GDR Dictionary Definitions

The German Democratic Republic (GDR or DDR, from the German Deutsche Demokratische Republik), also known as East Germany or East Germany according to abbreviationfinder, was a people’s democracy and socialist republic that existed in Central Europe between 1949 and 1990.

The German Democratic Republic was proclaimed in the Soviet zone of occupation established by the Potsdam Conference, after the British, French and Americans unified their zones of occupation and aided and encouraged the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany in clear violation of the agreements on the German question taken during the Second World War.

For forty years the GDR was the center of the confrontation between the main actors of the Cold War, and as a Soviet ally it was part of the Warsaw Pact and the COMECON. On the border with the Franco-British-American occupation zones of Berlin (West Berlin) the so-called Berlin Wall was built, which became one of the symbols of the East-West confrontation.

Governed since its foundation by the Unified Socialist Party (SED), a product of the merger of socialists and communists after World War II, the GDR achieved great economic development and high levels of social welfare during the 1970s and 1980s. committed by the leadership of the SED, plus the international situation, marked by the crisis of Socialism in Eastern Europe, led to the disappearance of the State and its absorption by the German Federal Republic between 1989 and 1990.


The territory of the German Democratic Republic encompassed today’s German states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia, as well as Neuhaus in Lower Saxony.

It averaged about 450 kilometers from north to south, in the center from east to west the distance was about 250 kilometers. The northernmost point in the GDR was Cape Arkona on the island of Rügen, the southernmost point Schoenberg Chapel Hill in the district of Bad Bramstedt; the westernmost was in the vicinity of the village of Reinhard on the Rhön and the easternmost between Rothenburg and Görlitz.

The Baltic Sea was its natural boundary to the north, where it had maritime borders with the Federal Republic of Germany, Denmark, and the People’s Republic of Poland. In the east it bordered Poland on the natural line of the Oder-Neisse, in the southeast it bordered the territory of the former Czechoslovakia. In the west and southwest the GDR had a long border with the FRG to which was added the exclave of West Berlin.

In the North of the GDR were the Galatians that dominate the North German Plain. The highest elevations in the GDR were the Fichtelberg at 1,214 m, followed by the gefolgt vom Brocken (1,142 m) and the Auerberg (1,019 m). The territory of the German Democratic Republic was also furrowed by large navigable rivers and canals that interconnected them. In addition, the large islands of Rügen, Usedom, Poel and Hiddensee and the Fischland-Zingst peninsula belonged to the GDR. [two]


Creation of the State

After the capitulation of Nazism on May 7, 1945, Germany was occupied by an Allied control council made up of the United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union. The country and its capital, Berlin, would therefore be divided into four allied administrations as agreed at Yalta and Potsdam, each of them subject to military authority. Soviet control would fall on the eastern sector, the area most affected by the war, which according to some specialists on the matter was intentionally, since since 1944it was known that Germany would lose the war. In addition, the Soviet-German sector was the least populated and the weakest economically.

In April 1946 the socialist party (led by Otto Grotewohl) and the communist party (by Wilhelm Pieck) merged in East Germany giving way to the Socialist Unity Party (SED), emerging victorious in the autumn elections obtaining a vote of 70%.. Simultaneously, the expropriations began against the monopoly capital that had supported Hitler. Properties of more than 100 hectares were confiscated and divided into lots of four and eight hectares. In this socializing process, plebiscites were reached that resulted in 72% of the population defending turning key industries into common property.

On December 6 of the same year, the SED convened a National Congress in Berlin to discuss the possibility of unifying Germany with the participation of members of the left of the western zone, the unity of the country was demanded both politically and economically under the same government.

Before the Congress of Berlin, Marshal Vasily Sokolovsky had criticized how the West was carrying out demilitarization and the delay in receiving war reparations, in addition to the fact that France, Great Britain and the United States were secretly working to unify their areas of influence without counting for nothing with Soviet interests, promoting division politically, socially and economically.

In 1947 the United States proposes to create a financing network, which would be known as the Marshall Plan, Congress would approve an aid of 13 billion dollars, which had the objective of promoting the European market for the United States and preventing the continent from evolving under the influence of leftist parties that had gained much prestige during the war. The United States would leave behind its classic isolation towards Europe and from then on would weave its interests into it. Much of this income would go to the military budget, rearming the western part of Germany in breach of the Potsdam agreements. Faced with the United States’ strategy, the Soviet Union decided to create its own, the CAME (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance) in 1949.

The events that cause the definitive rupture is the coming to power in February 1948 of the communist party in Prague, before this the Allies unify their areas and in June of that same year they adopt a monetary reform breaking once again the Potsdam agreements, dividing To Germany. This causes the Soviet Union to make a serious decision: the ground blockade of West Berlin with West Germany. For a whole year it will be supplied by air by the capitalist powers.

The blockade instead of defeating the separatist attempt favors it even more. Seeing that it did not work, the Soviet authorities lifted it on May 12, 1949. General and Deputy Secretary of State, Walter Bedell Smith, confessed that:

“We really do not want or intend to accept German unification under any conditions to which the Russians might agree, even if they seem to agree with most of our demands.”

On May 8, 1949, the Federal Republic (FRG) was erected, breaching the agreements as always. The response was immediate and on October 7 a constitution came into effect, which translates into the official foundation of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) with an area of ​​108,178 km 2. Among the fundamental postulates of the Constitution of the Constitution of the GDR it was pointed out that the objective of the new State was above all:

“Guarantee the freedom and rights of individuals and the community to participate in economic life and social justice, at the service of social progress, promote friendship with other nations and ensure peace (…).” [3]

Marshal Georgi Konstantinovich Zhúkov on November 13, representing Stalin and by virtue of his position as head of the occupation forces, transferred his powers to the government of the National Front of Otto Grotewohl, in which he was president Whilhelm Pieck and vice president Walter Ulbricht that a year later he would be first secretary of the SED.

The GDR was born under the anti-fascist slogan in the midst of a defeated nation, in which part of the population had been educated under the creed of National Socialism.

State Formation

Months after the founding of the GDR, on February 8, 1950, the Ministry for State Security was born, which was popularly known as the Stasi, directed by Wilhelm Zaisser, who had actively participated in the Spanish Civil War and in the Second World War . World with the Soviets. This organization would become in a very short time one of the most effective secret services in history. In that same year the SED adopted the Soviet-style political formation (Parteilehrjahr).

At the Second Conference of the SED held in 1952, a unified, democratic and anti-fascist Germany was deepened. In that same year the constitution was modified bringing it closer to the USSR, eliminating the federal character of the 5 länders. The concept of democracy was far from bourgeois structures in that it no longer served as political-legal regulation at the service of the social class that owned the means of production. The foundations of a socialist democracy were laid with the creation of a People’s Chamber, the highest body of the State in which no government and no president could dissolve it, it was a democratic and anti-imperialist measure that could condition the establishment of Socialism.

The new state of the workers and peasants arose in adverse circumstances. Day by day thousands of Berliners from the GDR went to the FRG with staple food that was more expensive in the capitalist zone to sell it to their Western co-workers, who had higher salaries which did not enter the eastern zone. Western workers sold appliances and other goods to Easterners, which clearly affected the Eastern economy.

The road to socialism began by expropriating the large corporations that had collaborated with the old regime, in the countryside the large estates were expropriated, creating cooperative farms, heavy industry was promoted, the economy was planned and centralized. But the socializing measures were not to the liking of all the people and this was due to different errors: one of them was that the policy in favor of industrialization promoted basic sectors (metallurgical, machinery construction, chemical, etc.) to the detriment of light industries.

The human potential in the GDR was also declining due to the emigration of skilled workers and adequate policies were not made to stop it. The lack of people with higher education and technicians produced, for example, that with people with little experience and unqualified, the structures of the new state had to be built. As late as 1955, only 1.6% of those working in district councils had higher education.

On June 9, 1953, a statement from the central committee of the SED referred to a series of errors committed by the Party for the construction of socialism, which included the obligatory delivery of a high percentage of the crops and the total absence of incentives for industrial workers. For this, a decree was made in which it was intended to increase productivity by 10%, which was accompanied by the fall in wages, it was clearly intended to compete with the FRG, but the adequate mechanisms were not in place and the situation was not in its favour. This caused the construction sector to go on strike on June 17expanding the strike throughout the state, creating a climate of rebellion, raiding party headquarters and destroying socialist symbols. The West and the West Berlin American Broadcasting Station (RIAS) were instigators of the insurrection. Also the agitational work of the Protestant church was notable in this regard.

The events were so serious that the help of the Soviet troops was needed, which put down the uprising without deaths. The main leaders of the insurrection were arrested and imprisoned. On June 21, the central committee of the SED redirected the economy in other directions in which a plan was approved to improve the living conditions of the population, such as an increase in wages, better attention to the production of food and consumer goods., the transport rate was lowered among other popular measures.

In September 1953, the working class fighting groups were created as a consequence of what happened on June 17. Three years later, in January, the People’s National Army [4] was constituted, according to the constitution:

“The National People’s Army and the other defense organs of the country protect the socialist achievements of the people against all attacks from abroad.” [5]

In 1955 the GDR joined the Warsaw Pact. In that same year the FRG adopted the Hallstein Doctrine in which it would threaten to break commercial ties with the countries that had relations with the GDR.

In the mid-1950s, close to a million peasants had benefited from the distribution of some three million hectares of plots, with indirect State control over prices and machinery, but 1960 would be the decisive year for the last collectivization impulse: in December the cooperative regime reached 90% of the land. On the other hand, since 1956 a five-year plan had been devised to improve the production levels of heavy industries and investments in the consumer goods sectors.

The Berlin Wall

Economic growth began to decline after 1961, Ulbricht stated at the SED congress held in January that the closure of borders would produce economic stability. Berlin at the time was the theater of operations for the cold war.

The FRG had launched into atomic weapons in 1958 which provoked protests from the GDR. Three years later, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev had met in Vienna to negotiate the German issue. The Soviets made it clear that foreign troops had to be withdrawn, the country reunited and a peace treaty signed. The United States, which saw that a Western system had established itself in the FRG and was aware of the difficulties and anomalies of the GDR, affirmed its promise to maintain at all costs the status of an occupied city and the permanence of Western troops in the heart of the GDR, waiting for events and impatience in Berlin to call for their intervention.

Before the creation of the wall, the GDR came to present more than a hundred proposals for understanding on the renunciation of atomic weapons, withdrawal from NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

The division between the western and eastern sector in Berlin only hurt the GDR, of the two million people who passed from one side to the other daily, more than 50,000 worked in the western sector but consumed in the east, which generated a demand impossible to supply, in addition to the problems arising from the circulation of two different currencies. Between August 1 and 10, some 10,000 people left for Sector West, the vast majority of them skilled workers who had been trained with GDR money. According to official GDR sources, 3.5 billion marks were lost annually through the loss of skilled workers and other manipulations.

As an agreement between the USSR and the United States on the German conflict was not established, the borders were closed on August 13, 1961 by the GDR authorities. In this way, the GDR was left before public opinion as the cause of the conflict and the creation of the wall.

The GDR until 1989

In 1960 with the death of Pieck, the position of president was eliminated by that of President of the Council of State. Ulbricht became the head of state. At the beginning of the 1960s, the People’s Chamber criticized the productive system, Ulbricht himself recognized that only between 45 and 47% of the collective farms produced profits.

In January 1963, Karl Mewis, chairman of the State Planning Commission, was removed from office. In that year a new economic system was put into operation, without forgetting state planning, more autonomy was given to industries and work incentives were promoted to improve productivity. The Economic Council that was ineffective would be abolished, in its place nine industrial ministries more involved in the day to day were created.

In [[1967] with better production, high productivity and thanks to the educational system of the GDR training technicians and professionals, significant improvements in the standard of living were achieved. The GDR was at that time the second industrial power of the socialist countries and the fifth in all of Europe.

In the 1960s, women were fully incorporated into the country’s economy under the “Socialist Theory of Emancipation.” Social achievements had been achieved such as free health and education, work as a constitutional right was mandatory, so unemployment did not exist. The sport was a symbol of socialist development reflected in third place in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico.

The Östpolitik of the social democrat Willy Brandt, in the 1970s, led both states to recognize each other and exchange permanent representatives. In the GDR it allowed the entrance of credits and the importation of technology from the West. At this stage he took over from the general secretary of the SED Erich Honecker.

The GDR became the highest expression of internationalist solidarity. In the Chilean case, its embassy served to save the lives of supporters of the Salvador Allende government in which approximately 5,000 Chileans were welcomed, some of them receiving military training to fight against the Pinochet dictatorship. German schoolchildren sent a million letters to Chile for the freedom of political prisoner Luis Corvalán. The GDR government sent advisers to Vietnam to give logistical support to the guerrillas and welcomed and instructed revolutionaries from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Palestine, Angola and other nations. In the GDR, a support network was created for political exiles and their families, all of them obtaining education, health, housing and work. In the summer colonies they received young people from all over the world and scientific and technical assistance was deployed with peoples emerging from colonialism.

In the 1970s, large industrial centers were created that sought to facilitate exchanges between the productive branches, reducing costs and streamlining the bureaucratic structure.

The economy showed symptoms of stagnation in the second half of the 1970s, there was extensive growth, a predominance of heavy industries, excessive dependence on foreign credits and an excessive link to the markets of the socialist bloc.

The GDR entered the eighties with a maladjusted balance of payments due to the increase in the price of raw materials and energy sources. An attempt was made to counteract this situation by promoting exports, but this only produced a further reduction in supply and higher prices for basic necessities. In 1982, Honecker recognized the supply problems in basic foods, and in 1981 the foreign debt reached 13,000 million dollars.

At the 11th SED congress in 1986, Mikhail Gorbachev expressed his support for Honecker hoping that he would introduce changes in his domestic policy. The situation with the USSR was increasingly tense and the rejection of the new course taken by the Soviet government was officially made explicit and even the magazine Sputnik was banned . Honecker was confident in the strength of socialism and the economic successes of the GDR and made it known on the country’s fortieth anniversary on October 7, 1989. However, the situation abroad (changes in Poland, Czechoslovakia plus PerestroikaThey harmed his government, which also had to face some internal demonstrations. Ten days after the ceremony and his defense of socialism, Erich Honecker resigned for health reasons and was replaced at the head of the party by Egon Krenz, who could do little to safeguard socialism and the very existence of the State.

Dissolution of the State

On November 7, the government headed by Willy Stoph presented his resignation, two days later Günter Schabowski announced the opening of the Berlin Wall, which caused thousands of protesters to tear it down.

Krenz resigned on December 3 and three days later the entire Central Committee of the party renounced Marxism-Leninism and took the name of the Party of Democratic Socialism (SPD) led by Gregor Gysi. All the mass associations were disappearing.

At midnight on October 3, 1990, the socialist German Democratic Republic (GDR) acceded to the territory and constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany. With the fall of the GDR on October 3, 1990, the German federal government led by Helmut Kohl and his ten-point program virtually engulfed the eastern zone, effectively annexing all of East Germany.

Then there was a full-fledged persecution against everything that the GDR could remember, Honecker (who would die in Chile) was imprisoned; Willi Stoph, Fritz Streletz, Army Chief of Staff; Erich Mielke, former security minister and other personalities. In 1999 Egon Krenz and his companions Günter Schabowski and Günther Kleiber were imprisoned, many of those who spent time in prison came out years later as Egon Krenz, although to this day there are still trials on the former leaders of the GDR, all tried by judges of the RFA.

The files of the Stasi through Operation Rosenholz fell into the hands of the CIA, a traitor sold them in exchange for security and a large amount of money.

The institution in charge of the industrial dismantling of the GDR was the Treuhand. He had at his disposal some 30,000 companies (with 4.5 million employees) liquidating them in the midst of shady deals and benefiting small groups in the West, leaving more than three million people unemployed. The few remaining industries in the East are subsidiaries of West German companies. The monetary fortune in private hands of the FRG capitalists doubled between 1993 and 2003.

State Structure

The political structure of the GDR comprised: the People’s Chamber at the national level, the District Assembly at the district level and the Municipal Assembly. These elected bodies controlled the Council of Ministers, the Provincial Council, the District Council and the municipal council.

Another novelty was the constitution of popular organizations such as the FDJ (the Free German Youth), the Free Association of Trade Unions, the Women’s Association with representation in Parliament which revolved around consensus.

The parties had to follow the ideal of keeping the country in the democratic and anti-fascist slogans under a National Front or democratic-anti-fascist Bloc. The multiparty system existed as long as it had these two points in common.


At the end of World War II, almost 19 million people lived in the Soviet occupation zone. From that moment the population grew steadily.

With the introduction of the contraceptive pill and the legalization of abortions, the number of births decreased. In the GDR, as in other developed countries, there was a trend of increasing small families with one or two children.

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