East Germany in Comparative Perspective
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East Germany in a Comparative Perspective. London: Routledge, , Women in the Politics of Postcommunist Eastern Europe.
German Victimhood Discourse in Comparative Perspective in: Narratives of Trauma
Journal of Arts Management and Law 20 4 , , Women in the politics of postcommunist Eastern Europe, , The government of East Germany denounced West German failures in accomplishing denazification and renounced ties to the Nazi past, imprisoning many former Nazis and preventing them from holding government positions. The SED party platform claimed to support democratic elections and the protection of individual liberties in building up socialism.
Disagreements over the policies to be followed in the occupied zones quickly led to a breakdown in cooperation between the four powers, and the Soviets administered their zone without regard to the policies implemented in the other zones. The Soviets withdrew from the ACC in ; subsequently as the other three zones were increasingly unified and granted self-government, the Soviet administration instituted a separate socialist government in its zone.
Soviet leader Joseph Stalin , a Communist proponent of reunification, died in early March His successor, Nikita Khrushchev , rejected reunification as equivalent to returning East Germany for annexation to the West; hence reunification went unconsidered until However, the Western Allies disputed this recognition, considering the entire city of Berlin to be occupied territory governed by the Allied Control Council. According to Margarete Feinstein, East Berlin's status as the capital was largely unrecognized by the West and most Third World countries.
The Soviet army initiated the blockade by halting all Allied rail, road, and water traffic to and from West Berlin. Being a Marxist—Leninist political party, the SED's government nationalised infrastructure and industrial plants. Initially a labour protest, it soon included the general populace, and on 17 June similar protests occurred throughout the GDR, with more than a million people striking in some cities and towns.
Fearing anti-communist counter-revolution on 18 June , the government of the GDR enlisted the Soviet Occupation Forces to aid the police in ending the riot; some fifty people were killed and 10, were jailed. The German war reparations owed to the Soviets impoverished the Soviet Zone of Occupation and severely weakened the East German economy.
Western economic opportunities induced a brain drain. While the Ulbricht government had experimented with liberal reforms, the Honecker government reversed them. The new government introduced a new East German Constitution which defined the German Democratic Republic as a "republic of workers and peasants". Initially, East Germany claimed an exclusive mandate for all of Germany, a claim supported by most of the Communist bloc.
However, from the s onward, East Germany began recognizing itself as a separate country from West Germany, and shared the legacy of the united German state of — This was formalized in , when the reunification clause was removed from the revised East German constitution. West Germany, in contrast, maintained that it was the only legitimate government of Germany.
From to the early s, West Germany maintained that East Germany was an illegally constituted state. It argued that the GDR was a Soviet puppet state, and frequently referred to it as the "Soviet occupation zone".
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This position was shared by West Germany's allies as well until East Germany was recognized primarily by Communist countries and the Arab bloc, along with some "scattered sympathizers". This policy saw the Treaty of Moscow August , the Treaty of Warsaw December , the Four Power Agreement on Berlin September , the Transit Agreement May , and the Basic Treaty December , which relinquished any claims to an exclusive mandate over Germany as a whole and established normal relations between the Germanys.
Both countries were admitted into the United Nations on 18 September This also increased the number of countries recognizing East Germany to 55, including the US, UK and France, though these three still refused to recognize East Berlin as the capital, and insisted on a specific provision in the UN resolution accepting the two Germanys into the UN to that effect. The Federal Republic continued to maintain that it could not within its own structures recognize the GDR de jure as a sovereign state under international law; but it fully acknowledged that, within the structures of international law, the GDR was an independent sovereign state.
By distinction, West Germany then viewed itself as being within its own boundaries, not only the de facto and de jure government, but also the sole de jure legitimate representative of a dormant "Germany as whole".
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This assessment of the Basic Treaty was confirmed in a decision of the Federal Constitutional Court in ; . This finding is independent of recognition in international law of the German Democratic Republic by the Federal Republic of Germany.
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Such recognition has not only never been formally pronounced by the Federal Republic of Germany but on the contrary repeatedly explicitly rejected. The special feature of this Treaty is that while it is a bilateral Treaty between two States, to which the rules of international law apply and which like any other international treaty possesses validity, it is between two States that are parts of a still existing, albeit incapable of action as not being reorganized, comprehensive State of the Whole of Germany with a single body politic.
From the beginning, the newly formed GDR tried to establish its own separate identity. In May , following widespread public anger over the faking of results of local government elections, many citizens applied for exit visas or left the country contrary to GDR laws. The impetus for this exodus of East Germans was the removal of the electrified fence along Hungary 's border with Austria on May 2. Although formally the Hungarian frontier was still closed, many East Germans took the opportunity to enter the country via Czechoslovakia , and then make the illegal crossing from Hungary into Austria and West Germany beyond.
The major turning point in the exodus came on September 10, when the Hungarian Foreign Minister Gyula Horn announced that his country would no longer restrict movement from Hungary into Austria. Within two days 22, East Germans crossed into Austria, with tens of thousands following in the coming weeks. Many others demonstrated against the ruling party , especially in the city of Leipzig. The Leipzig demonstrations became a weekly occurrence, showing a turnout of 10, people at the first demonstration on October 2 and peaking at an estimated , by the end of the month.
The massive demonstration in East Berlin on November 4 coincided with Czechoslovakia formally opening its border into West Germany. To try to stem the outward flow of the population, the SED proposed a concessionary law loosening restrictions on travel.
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On 9 November , a few sections of the Berlin Wall were opened, resulting in thousands of East Germans crossing freely into West Berlin and West Germany for the first time in nearly 30 years. Krenz resigned a few days later, and the SED opened negotiations with the leaders of the incipient Democratic movement, Neues Forum , to schedule free elections and begin the process of democratization.
As part of this, the SED eliminated the clause in the East German constitution guaranteeing the Communists leadership of the state. This was approved in the Volkskammer on December 1, by a vote of to 0. East Germany held its last elections in March The winner was a coalition headed by the East German branch of West Germany's Christian Democratic Union , which advocated speedy reunification.
The five original East German states that had been abolished in the redistricting were restored. On 1 July a currency union preceded the political union: the "Ostmark" was abolished, and the Western German "Deutsche Mark" became common currency. Although the Volkskammer's declaration of accession to the Federal Republic had initiated the process of reunification; the act of reunification itself with its many specific terms, conditions and qualifications; some of which involved amendments to the West German Basic Law was achieved constitutionally by the subsequent Unification Treaty of 31 August ; that is through a binding agreement between the former Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic now recognising each another as separate sovereign states in international law.
The great economic and socio-political inequalities between the former Germanies required government subsidy for the full integration of the Democratic Republic of Germany into the German Federal Republic. Because of the resulting deindustrialization in the former East Germany, the causes of the failure of this integration continue to be debated.
Some western commentators claim that the depressed eastern economy is a natural aftereffect of a demonstrably inefficient command economy. But many East German critics contend that the shock-therapy style of privatization , the artificially high rate of exchange offered for the Ostmark , and the speed with which the entire process was implemented did not leave room for East German enterprises to adapt. There were four periods in East German political history. However, the SED quickly transformed into a full-fledged Communist party as the more independent-minded Social Democrats were pushed out.
The Potsdam Agreement committed the Soviets to supporting a democratic form of government in Germany, though the Soviets' understanding of "democracy" was radically different from that of the West. As in other Soviet-bloc countries, non-communist political parties were allowed.
Nevertheless, every political party in the GDR was forced to join the National Front of Democratic Germany , a broad coalition of parties and mass political organisations, including:. The member parties were almost completely subservient to the SED, and had to accept its " leading role " as a condition of their existence. However, the parties did have representation in the Volkskammer and received some posts in the government. Another society of note was the Society for German-Soviet Friendship. The Left Party continues to be a political force in many parts of Germany, albeit drastically less powerful than the SED.
This was primarily a result of emigration—about one quarter of East Germans left the country before the Berlin Wall was completed in ,  and after that time, East Germany had very low birth rates,  except for a recovery in the s when the birth rate in East Germany was considerably higher than in West Germany. The western parts of two provinces, Pomerania and Lower Silesia , the remainder of which were annexed by Poland, remained in the GDR and were attached to Mecklenburg and Saxony, respectively.
East Berlin was made the country's 15th Bezirk in but retained special legal status until , when the residents approved the new draft constitution. Despite the city as a whole being legally under the control of the Allied Control Council , and diplomatic objections of the Allied governments, the GDR administered the Bezirk of Berlin as part of its territory. The government of East Germany had control over a large number of military and paramilitary organisations through various ministries. Chief among these was the Ministry of National Defence. Because of East Germany's proximity to the West during the Cold War —92 , its military forces were among the most advanced of the Warsaw Pact.
Defining what was a military force and what was not is a matter of some dispute.
It was an all volunteer force until an eighteen-month conscription period was introduced in The border troops of the Eastern sector were originally organised as a police force, the Deutsche Grenzpolizei, similar to the Bundesgrenzschutz in West Germany. It was controlled by the Ministry of the Interior. Following the remilitarisation of East Germany in , the Deutsche Grenzpolizei was transformed into a military force in , modeled after the Soviet Border Troops , and transferred to the Ministry of National Defense, as part of the National People's Army.
In , it was separated from the NVA, but it remained under the same ministry. At its peak, it numbered approximately 47, men. These units were, like the Kasernierte Volkspolizei, equipped as motorised infantry, and they numbered between 12, and 15, men. The Ministry of State Security Stasi included the Felix Dzerzhinsky Guards Regiment , which was mainly involved with facilities security and plain clothes events security.
They were the only part of the feared Stasi that was visible to the public, and so were very unpopular within the population. The Stasi numbered around 90, men, the Guards Regiment around 11,, men. The Kampfgruppen der Arbeiterklasse combat groups of the working class numbered around , for much of their existence, and were organised around factories.