Defending the GDR 1949 - 1961

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  • Defending of the GDR - 1949 - 1961
    • Emigration in the 1950s and its impact
      • Some historians see the building of the Berlin Wall as the beginning ofthe GDR as a sovereign state.
      • The main reason was the high levels of emigration caused by the dissatisfaction of citizens from within the GDR. The GDR faced economic problems, lack of foodstuffs and high quality products, even though Ulbricht was announcing that the GDR would overtake the FRG by 1961.
      • This was made worse by the FRG cutting trade with the GDR for increasing travel restrictions between east and west.The people leaving were highly skilled, educated and young members of the GDR = ‘brain drain’
    • Operation Rose August 1961
      • Codename given to the wall – plans were made in secret, kept from many members of the SED. Honecker was put in charge of building the wall. The wall began as a barbed wire fence, people awoke one morning to find the west divided from the east.
      • Travel was no longer possible, border crosses could not get to work. Over weeks the barrier was strengthen by concrete blocks and watch towers. It was built not as an act of aggression but to keep people in, it was built entirely on eastern territory. It was more than just stopping emigration;
      • Many people lived in the east and worked in the west. They were resented as they earned high wages which they could spend in the east which was cheaper
      • Many children who lived in the east were educated in the west
      • Westerners travelled east to take advantage of cheaper goods and vibrant lifestyle
      • Families were split
    • The 1958 crisis
      • Khrushchev gave an ultimatum to the West that Berlin should become an International City under the control of the UN – he gave the USA troops 6 months to leave if they did not they would do it anyway.
      • 1959 Khrushchev said the USSR would sign a peace treaty with the GDR if the FRG did not – recognising it as an independent state. The FRG still hoped the two would be reunited.
      • Khrushchev was doing this to reaffirm his power after the 1956 de-Stalinisation speech.
        • The USSR launched the first satellite – Sputnik
        • Khrushchev mistakenly thought that the USSR had nuclear superiority over the USA
      • Khrushchev wanted to
        • Neutralise berlin as a centre of subversion against the GDR
        • To secure Western recognition of the GDR
        • To stall what he saw as NATO’s plans to deploy missiles in West Germany
      • If the UN took control of Berlin Khrushchev saw that leading to all of Berlin one day being absorbed into the GDR.
        • Khrushchev also saw Americasnew President Kennedy as weak and inexperienced.
        • He was surprised whenKennedy refused to remove the troops and began preparing America forwar.
    • The Berlin Wall
      • Impact of the wall
        • The wall offered a stable border. Kennedy could refuse to lace bombs in West Germany and Khrushchev could assure Ulbricht he recognised the right of the GDR to exist.
        • The open border had cost the GDR 3 billion Ostmark in lost skills – now the workers had to stay.
      • Problems with the wall
        • Border crossers were treated with suspicion
        • Those who had worked in the West were given unpleasant   the East
        • There were restrictions placed on those who had been educated in the West – there numbers were limited in class and those in their final year at school expecting to go to university were sent to menial jobs
        • People tried to escape 1/15 were successful
        • In the 1960’s there were networks which built tunnels and people hid in cars
        • There were 223 fatalities; people died jumping out of buildingsor the famous case of Pete Fechter who was shot and died in noman’s land.
        • The wall bought stability to the Cold War as it diffused the tensionpoint however it was a propaganda disaster for the USSR – they had toimprison people to stop them leaving.
      • The opening of the Berlin Wall
        • Schabowski said in a statement that this was to be effective immediately and there was no need to have a passport. Journalists pressed whether this was the case.
        • The news spread quickly and thousands of people gathered at the wall. To late was the official announcements that documents were needed and the FRG announced the borders were opened. The border guard officers ordered the gates open to control the crowds.
        • On 9 th November officials drafted a proposal that East German citizens should be allowed to travel abroad if they had the required visas and passport to travel.
        • The end of the wall did not mean the end of the GDR it still had a functioning Government. FRG leader Kohl still encouraged people to staying the GDR he did not like the mass emigration to the FRG.
        • However large numbers of people were emigrating. The days of the GDR were numbered.


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