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East Germany Table of Contents

East Germany


On May 8, 1945, when Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Allied powers, the mold for its divided future already had been cast. The Yalta Conference of February of that year and the Potsdam Conference of July-August left, at least in Western minds, the perception that ultimately post-World War II Germany would be a demilitarized and, to a degree, deindustrialized state of undetermined but shrunken borders. In dividing Germany into occupation zones, however, the Allies wittingly or unwittingly doomed such a state to failure from the start. After the common enemy was defeated, the traditional forces dividing the Soviet Union from the West reasserted themselves, and occupied Germany became the initial focus of conflict.

Scholars still argue about who was truly responsible for the making of two Germanies. Opposing positions had emerged among the Allies while the war was being fought, and, in the postwar division of Germany into occupation zones, each occupying power intended to establish a local administration in its own image. The Soviet Union was no more likely to acquiesce to a Germany united as a Western-style democracy than the United States was to accept a united Germany under a communist dictatorship. Compromise by either side would have required a retreat from ideals and a degree of faith in the good intentions of the other side that simply did not exist.

Although neither side may have recognized initially that the "temporary" division of Germany would become permanent, the pragmatic and suspicious Joseph Stalin probably accepted the possibility much more quickly than did the Western leaders. Stalin took the first step toward the institution of East German statehood when he began creating a centralized, armed military force in the Soviet zone in October 1945 under the guise of a police force.

Data as of July 1987