general détente between East and West, East Germany participated in the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe in Europe and in July 1975 signed the Helsinki Final Act, which was to guarantee the regime's recognition of human rights. The Final Act's provision for freedom of movement elicited approximately 120,000 East German applications for permission to emigrate, but the applications were rejected.

From the beginning, the newly formed GDR tried to establish its own separate identity. Because of Marx's abhorrence of Prussia, the SED repudiated continuity between Prussia and the GDR. The SED destroyed the Junker manor houses, wrecked the Berlin city palace, and removed the equestrian statue of Frederick the Great from East Berlin. Instead the SED focused on the progressive heritage of German history, including Thomas Müntzer's role in the German Peasants' War and the role played by the heroes of the class struggle during Prussia's industrialization. Nevertheless, as early as 1956 East Germany's Prussian heritage asserted itself in the NVA.

As a result of the Ninth Party Congress in May 1976, East Germany after 1976–77 considered its own history as the essence of German history, in which West Germany was only an episode. It laid claim to reformers such as Karl Freiherr vom Stein, Karl August von Hardenberg, Wilhelm von Humboldt, and Gerhard von Scharnhorst. The statue of Frederick the Great was meanwhile restored to prominence in East Berlin. Honecker's references to the former Prussian king in his speeches reflected East Germany's official policy of revisionism toward Prussia, which also included Bismarck and the resistance group Red Band. East Germany also laid claim to the formerly maligned Martin Luther and to the organizers of the Spartacus League, Karl Liebknecht, and Rosa Luxemburg.

In spite of détente, the Honecker regime remained committed to Soviet-style socialism and continued a strict policy toward dissidents. Nevertheless, a critical Marxist intelligentsia within the SED renewed the plea for democratic reform. Among them was the poet-singer Wolf Biermann, who with Robert Havemann had led a circle of artists and writers advocating democratization; he was expelled from East Germany in November 1976 for dissident activities. Following Biermann's expulsion, the SED leadership disciplined more than 100 dissident intellectuals.

Despite the government's actions, East German writers began to publish political statements in the West German press and periodical literature. The most prominent example was Rudolf Bahro's Die Alternative, which was published in West Germany in August 1977. The publication led to the author's arrest, imprisonment, and deportation to West Germany. In late 1977, a manifesto of the "League of Democratic Communists of Germany" appeared in the West German magazine Der Spiegel. The league, consisting ostensibly of anonymous middle- to high-ranking SED functionaries, demanded democratic reform in preparation for reunification.

Even after an exodus of artists in protest against Biermann's expulsion, the SED continued its repressive policy against dissidents. The state subjected literature, one of the few vehicles of opposition and nonconformism in East Germany, to ideological attacks and censorship. This policy led to an exodus of prominent writers, which lasted until 1981. The Lutheran Church also became openly critical of SED policies. Although in 1980-81 the SED intensified its censorship of church publications in response to the Polish Solidarity movement, it maintained, for the most part, a flexible attitude toward the church. The consecration of a church building in May 1981 in Eisenhüttenstadt, which according to the SED leadership was not permitted to build a church owing to its status as a "socialist city", demonstrated this flexibility.

The 10th Party Congress, which took place in April 1981, focused on improving the economy, stabilizing the socialist system, achieving success in foreign policy, and strengthening relations with West Germany. Presenting the SED as the leading power in all areas of East German society, General Secretary (the title changed from First Secretary in 1976) Honecker emphasized the importance of educating loyal cadres in order to secure the party's position. He announced that more than one-third of all party members and candidates, nearly two-thirds of the party secretaries had completed a course of study at a university, technical college, or trade school, and that four-fifths of the party secretaries had received training in a party school for more than a year.

Stating that a relaxation of "democratic centralism" was unacceptable, Honecker emphasized rigid centralism within the party. Outlining the SED's general course, the congress confirmed the unity of East Germany's economic and social policy on the domestic front and its absolute commitment to the Soviet Union in foreign policy. In keeping with the latter pronouncement, the SED approved the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. The East German stance differed from that taken by the Yugoslav, Romanian, and Italian communists, who criticized the Soviet action.

The SED's Central Committee, which during the 1960s had been an advisory body, was reduced to the function of an acclamation body during the Tenth Party Congress. The Politburo and the Secretariat remained for the most part unchanged. In addition to policy issues, the congress focused on the new Five-Year Plan (1981–85), calling for higher productivity, more efficient use of material resources, and better quality products. Although the previous five-year plan had not been fulfilled, the congress once again set very high goals.

Due to the strong German tradition of drinking coffee, coffee imports were one of the most important for consumers. A massive rise in coffee prices in 1976–77 led to a quadrupling of the annual costs of importing coffee compared to 1972–75. This caused severe financial problems for the GDR, which perennially lacked hard currency.

As a result, in mid-1977 the Politburo withdrew most cheaper brands of coffee from sale, limited use in restaurants, and effectively withdrew its provision in public offices and state enterprises. In addition, an infamous new type of coffee was introduced, Mischkaffee (mixed coffee), which was 51% coffee and 49% a range of fillers, including chicory, rye, and sugar beet.

Unsurprisingly, the new coffee was generally detested for its awful taste, and the whole episode is informally known as the "coffee crisis". The crisis passed after 1978 as world coffee prices began to fall again, as well as increased supply through an agreement between the GDR and Vietnam—the latter becoming one of the world's largest coffee producers in the 1990s. However, the episode vividly illustrated the structural economic and financial problems of the GDR.

Although in the end political circumstances led to the collapse of the SED regime, the GDR's growing international (hard currency) debts were leading towards an international debt crisis within a year or two. Debts continued to grow in the course of the 1980s to over DM40 bn owed to western institutions, a sum not astronomical in absolute terms (the GDR's GDP was perhaps DM250bn) but much larger in relation to the GDR's capacity to export sufficient goods to the west to provide the hard currency to service these debts. An October 1989 paper prepared for the Politburo (Schürer-Papier, after its principal author Gerhard Schürer) projected a need to increase export surplus from around DM2bn in 1990 to over DM11bn by 1995 in order to stabilise debt levels.

Much of the debt originated from attempts by the GDR to export its way out of its international debt problems, which required imports of components, technologies, and raw materials; as well as attempts to maintain living standards through imports of consumer goods. The GDR was internationally competitive in some sectors such as mechanical engineering and printing technology. However the attempt to achieve a competitive edge in microchips not only failed, but swallowed increasing amounts of internal resources and hard currency. Another significant factor was the elimination of a ready source of hard currency through re-export of Soviet oil, which until 1981 was provided below world market prices. The resulting loss of hard currency income produced a noticeable dip in the otherwise steady improvement of living standards. (It was precisely this continuous improvement which was at risk due to the impending debt crisis; the Schürer-Papier's remedial plans spoke of a 25–30% reduction.)

In May 1989, local government elections were held. The public reaction was one of anger, when it was revealed that National Front candidates had won the majority of seats, with 'only' 98.5% of the vote. In other words, despite larger-than-ever numbers of voters rejecting the single candidate put forward by the Front (an exercise of defiance that carried great risk—including being sacked from a job or expelled from university), the vote had been flagrantly rigged. Increasing numbers of citizens applied for exit visas or left the country illegally. In August 1989, Hungary's reformist government removed its border restrictions with Austria—the first breach in the so-called "Iron Curtain". In September 1989, more than 13,000 East Germans managed to escape to the West through Hungary. The Hungarian government told their furious East German counterparts that international treaties on refugees took precedence over a 1969 agreement between the two countries restricting freedom of movement. Thousands of East Germans also tried to reach the West by staging sit-ins at West German diplomatic facilities in other East European capitals, especially in Prague, Czechoslovakia. The GDR subsequently announced that it would provide special trains to carry these refugees to West Germany, claiming it was expelling "irresponsible antisocial traitors and criminals." Meanwhile, mass demonstrations in Dresden and Leipzig demanded the legalization of opposition groups and democratic reforms.

Virtually ignoring the problems facing the country, Honecker and the rest of the Politburo celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Republic in East Berlin on October 7. As in past celebrations, soldiers marched on parade and missiles were displayed on large trucks to showcase the Republic's weaponry. However, the parade proved to be a harbinger. With Mikhail Gorbachev and most of the Warsaw Pact leaders in attendance, members of the FDJ were heard chanting, "Gorby, help us! Gorby, save us!" That same night, the first of many large demonstrations occurred in East Berlin, the first mass demonstration in the capital itself. Similar demonstrations for freedom of speech and of the press erupted across the country and increased pressure on the regime to reform. One of the largest occurred in Leipzig. Troops had been sent there—almost certainly on Honecker's orders—only to be pulled back by local party officials. In an attempt to ward off the threat of popular uprising, the Politburo ousted Honecker on October 18.

Honecker's replacement was Egon Krenz, the regime's number-two man for most of the second half of the 1980s. Although he was almost as detested as Honecker himself, he made promises to open up the regime from above. Few East Germans were convinced, however; the demonstrations continued unabated. Additionally, people continued to flee to West Germany in increasing numbers, first through Hungary and later through Czechoslovakia. At one point, several schools had to close because there were not enough students or teachers to have classes.

On November 9, in an effort to stave off the protests and the mass exodus, the government crafted new travel regulations that allowed East Germans who wanted to go to West Germany (either permanently or for a visit) to do so directly through East Germany. However, no one on the Politburo told the government's de facto spokesman, East Berlin party chief Günter Schabowski, that the new regulations were due to take effect the next day. When a reporter asked when the regulations were to take effect, Schabowski assumed they were already in force and replied, "As far as I know ... immediately, without delay." When excerpts from the press conference were broadcast on West German television, it prompted large crowds to gather at the checkpoints near the Berlin Wall. Unprepared, outnumbered, and unwilling to use force to keep them back, the guards finally let them through. In the following days increasing numbers of East Germans took advantage of this to visit West Germany or West Berlin (where they were met by West German government gifts of DM100 each, called "greeting money").

The fall of the Berlin Wall was, for all intents and purposes, the death certificate for the SED. Communist rule formally ended on December 1, when the Volkskammer deleted the provisions of the Constitution that declared East Germany to be a socialist state under the leadership of the SED. Krenz, the Politburo, and the Central Committee resigned two days later. Hans Modrow, who had been appointed prime minister only two weeks earlier, now became the de facto leader of a country in a state of utter collapse.

Little of the structural economic and financial problems identified by the Schürer-Papier were widely known until late 1989 (although in 1988–89 the GDR's creditworthiness was declining slightly). At this time, the government, aware of the impending problems from the October 1989 Schürer-Papier, asked the West German government for new billion-Deutschmark loans. Although the financial problems probably played no role in the opening of the borders on November 9, opening the borders eliminated any West German interest in further supporting the East German state, as West Germany immediately began to work towards a reunification. As a result, the new East German transitional government faced massive medium-term financial problems, which might—as the Schürer-Papier had even suggested—lead to the International Monetary Fund being called in, although in the short-term gold and other reserves ensured that bills continued to be paid. In the event, massive West German financial support (around half East Germany's budget in 1990) following the March 1990 elections prevented a financial collapse in the months leading up to reunification.

Although there were some small attempts to create a non-socialist East Germany, these were soon overwhelmed by calls for reunification with West Germany. There were two main legal routes for this. The Basic Law for the Federal Republic explicitly stated that it was only intended for temporary use until a permanent constitution could be adopted by the German people. This was largely out of necessity, because at the time it was written (1949) it could not extend its authority to the East. The Basic Law therefore provided a means (Article 146) for a new constitution to be written for a united and democratic Germany. The other route was Article 23, under which prospective states could accede to the Federal Republic by simple majority vote, in the process accepting its existing laws and institutions. This had been used in 1957 for the accession of the state of Saarland. Whilst Article 146 had been expressly designed for the purpose of German reunification, it was apparent in 1990 that employing it would require a vastly longer and more complex process of negotiation—and one which would open up many political issues in West Germany, where constitutional reform (particularly to respond to changing economic circumstances) was a longstanding concern. Even without this to consider, East Germany was virtually prostrate economically and politically.

With these factors in mind, it was decided to use the quicker process in Article 23. Under this route, reunification could be implemented in just six months, and completely sidestep the West German political conflicts involved in writing a new constitution. Under the pressure of an increasing financial crisis (driven partly by mass emigration to West Germany in early 1990 and partly by the Federal Republic's refusal to grant the loans that would have been needed to underpin a longer transition period), the Article 23 route rapidly became the frontrunner. The cost of this, however, was that East Germany's nascent democracy died less than a year after it was born, with a set of laws and institutions imposed from outside replacing a set of laws and institutions imposed from above. Any debate, for example, about the value of the various social institutions (such as the childcare, education, and healthcare systems, which had implemented policy ideas discussed in West Germany for decades, and still today) was simply ruled out by this legal route.

East Germany held its first free elections in March 1990. The SED had reorganized as the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and pushed out most of its hardline Communist members in hopes of rehabilitating its image. It was to no avail; as expected, the PDS was heavily defeated by the Alliance for Germany, a centre-right coalition dominated by the East German branch of the CDU and running on a platform of speedy reunification with West Germany. A "grand coalition" of the Alliance and the revived Social Democrats elected the CDU's Lothar de Maizière as Prime Minister on April 12. Following negotiations between the two German states, a Treaty on Monetary, Economic, and Social Union was signed on May 18 and came into effect on July 1, among things replacing the East German mark with the Deutsche Mark (DM). The treaty also declared the intention for East Germany to join the Federal Republic by way of the Basic Law's Article 23 and indeed laid much of the ground for this by providing for the swift and wholesale implementation of West German laws and institutions in East Germany.

In mid-July most state property—covering a large majority of the East German economy—was transferred to the Treuhand, which was given the responsibility of overseeing the transformation of East German state-owned business into market-oriented privatised companies. On July 22 a law was passed recreating the five original federal states of East Germany, to take effect on October 14; and on August 31 the Unification Treaty set an accession date of October 3 (modifying the State Creation Law to come into effect on that date). The Unification Treaty declared that (with few exceptions) at accession the laws of East Germany would be replaced overnight by those of West Germany. The Volkskammer approved the treaty on September 20 by a margin of 299-80—in effect, voting East Germany out of existence.

In September, after some negotiations which involved the United States, the Soviet Union, France, and the United Kingdom, conditions for German reunification were agreed on, with the Allies of World War II renouncing their former rights in Germany and agreeing to remove all occupying troops by 1994. In separate negotiations between Gorbachev and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, it was agreed that a reunified Germany would be free to choose whatever alliance it wanted, though Kohl made no secret that a reunified Germany would inherit the West German seats at NATO and the European Community. With the 12 September signing of the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, Germany became fully sovereign once more from March 15, 1991. On October 3, 1990, East Germany formally ceased to exist. The five recreated states in its former territory acceded to the Federal Republic, while East and West Berlin reunited to form the third city-state of the Federal Republic. Thus the East German population was the first from the Eastern Bloc to join the EC as a part of the reunified Federal Republic of Germany (see German reunification).

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