The German Democratic Republic 1949-90


The German Democratic Republic 1949-90

After the end of the Second World War in 1945, Geramny along with its capital city Berlin were divided into four zones of occupation;

  • USSR
  • Britain
  • France
  • USA

During the 1940's the three western zones of began to co-operate more while the soviet zone took on more trappings of communism. It was becoming evident that two Germanies were splitting.

Berlin lay geographcially within the Russian zone of occupation. After the Berlin Blockade and Airlift of 1948-49, the Western half of the city remained in the hands of the Western powers.


  • Federal Republic of Germany ( FRG)
  • German Democratic Republic (GDR)
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Establishing and Consolidating Communist Rule

  • The GDR, ruled by the Communist Party (SED) alongside its leader Walter Ulbricht.
  • Industry was taken under state control and farms were collectivised.
  • When Jospeh Stalin had died in March 1953, there began a period of uncertainty, there was a rebellion within the GDR.
  • The existance of West Berlin within the heart of the GDR however, allowed millions of its citizens to move west. This was mostly best-educated and most skilled citizens.


The decision was made to build a wall through and around Berlin to stem this tide of migration.

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The Development of the East German State

  • In a sense the Berlin Wall stabilised relations with the West.
  • Berlin in paticular became a symbol of a divided Europe.

New Economic Policy - SED

  • raise living standards
  • introduction of more consumer goods.

One of the biggest challenges for the GDR leadership was to create a national identity. This was attempted through the media promoting GDR achievements and international sporting success. This was later soured by the exposure of widespread doping.

the GDR also sought international recognition, hinged in paticular on building a relationship with the FRG. The policy of Ostpolitik begain in the late 1960's which saw closer relationships developing with the FRG.

1970 - the GDR won the international recognition it craved which cumilated in the membership of the United Nations in 2973.

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Life in East Germany

The GDR prided itself on extensive social welfare programmes which it hoped would blind its citizens to it. Citizens were also encouraged to participate in SED controlled mass movements in which communist ideology was promoted.

One in five citizens joined the SED, however there is muchdebate about the actualextent of support for the regime.

The Stasi, or State Security Service was very powerful spying on millions of citizens and sothere was always a fear of repression.

1978 Concordat with the Protestant Churches

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Growing Crisis and Collapse

  • In the 1980's economic hardshipbecame more apparent and conditions grew worse.
  • The appointment of Mikhail Gorbachev as soviet leader.
    • he sought reform
    • open discussion
    • embarking on major changes
  • He also said that all his communist allies must sort out their own problems;
    • the Soviet Union would neither bail them
    • nor intervene military
  • Protests and unrest grew in the GDR
  • Faced with mass exodus of citizens, the SED dismissed old leaders such as Honecker and opened the Berlin Wall in November 1989.
  • GDR had collapsed and Germany was reunited 
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