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East Germany


Postwar Government

At the Yalta Conference, held in February 1945 before the capitulation of the Third Reich, the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union agreed on the division of Germany into occupation zones. 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. Following Germany's surrender, the Allied Control Council, representing the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union, assumed governmental authority in postwar Germany. The Potsdam Conference of JulyAugust 1945 officially recognized the zones and confirmed jurisdiction of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany (Sowjetische Militäradministration in Deutschland--SMAD) from the Oder and Neisse rivers to the demarcation line (see fig. 6). The Soviet occupation zone included the former states of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia. The city of Berlin was placed under the control of the four powers.

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. The Soviet occupation zone, however, soon came under total political and economic domination by the Soviet Union. An SMAD decree of June 10 granted permission for the formation of antifascist democratic political parties in the Soviet zone; elections to new state legislatures were scheduled for October 1946. A democraticantifascist coalition, which included the KPD, the SPD, the new Christian Democratic Union (Christlich-Demokratische Union--CDU), and the Liberal Democratic Party of Germany (LiberalDemokratische Partei Deutschlands --LDPD), was formed in July 1945. The KPD (with 600,000 members) and the SPD (with 680,000 members), which was under strong pressure from the Communists, merged in April 1946 to form the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands--SED). In the October 1946 elections, the SED polled approximately 50 percent of the vote in each state in the Soviet zone. In Berlin, which was still undivided, the SPD had resisted the party merger and, running on its own, had polled 48.7 percent of the vote, thus scoring a major electoral victory and decisively defeating the SED, which, with 19.8 percent, was third in the voting behind the SPD and the CDU.

The SMAD introduced an economic reform program and simultaneously arranged for German war reparations to the Soviet Union. Military industries and those owned by the state, by Nazi activists, and by war criminals were confiscated. These industries amounted to approximately 60 percent of total industrial production in the Soviet zone. Most heavy industry (constituting 20 percent of total production) was claimed by the Soviet Union as reparations, and Soviet joint stock companies (Sowjetische Aktiengesellschaften--SAGs) were formed (see Economic Policy and Performance , ch. 3). The remaining confiscated industrial property was nationalized, leaving 40 percent of total industrial production to private enterprise. The agrarian reform expropriated all land belonging to former Nazis and war criminals and generally limited ownership to 100 hectares. Some 500 Junker estates were converted into collective people's farms, and more than 3 million hectares were distributed among 500,000 peasant farmers, agricultural laborers, and refugees.

Soviet and Western cooperation in Germany ended with the onset of the Cold War in late 1947. 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. In June 1948, the Soviet Union blockaded Berlin in an effort to incorporate the city into its zone.

The Soviet Union envisaged an East German state controlled by the SED and organized on the Soviet model (see The Socialist Unity Party of Germany , ch. 4). Thus Joseph Stalin called for the transformation of the SED into a Soviet-style "party of the new type." To that end, Stalin named the Soviet-trained German communist Walter Ulbricht as 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 subordinated to the authority of the next higher party body. Ulbricht, as party chief, essentially acquired dictatorial powers. The SED committed itself ideologically to Marxism-Leninism and the international class struggle as defined by the Soviet Union. Many former members of the SPD and some communist advocates of a democratic "road to socialism" were purged from the SED. In addition, the Soviet Union arranged to strengthen the influence of the SED in the antifascist bloc. The middle-class CDU and LDPD were weakened by the creation of two new parties, the National Democratic Party of Germany (NationalDemokratische Partei Deutschlands--NDPD) and the Democratic Peasants' Party of Germany (Demokratische Bauernpartei Deutschlands--DBD). The SED accorded political representation to mass organizations and, most significant, to the party-controlled Free German Trade Union Federation (Freier Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund--FDGB).

In November 1948, the German Economic Commission (Deutsche Wirtschaftskomission--DWK), including antifascist bloc representation, assumed administrative authority. 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.

Data as of July 1987

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