The German Democratic Republic (GDR; German: Deutsche Demokratische Republik, DDR; more commonly known in English as East Germany) was a self-declared socialist state (but often referred to in the West as a "communist state") in the Eastern Bloc created in the Soviet Zone of occupied Germany and the Soviet sector of occupied Berlin. The German Democratic Republic existed from 7 October 1949 until 3 October 1990, when its re-established states acceded to the adjacent Federal Republic of Germany, thus producing the current form of the state of Germany.

In 1955, the Soviet Union declared that the Republic was fully sovereign. However, Soviet occupation troops remained in GDR territory, based on the four-power Potsdam Agreement, while British, Canadian, French and American forces remained in the Federal Republic of Germany in the West. Berlin, completely surrounded by GDR territory, was similarly divided with British, French and U.S. garrisons in West Berlin and Soviet forces in East Berlin. Berlin in particular became the focal point of Cold War tensions. East Germany was a member of the Warsaw Pact and a close ally of the Soviet Union.

Following the initial opening of sections of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989, new elections were held on 18 March 1990, and the governing party, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, lost its majority in the Volkskammer (the East German parliament) soon after. On 23 August, the Volkskammer decided that the Republic would recreate the five pre-war states (which had been dissolved in 1952), which would join the Federal Republic of Germany on 3 October 1990. As a result of the reunification on that date, the German Democratic Republic ceased to exist.

East Germany


At the Potsdam Conference the Allies de-facto annexed the provinces and regions of Germany east of the Oder-Neisse line.Before the end of World War II, the region that later would be known as East Germany was actually situated in the center of the German state and therefore was known as "Mitteldeutschland" (Central or Middle Germany). To the east of the Oder and Neisse rivers were the extensive Prussian provinces of Pomerania, East Prussia, West Prussia, Posen, Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia, and the eastern Neumark of Brandenburg. During World War II, Allied leaders decided at the Yalta Conference that the post-war Polish border would be moved westward to the Oder-Neisse line to compensate Poland for the loss of its eastern territories to the Soviet Union. As a result, Germany lost most of its eastern provinces, and the former "Middle Germany" was now the de facto eastern limit of the German nation.

Discussions at Yalta and Potsdam also outlined the planned occupation and administration of post-war Germany under a four-power Allied Control Council, or ACC, composed of the United States, United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union. At the Potsdam Conference in the summer of 1945, following the end of fighting in Europe, France, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union decided to divide Germany into four occupation zones. Each country would control a part of Germany until its sovereignty was restored.

The Länder (states) of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, fell in the Soviet Zone of Germany (in German: Sowjetische Besatzungszone, or SBZ). Soviet objections to economic and political changes in western (US, UK, and French) occupation zones led to Soviet withdrawal from the ACC in 1948 and subsequent evolution of the SBZ into East Germany, including the Soviet sector of Berlin. Concurrently, the Western occupation zones consolidated to form West Germany (or the Federal Republic of Germany, FRG).

Three German states and divided Berlin in late 1949. The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) consists of the American, British and French Zones (without the Saarland). The German Democratic Republic (East Germany) is formed from the Soviet Zone.Officially, both the western Allies and the Communists committed to maintaining a unified Germany after the war in the Potsdam Agreement, at least on paper. The 1952 Stalin Note proposed German reunification and superpower disengagement from Central Europe, but the United States and its allies rejected the offer. Stalin died in early 1953. Though powerful Soviet politician Lavrenty Beria briefly pursued the idea of German unification once more following Stalin's death, he was arrested and removed from office in a coup d'etat in mid-1953. His successor, Nikita Khrushchev, firmly rejected the idea of handing eastern Germany over to be annexed, marking the end of any serious consideration of the unification idea until the collapse of the Communist East German government in late 1989.

Just as Germany was divided after the war, Berlin, the former capital of Germany, was divided into four sectors. East Germany and the rest of the Eastern bloc considered East Berlin to be the capital of East Germany, although the legality of this was disputed by the western Allies, as the entire city was formally considered an occupied territory governed by martial law through the Allied Control Council. In practice, the Allied Control Council quickly became moot as the Cold War intensified, and the eastern government ignored the technical legal restrictions on how East Berlin could be used.

Conflict over the status of West Berlin led to the Berlin Blockade, when the Soviet government prohibited overland transit between the western zones of Germany and West Berlin, prompting the massive Berlin Airlift.

History of Germany

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At the end of the war, Soviet authorities forcibly unified members of the Communist Party of Germany and Social Democratic Party in the Socialist Unity Party (SED), which swept to victory in 1946 elections with the help of Soviet pressure and propaganda about the Nazi atrocities. All property and industry was nationalized under their government, and the German Democratic Republic was declared on October 7, 1949, with a new constitution which enshrined socialism and gave the SED power over a National Front among the different political parties, with "unity lists" put forth by the SED which ensured their control. The first leader of East Germany was Wilhelm Pieck, the first (and as it turned out, only) President of the Republic. However, after 1950 the real power rested with Walter Ulbricht, first secretary of the Socialist Unity Party, the ruling Communist party.

Until 1952, the GDR consisted of the German states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, Saxony and the capital, East Berlin. These divisions roughly corresponded to prewar states (Länder) and provinces (Provinzen) in the area of Eastern Germany administered by the Soviet Union under the terms of the postwar Potsdam Agreement. Two small remnants of states annexed by Poland after the war (Pomerania and Lower Silesia) remained in the GDR and were attached to neighboring territories. In the administrative reform of 1952, the states were abolished and replaced with 14 smaller districts. The districts were named after their capitals: Rostock, Neubrandenburg, Schwerin, Potsdam, Frankfurt (Oder), Magdeburg, Cottbus, Halle, Leipzig, Erfurt, Dresden, Karl-Marx-Stadt (named Chemnitz until 1953 and again after 1990), Gera, and Suhl. East Berlin was recognized as a district in 1961.

On 16 June 1953, following a production quota increase of 10 percent for workers building East Berlin's new boulevard the Stalinallee, (today's Karl-Marx-Allee), demonstrations by disgruntled workers broke out in East Berlin. The next day the protests spread across East Germany with more than a million on strike and demonstrations in 700 communities. Fearing revolution the government requested the aid of Soviet occupation troops and on the morning of the 18th tanks and soldiers were dispatched who dealt harshly with protesters. The result was some fifty deaths and a wave of arrests and jail sentences numbering over 10,000.[2] Transit between West and East Berlin was relatively free at the time, meaning that the protests and the harsh Soviet reaction unfolded in full view of many western observers. See Uprising of 1953 in East Germany.

Soviet war reparations, extracted entirely from the eastern occupation zone, had a substantial impact on the East German economy. During the early stages of the occupation (in particular 1945 and 1946), the Red Army seized around a third of the industrial equipment from eastern Germany to be shipped back to the Soviet Union, with a further $10bn in reparations extracted by the early 1950s in the form of agricultural and industrial products. The increasing economic prosperity of West Germany led large numbers of East Germans to flee to the West. Since the 1940s, East Germans had been leaving the Soviet zone of Germany to emigrate to the west. The ongoing emigration of East Germans further strained the East German economy. The border between the two German states was largely closed by the mid-1950s (see Inner German border). Due to the lure of higher salaries in the West and political oppression in the East, many skilled workers (such as doctors) crossed into the West, causing a 'brain drain' in the East. However, on the night of 13 August 1961, East German troops sealed the border between West and East Berlin and started to build the Berlin Wall, literally and physically enclosing West Berlin. Travel was greatly restricted into, and out of, East Germany. A highly effective security force called the Stasi monitored the lives of East German citizens to suppress dissenters through its network of informants and agents.

In 1971, Ulbricht was forced out as head of state under Soviet pressure, and replaced by Erich Honecker. Ulbricht had experimented with a few reforms, but Honecker tightened the reins and imposed a new constitution that used the word "German" sparingly and defined the country as a "republic of workers and peasants." East Germany was generally regarded as the most economically advanced member of the Warsaw Pact.

Until the 1970s, West Germany regarded East Germany as an illegally constituted state, and under the Hallstein Doctrine refused to have diplomatic relations with any country (except the Soviet Union) that recognized East Germany as a separate country. In the early 1970s, Ostpolitik led by Willy Brandt led to a form of mutual recognition between East and West Germany. The Treaty of Moscow (August 1970), the Treaty of Warsaw (December 1970), the Four Power Agreement on Berlin (September 1971), the Transit Agreement (May 1972), and the Basic Treaty (December 1972) helped to normalize relations between East and West Germany and led to both German states joining the United Nations.

Competition with the West was also conducted on a sporting level. East German athletes dominated several Olympic disciplines. Of special interest was the only football match ever to occur between West and East Germany, a first round match during the 1974 World Cup. Though West Germany was the host and the eventual champion, East beat West 1-0.

In 1989, following widespread public anger over the results of local government elections that spring, many citizens applied for exit visas, or left the country illegally. In August 1989 Hungary removed its border restrictions and unsealed its border and more than 13,000 people left East Germany by crossing the "green" border via Czechoslovakia into Hungary and then on to Austria and West Germany.[4] Many others demonstrated against the ruling party, especially in the city of Leipzig. Kurt Masur, the conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra led local negotiations with the government, and held town meetings in the concert hall.[5] The demonstrations eventually led Erich Honecker to resign in October, and he was replaced by a slightly more liberal Communist, Egon Krenz.

On 9 November 1989, a few sections of the Berlin Wall were opened, resulting in thousands of East Germans crossing into West Berlin and West Germany for the first time. Soon, the governing party of East Germany resigned. Although there were some small attempts to create a permanent, democratic East Germany, these were soon overwhelmed by calls for unification with West Germany. After some negotiations (2+4 Talks, involving the two German states and the former Allied Powers United States, France, United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union), conditions for German unification were agreed upon. East Germany recreated the original five states that had been abolished in 1952. On 3 October 1990, the five East German states officially joined the Federal Republic of Germany, while East and West Berlin united as a third city-state (in the same manner as Bremen and Hamburg).

To this day, there remain vast differences between the former East Germany and West Germany (for example, in lifestyle, wealth, political beliefs and other matters) and thus it is still common to speak of eastern and western Germany distinctly. The Eastern German economy has struggled since unification, and large subsidies are still transferred from west to east.


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Political organization

The ruling political party in East Germany was the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (Socialist Unity Party of Germany, SED). It was created in 1946 through the Soviet-directed merger of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in the Soviet controlled zone.

The Potsdam Agreement committed the Soviets to supporting a democratic form of government in Germany, and, unlike some Warsaw Pact countries, other political parties were permitted.

All parties operating in East Germany were obliged to join the National Front of Democratic Germany, ostensibly a united coalition of anti-fascist political parties. It was completely controlled by the SED. Members included:

Christlich-Demokratische Union Deutschlands (Christian Democratic Union of Germany, CDU), merged with the West-German CDU after reunification Demokratische Bauernpartei Deutschlands (Democratic Farmers' Party of Germany, DBD). This party was of special importance because of farmers' role in the economy. The party merged with the West German CDU after reunification. Liberal-Demokratische Partei Deutschlands (Liberal Democratic Party of Germany, LDPD), merged with the West German FDP after reunification Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (National Democratic Party of Germany, NDPD), merged with the West German FDP after reunification. Elections took place to a parliament called the Volkskammer, but were effectively controlled by the SED/state hierarchy, as Hans Modrow has noted. Elections were held in less-than-secret conditions, with voters given the choice of approving or rejecting "unity lists" put forward by the National Front. As was the case in most Communist countries, approval rates of 90 percent or more were routine.

Palast der Republik, the seat of the VolkskammerThe Volkskammer also included representatives from the mass organisations like the Free German Youth (Freie Deutsche Jugend or FDJ), or the Free German Trade Union Federation. In an attempt to include women in the political life of East Germany, there was a Democratic Women's Federation of Germany, with seats in the Volkskammer.

Important non-parliamentary mass organisations in East German society included the German Gymnastics and Sports Association (Deutscher Turn- und Sportbund or DTSB), and People's Solidarity (Volkssolidarität, an organisation for the elderly). Another society of note (and very popular during the late 1980s) was the Society for German-Soviet Friendship.

A highly effective secret police force called the Stasi infiltrated and reported on most private activity in East Germany, limiting opportunity for non-sanctioned political organisation. All formal organisations except for churches were directly controlled by the East German government. Churches were permitted to operate more or less free from government control, as long as they abstained from political activity.

Following German reunification, the SED was renamed the "Party of Democratic Socialism" (PDS) which subsequently merged with the West German WASG to form the Left Party (Die Linke). The Left Party continues to be a political force in many parts of Germany, albeit drastically less powerful than the SED.

Persons of note in East Germany

  • Erich Honecker

Political representatives

  • Hermann Axen, editor-in-chief of the SED paper "Neues Deutschland" 1956–1978, SED secretary for international relations 1966-1989
  • Johannes R. Becher, first minister for culture 1954–1958, wrote the lyrics of the national anthem
  • Hilde Benjamin, Vice President of the GDR Supreme Court 1949–1953, Minister of Justice 1953–1967, dubbed "red guillotine" for her relentless persecution of political opponents
  • Otto Grotewohl, Chairman of the East German SPD 1945–1946; joint chairman of the SED 1946–1954; Chairman of the Council of Ministers 1949–1964
  • Erich Honecker, General Secretary of the SED Central Committee 1971–1989; Chairman of the Council of State 1976–1989
  • Margot Honecker née Feist, minister for education 1963–1989
  • Heinz Kessler, Minister of Defence 1985–1989 (deputy minister since 1957)
  • Egon Krenz, General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party and chairman of Council of State from October to December 1989; he had been Honnecker's deputy and "crown prince" since 1983
  • Erich Mielke, Minister of State Security 1957–1989
  • Günter Mittag, SED secretary for economics 1962–1973, 1976–1989
  • Hans Modrow, SED district secretary for Dresden 1973–1989, last SED prime minister November 1989 – March 1990
  • Wilhelm Pieck, Chairman of the East German KPD 1945–1946; joint chairman of the SED 1946–1954; State President 1949–1960
  • Günter Schabowski, SED district secretary for Berlin 1985–1989; as party spokesperson he caused the fall of the Berlin wall
  • Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski, head of the department of "commercial coordination" in the Ministry of Foreign Trade.
  • Karl Schirdewan, SED secretary 1953–1958, dismissed for "faction building"
  • Horst Sindermann, Chairman of the Council of Ministers 1973–1976; president of parliament 1976–1989
  • Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler, telecaster on East German television, infamous for his propaganda programme "Der schwarze Kanal"
  • Willi Stoph, Chairman of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister) 1964–1973 and 1976–1989; Chairman of the Council of State 1973–1976
  • Harry Tisch, head of the Free German Trade Union Federation 1975–1989
  • Walter Ulbricht, General Secretary of the SED Central Committee 1950–1971; Chairman of the Council of State 1960–1973)
  • Markus "Mischa" Wolf, head of the GDR's foreign intelligence department 1952–1986

Other notable East Germans

  • Bertolt BrechtJohannes R. Becher, East German poet and politician (writer of the national anthem of the GDR)
  • Jurek Becker, writer ("Jacob the Liar")
  • Frank Beyer, film director
  • Wolf Biermann, singer/songwriter and dissident, citizenship withdrawn in 1976 when he was on tour in West Germany
  • Thomas Brasch, writer, poet and dramatist
  • Bertolt Brecht, dramatist, poet and director, reopened the "Berliner Ensemble" in 1949, moved back to East Germany from America after persecution by *House Un-American Activities Committee.
  • Ernst Busch (1900–1980), actor and singer
  • Hanns Eisler, composer (national anthem of the GDR)
  • Fritz Geißler, composer
  • Erwin Geschonneck, actor ("Jacob the Liar")
  • Peter Hacks, dramatist
  • John Heartfield, photographer
  • Bernhard Heisig, painter ("Leipziger Schule")
  • Gustav Just, journalist
  • Hermann Kant, writer ("Der Aufenthalt")
  • Manfred Krug, actor and jazz singer
  • Kurt Masur, conductor and political activist
  • Wolfgang Mattheuer, painter ("Leipziger Schule")
  • Armin Mueller-Stahl, actor
  • Heiner Müller, writer and dramatist, worked with the director Benno Besson at Volksbühne
  • Erwin Strittmatter, writer ("Der Laden")
  • Werner Tübke, painter ("Leipziger Schule")
  • Christa Wolf, writer ("Kassandra")
  • Paul Van Dyk, DJ & Artist
  • Gregor GysiRudolf Bahro, journalist and politician
  • Ibrahim Böhme, first chairman of the East German Social Democrats in 1989–1990, resigned after being detected as a former Stasi informer
  • Bärbel Bohley, opposition figure (co-founders of the Initiative for Peace and Human Rights and the New Forum)
  • Rainer Eppelmann, Protestant pastor and opposition figure, minister for defence and disarmament from March to October 1990
  • Gregor Gysi, lawyer to artists, chairman of the SED/PDS November 1989–1998
  • Wolfgang Harich, intellectual and East German dissident (sentenced to prison for counterrevolutionary activities)
  • Robert Havemann, communistic resistance fighter in World War 2 and East German dissident (was put under house arrest from 1976 until his death in *1982)
  • Walter Janka, communist resistance fighter in WW2 and East German dissident (sentenced in 1957 for "counterrevolutionary activities")
  • Lothar de Maizière, first (and only) freely elected prime minister, from April to 3 October 1990 and Federal Minister for Special Affairs of Germany from 3 October 1990 (but resigned after being detected as a former Stasi informer)
  • Marku*s Meckel, Protestant pastor, deputy chairman of the East German Social Democrats 1989–1990, GDR foreign minister from April to August 1990
  • Wolfgang Schnur, lawyer to dissidents, opposition politician (Democratic Awakening in 1990, but resigned after being detected as a former Stasi informer)
  • Sigmund JähnManfred von Ardenne, physicist and inventor
  • Klaus Fuchs, Nuclear physicist and spy
  • Sigmund Jähn, cosmonaut, first German in space
  • Peggy Jungke, east German scientist
  • Uwe Ampler, racing cyclist
  • Karin Büttner-Janz, gymnast
  • Ernst Degner, Grand Prix motorcycle road racer
  • Uwe Raab, racing cyclist
  • Olaf Ludwig, racing cyclist
  • Jürgen Sparwasser, football player
  • Katarina Witt, figure skater

Major cities in East Germany

(With est. 1988 populations)

Berlin, Hauptstadt der DDR (English: Berlin, Capital of the GDR) (1,200,000)

Leipzig* (556,000)

Dresden* (520,000)

Karl-Marx-Stadt* (317,000)

Magdeburg* (290,000)

Rostock* (250,000)

Halle (Saale)* (236,000)

Erfurt* (215,000)

Potsdam* (140,000)

Gera* (131,000)

Schwerin* (130,000)

Cottbus* (125,000)

Zwickau (120,000)

Jena (107,000)

Dessau (105,000)

  • "Bezirksstadt" (centre of district)


Soldiers of the Nationale Volksarmee marching at a changing-of-the-guard ceremony in Berlin.Like all Soviet bloc countries, East Germany had its own armed forces, known as the Nationale Volksarmee (National People's Army - NVA) with four branches of service. Since East Germany was at the frontline of the Cold War, the GDR's military was considered to be the most advanced in the whole Warsaw Pact, excluding the Soviet Union. It was battle ready at all times, ready to be mobilized in a future war with NATO. The NVA was divided into the following four branches:

  • Army (Landstreitkräfte)
  • Navy (Volksmarine - People's Navy)
  • Air Force/Air Defence (Luftstreitkräfte/Luftverteidigung)
  • Border Troops of the GDR (Grenztruppen der DDR)

In addition, the GDR possessed various paramilitary forces in reserve in case war broke out, such as the "Combat Groups of the Working Class" (Kampfgruppen der Arbeiterklasse) and in some cases, the Stasi.

All young East German men had to join the NVA. Attendance was compulsory for 18 months, except for serious medical reasons. As an alternative to military service for conscientious objectors, the so-called Baueinheiten (construction units) were created in 1964 under pressure from the national Protestant church. However, service in the Baueinheiten was strongly discouraged; these soldiers were subjected to various forms of harassment during their service, and there were also consequences after their term of service was complete - e.g., denial or difficulty in obtaining admission to higher education, etc. East Germany alone offered alternative service for COs among Eastern Bloc countries.[citation needed]

Administrative divisions

Subdivisions of the German Democratic Republic from 1952In 1952, as part of the reforms designed to centralize power in the hands of the SED's Politbüro, the five Länder of East Germany were abolished, and East Germany was divided into fifteen Bezirke (districts), each named after the largest city: the northern Land Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was divided between the Bezirke Rostock, Schwerin and Neubrandenburg; Brandenburg (surrounding Berlin) was reorganized into the Bezirke of Potsdam, Frankfurt (Oder) and Cottbus; Saxony-Anhalt split into the Bezirke of Halle and Magdeburg; the south-western Land Thuringia became the Bezirke of Erfurt, Gera and Suhl; finally, the south-eastern Land Saxony was divided between Leipzig, Dresden and Karl-Marx-Stadt (formerly and following the GDR's collapse again known as Chemnitz). The GDR capital, East Berlin formed the 15th Bezirk, though it retained a special legal status in the GDR until 1968, when East Berliners voted with the rest of the GDR to approve the draft of the new constitution. From this point onwards, irrespective of the Four Power Status and the western allies' objections that East Berlin was merely the Soviet occupied sector of the German capital, East Berlin was treated as a Bezirk like any other.


The East German population declined steadily throughout its existence, from 19 million in 1948 to 16 million in 1990. Around 4 million of the 1948 population had been expelled from the former German territories beyond East Germany's eastern border.[6] This was primarily a result of emigration – about one quarter of East Germans left the country. [7]


Economic activity in the GDR.East Germany's economy had a poor start in the aftermath of World War II's devastation. During 1945 and 1946 the Soviet Army had dismantled train lines and factories. By the early 1950s the Soviet Union had seized reparations in form of agricultural and industrial products and demanded further heavy reparation paymants.[8] Furthermore, Lower Silesia, which contained coal mines, and Stettin, a prominent natural port, were given to Poland.

Like other East European socialist states, East Germany had a centrally planned economy, similar to the one in the former Soviet Union, in contrast to the market economies or mixed economies of most Western states. The GDR became a member of the COMECON trading block in 1950. The state established production targets and prices and allocated resources, codifying these decisions in a comprehensive plan or set of plans. The means of production were almost entirely state owned. In 1985, for example, state-owned enterprises or collectives earned 96.7 percent of total net national income. To secure constant prices for inhabitants, the state bore 80% of costs of basic supplies, from bread to housing. The per capita income in 1984 was an estimated $9,800 (approximately $21,000 in 2008 dollars), though the currency conversion used to create this figure is difficult to conduct. In 1976 average annual GDP growth was roughly 5.9%.[9]

Examples of products exported were cameras under the Praktica brand, automobiles under the Trabant, Wartburg and IFA brands, hunting rifles, sextants and watches.

To the East German consumer, there were always shortages. Until 1960s there were shortages of basic products like sugar and coffee, although there were some disparities; whilst coffee stayed expensive (approx. 1US$ for 200g), rolls were less then a cent. The lead time for a new Wartburg was around 13 years in 1989.[citation needed] East Germans with friends or relatives in the West (or other access to hard currency), and the neccessary Staatsbank foreign currency account, could buy both Western products and East German products only intended for export at the Intershop. Other ways of accessing rare consumer goods was through the Danish company Jauerfood, or via the mail-order gift company Genex.

The Trabant was the most important car manufactured in the DDR.The ultimate directing force in the economy, as in every aspect of the society, was the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (SED), particularly its top leadership. The party exercised its leadership role formally during the party congress, when it accepted the report of the general secretary, and when it adopted the draft plan for the upcoming five-year period.

The private sector of the economy was small but not entirely insignificant. In 1985 about 2.8 percent of the net national product came from private enterprises. The private sector included private farmers and gardeners; independent craftsmen, wholesalers, and retailers; and individuals employed in so-called free-lance activities (artists, writers, and others). Although self-employed, such individuals were strictly regulated; in some cases the tax rate exceeded 90%. In 1985, for the first time in many years, the number of individuals working in the private sector increased slightly. According to East German statistics, in 1985 there were about 176,800 private entrepreneurs, an increase of about 500 over 1984. Certain private sector activities were quite important to the system because those craftsmen provided scarce spare parts, the production of which was a common shortcoming of the GDR's planned economy.


While this fact is largely underestimated today, the GDR developed a cultural frame of references in many respects different from that of post-war FRG's openly propertarian culture. With the fall of the Iron Curtain, also this reliable frame of identification largely broke away for East Germany's population, while Western culture fails to entirely fill this gap.


Artists were expected to sing songs only in German at first, which changed with the end of the sixties. This seemed a logical constraint by the Party leaders but it was rather unpopular among young people. There were strict rules that regulated that all artistic activity ought to be censored for any open or implied anti-socialist tendencies[citation needed]. The band Renft, for example, was prone to political misbehaviour, which eventually led to its split.

The Puhdys and Karat were some of the most popular mainstream bands, managing to hint at critical thoughts in their lyrics without being explicit. Like most mainstream acts, they appeared in popular youth magazines such as Neues Leben and Magazin. Other popular rock bands were Wir, Dean Reed, City, Silly and Pankow. Most of these artists recorded on the state-owned AMIGA label.

Influences from the West were heard everywhere, because TV and radio that came from the Klassenfeind (class enemy, meaning "enemy of the working class") could be received in many parts of the East, too (a notorious exception being Dresden, with its geographically disadvantageous position in the Elbe valley, giving it the nickname of “Valley of the Clueless” -although limited reception of Western radio was still possible there). The Western influence led to the formation of more "underground" groups with a decisively western-oriented sound. A few of these bands were Die Skeptiker, Die Art and Feeling B. Additionally, hip hop culture reached the ears of the East German youth. With videos such as Beat Street and Wild Style, young East Germans were able to develop a hip hop culture of their own.[10] East Germans accepted hip hop as more than just a music form. The entire street culture surrounding rap entered the region and became an outlet for oppressed youth.

Johann Sebastian Bach was born in East German territory and his birthplace in Eisenach was turned into a museum of his life, which, among other things, included more than 300 instruments from Bach's life. In 1980 this museum was receiving more than 70,000 visitors annually.

In Leipzig, an enormous archive with recordings of all of Bach's music was compiled, along with many historical documents and letters both to and from him.

Every other year, school children from across East Germany gathered for a Bach competition held in East Berlin. Every four years an international Bach competition for keyboard and strings was held.


VolksbühneEast German theatre was originally dominated by Bertolt Brecht, who brought back many artists out of exile and reopened the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm with his Berliner Ensemble. Alternatively, other influences tried to establish a "Working Class Theatre", played for the working class by the working class.

After Brecht's death, conflicts began to arise between his family (around Helene Weigel) and other artists about Brecht's heritage. Heinz Kahlau, Slatan Dudow, Erwin Geschonneck, Erwin Strittmatter, Peter Hacks, Benno Besson, Peter Palitzsch and Ekkehard Schall were considered to be among Bertolt Brecht's scholars and followers.

In the 1950s the Swiss director Benno Besson with the Deutsches Theater successfully toured Europe and Asia including Japan with "The Dragon" by Jewgenij Schwarz. In the 1960s, he became the Intendant of the Volksbühne often working with Heiner Müller.

After 1975 many artists left the GDR due to increasing censorship. A parallel theatre scene sprung up, creating theatre "outside of Berlin" in which artists played at provincial theatres. For example Peter Sodann founded the neues theater in Halle/Saale and Frank Castorf at the theater Anklam.

Theatre and Cabaret had high status in the GDR, which allowed it to be very pro-active. This often brought it into confrontation with the State. Benno Besson once said: "In contrast to artists in the west, they took us seriously, we had a bearing."

Important theatres:

  • Deutsches Theater
  • Berliner Ensemble
  • Volksbühne
  • Maxim Gorki Theater


In the GDR, the movie industry was very active. The head-group for film-productions was the DEFA[16], Deutsche Film AG, which was subdivided in different local groups, for example Gruppe Berlin, Gruppe Babelsberg or Gruppe Johannisthal, where the local teams shot and produced films. Besides folksy movies, the movie-industry became known worldwide for its productions, especially children's movies ("Das kalte Herz", film versions of the Brothers Grimm fairy-tales and modern productions such as "Das Schulgespenst").

Frank Beyer's "Jakob der Lügner" (about persecution of Jews in Third Reich) and, "Fünf Patronenhülsen"(Five Bullet Shells) about resistance against fascism, became internationally famous.

Movies about problems of everyday life such as "Die Legende von Paul und Paula" (directed by Heiner Carow) and "Solo Sunny" (directed by Konrad Wolf and Wolfgang Kohlhaase) were also very popular.

The film industry was remarkable for its production of Ostern, or Western-like movies. Indians in these films often took the role of displaced people who fight for their rights, in contrast to the American westerns of the time, where Indians were often either not mentioned at all or are portrayed as the villains. Yugoslavians were often cast as the Indians, due to the small number of American Indians in eastern Europe. Gojko Mitić was well-known in these roles, often playing the righteous, kindhearted and charming chief ("Die Söhne der großen Bärin" directed by Josef Mach). He became an honorary Sioux chief when he visited the United States of America in the 90s and the television crew accompanying him showed the tribe one of his movies. American actor and singer Dean Reed, an expatriate who lived in East Germany, also starred in several films. These films were part of the phenomenon of Europe producing alternative films about the colonization of America. See also Spaghetti Western and the West German Winnetou films (adaptations of novels of Karl May).

Because of censorship a certain number of very remarkable movies were forbidden at this time and reissued after the Wende in 1990. Examples are "Spur der Steine" (directed by Frank Beyer) and "Der geteilte Himmel" (directed by Konrad Wolf).

Cinemas in the GDR also showed foreign films. Czechoslovak and Polish productions were more common, but also certain western movies were shown, but the numbers were limited because it cost foreign exchange to buy the licences. Further, movies representing or glorifying capitalistic ideology were not bought. Comedies enjoyed great popularity, such as the Danish "Olsen Gang" or movies with the French comedian Louis de Funès.


The 20s

One of the first books with the word "jazz" in the title originates from Germany. In his book Jazz - eine musikalische Zeitfrage (Jazz - a musical issue) of 1927, Paul Bernhard relates the term Jazz to a specific dance. When dancer Josephine Baker visited Berlin in 1925, she found it dazzling. "The city had a jewel-like sparkle," she said, "the vast cafés reminded me of ocean liners powered by the rhythms of their orchestras. There was music everywhere." Eager to look ahead after the crushing defeat of World War I, Weimar Germany embraced the modernism that swept through Europe and was crazy about jazz. In the dancing mania of the post-war period, there were not only modern dances such as the tango and foxtrot, but in 1920 also the Shimmy and in 1922 the Two-step. In 1925 the Charleston dominated the dance halls. Even when under great criticism Bernhard Sekles initiated the first academic jazz studies anywhere at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt in 1928 - the first courses in the United States were started in the mid 1940s. The director of the jazz department was Mátyás Seiber. The jazz studies were closed by the Nazis in 1933.

In 1917, in the United States, the first jazz title, "Tiger Rag," was recorded. By January 1920, it had already been marketed by a German record company. As early as the 1920s, the clarinetist and saxophonist Eric Borchard played his own recordings, which were comparable to those of the American jazz greats. But from 1920 to 1923, due to both economic turmoil and inflation, larger German jazz orchestras that played the new jazz dances were a rarity. Initially, a trio with a pianist, a drummer and a "Stehgeiger" (standing violinist), who also played the saxophone, was most common. Only after 1924 an economic stability was achieved, and an economic basis for larger dance orchestras was possible, like those founded by Bernard Etté, Dajos Béla, Marek Weber and Stefan Weintraub, [4]. It was the predominant element of improvisation that lacked understanding in Germany, where people had always played concrete written notes; Marek Weber, for example, demonstratively left the podium if its nightly band played jazz interludes.

In the 20s, Jazz in Germany was primarily a fad. The "Salonorchester" turned to the new style, because dancers wanted it so. By 1924, the first jazz could be heard on the radio; after 1926, when Paul Whiteman enjoyed sensational success in Berlin, regular radio programmes were broadcast with jazz played live. His music was also available on record and in sheet music. The Weintraub Syncopators were the first hot jazz band in Germany at their summit beginning around 1928. Musicians from many musical backgrounds, composers of classical music concerts such as Paul Hindemith, Ernst Krenek and Kurt Weill, turned to the new music genre that came from America and incorporated it in their musical language. For the classical composers, the orchestral casts, the timbre, syncope, and the blues harmonies of jazz were a synonym for the modern era. This new music genre was recognised not only as a fashion and entertainment music, but as real art. However, as early as in 1927, the composer Karol Rathaus called it somewhat prematurely a Jazzdämmerung (jazz dawn). Theodor W. Adorno spoke negatively about Jazz, saying it was a part of the art industry.

Years of National Socialism, the 30s and the missing 40s

In 1950 Helmut Zacharias won the jazz-Poll of AFN Frankfurt as the best jazz violinist.In neighbouring European countries the trend continued in the 1930s. Fan magazines were created for jazz and so-called "hot clubs". The Nazi regime pursued and banned the broadcasting of jazz on German radio, partly because of its African roots and because many of the active jazz musicians were of Jewish origin; and partly due to the music's certain themes of individuality and freedom. For the Nazis, jazz was an especially threatening form of expression. An anti-jazz radio broadcast From the Cake Walk to Hot sought a deterrent effect with "particularly insisting musical examples."

In 1935, the Nazi government did not allow German musicians of Jewish origin to perform any longer. The Weintraub Syncopators - most of whom were Jewish - were forced into exile. They worked abroad during much of the ‘30s, touring throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East before settling in Australia in 1937. Even people with a single jewish grandparent like swing trumpeter Hans Berry were forced to play undercover or to work abroad (in Belgium, the Netherlands or in Switzerland).

Other dance bands and musicians were not even that fortunate. For example, Mitja Nikisch, son of the celebrated classical conductor Arthur Nikisch and himself a respected classical pianist, had created a fine, popular dance ensemble in the '20s, the Mitja Nikisch Tanz Orchester, which played in prominent venues. The Nazi regime brought about its demise, leading Nikisch to commit suicide in 1936.

From 1937 onward, American musicians in Europe stopped at the German borders. Admittedly, in spite of such persecution it was still possible, at least in major cities, to buy jazz records until the beginning of the war; however, the further development of, and the contact with, the American Jazz World were largely interrupted. Officially the "Reichsmusikkammer" (Reichs Music Chamber) supported dance music that bore some traits of Swing, but listening to foreign stations, which regularly played jazz, was penalised from 1939 on.

Some musicians did not want to obey this command. The clarinetist Ernst Höllerhagen for example, left Germany, when Jazz was finally prohibited by the Nazis at the beginning of the war, and went to Switzerland into exile.

At that time, only a relatively small number of people in Germany knew how jazz music sounded in America - at that time, swing - and that it was Jazz. The Nazis even re-developed and newly produced some pieces, giving them new lyrics, in special studios. One example is the song "Black Bottom", which was presented as "Schwarzer Boden". For some Germans, the banned foreign stations with jazz programs were very popular. The Allies' stations were on one hand disturbed, but also copied by the Nazis. The band Charlie and His Orchestra is considered as a negative example, also called Mr. Goebbels Jazz Band. Here the Nazis replaced the original texts with their own provocative propaganda texts.

The situation intensified in 1942 with the entry of the United States in the war. For diplomats of foreign embassies and Wehrmacht members a couple of jazz clubs continued to remain open in Berlin. In addition, there were individual, not legitimate venues and private parties, where jazz was played. In 1943 the record production was stopped. Charlie and His Orchestra was moved in the still bombproof province.

The Nazi regime passed notorious edicts banning jazz records and muted trumpets calling them degenerate art or entartete Kunst. The documentary film "Swing Under the Swastika" looks at Jazz music under the Nazi regime in Germany, and at the cases of the Madlung sisters who were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp merely for owning jazz records. There are also interviews with jazz drummer Coco Schumann and pianist Martin Roman who were saved in the camps so they could play for SS officers and during executions in Auschwitz as part of the `Ghetto Swingers'.

Postwar period and the 50s

In the postwar period, and after nearly 20 years of isolation, many music fans as well as musicians themselves were very interested in the movements of jazz they had missed. In fact jazz gave young people the enthusiastic hope to rebuild the country. In the jazz clubs, jazz lovers played important records even before they could organize concerts. The post-war jazz was able to develop well, particularly in the American-occupied zone. Berlin, Bremen and Frankfurt were centers of jazz. Young German musicians could perform before a larger audience in American GI venues. In the 1950s, "Existential" jazz cellars (Existence in the french way of philosophy), following the model established in Paris, emerged in numerous West German cities.

April 2. 1951 Erwin Lehn founded the dance orchestra of the South German Radio (SDR) in Stuttgart, which he led until 1992. In a short time it developed from a radio-band to a modern swinging Big Band: Erwin Lehn and his Südfunk (southern radio) dance orchestra. 1955 Lehn with Dieter Zimmerle and Wolfram Röhrig initiated the SDR broadcast Treffpunkt Jazz. There Lehn played with international jazz greats such as Miles Davis and Chet Baker. In addition to the band of Kurt Edelhagen at the Southwestern Radio (SWF), the "Südfunk" dance orchestra established as one of the leading Swing-Big-Bands in the Federal Republic of Germany in the following years. 1953 Edelhagen discovered Caterina Valente in Baden-Baden as a singer for his big band.

Albert Mangelsdorff, here much older than in the year 1960American jazz musicians were heard at the Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts and at events in the major concert halls in western Germany. Primarily, local musicians played In the clubs. In order to raise the level of cultural recognition, concert tours by the German Jazz Federation (a merger of the clubs) were increasingly organised. Until the end of the 1950s, the German jazz scene was strongly fixated on imitating the American jazz and on regaining the period of development it had previously missed. However, from 1954 onward West German jazz slowly departed from the pattern established by this musical role model. The quintet of pianist and composer Jutta Hipp played a central role in doing so; this group included the saxophonist Emil Mangelsdorff and Joki Freund, who also wrote instrumental compositions. Although Hipp's music was heavily influenced by American role models, she impressed the American jazz critics with her sovereign and independent performances. The peculiarity of her music was an asymmetrical melody in the improvisations, the beginning and end located in unusual places. English New Orleans jazzbands were fervently welcomed: particularly Ken Colyer & Sonny Morris.

The rhythmically-accented and innovative Bebop enjoyed a heyday in America until the mid-1950's. To it, the German musicians were not accustomed, unlike the Cool Jazz that had also boomed in the 1950s. Cool Jazz was less explosive, more soft and slow, with its emphasis on brass melodies, and its interaction, as well as the tone, was preferred by West German musicians.

Authorities in German Democratic Republic (GDR) were highly skeptical of jazz due to its American roots. Karl Heinz Drechsel was dismissed from his job at the GDR broadcasting organization in 1952 because of his fondness for jazz and was prohibited from organizing jazz broadcasts again until 1958. The founder of the jazz group Leipzig, Reginald Rudorf, held well-attended lectures on jazz, which also explained the culture of the United States. But they were stopped with disruptive actions by the state security organization ("Staatssicherheit"). In 1957, the Dresdner Interessengemeinschaft Jazz (community of jazz interests) was prohibited in connection with the trial of the regime against Rudorf, as a suspected spy[7].

While the GDR dance orchestras still played a few Swing numbers, it was Modern Jazz, which could not be integrated in the dance combos, that was officially criticized. It was later denounced as "snotnosed Jazz" by André Asriel. [8]

In 1956 the clarinettist Rolf Kühn moved to America, gave a guest performance with Caterina Valente in New York and performed with his quartet at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1957. From 1958 to 1962 Kühn played (as the first German musician) with the orchestras of Benny Goodman and as a solo clarinetist with Tommy Dorsey - as replacement for Buddy DeFranco - one and a half years later. In 1962 Rolf Kühn returned to West Germany.

The 60s

On West German television, the great American musicians were introduced to audiences in prime time. Around 1960, Western music producers' interest in recording musicians such as Wolfgang Lauth waned as jazz music no longer seemed to be a good sale. In 1964, Horst Lippmann had noted [9]: "The German record industry neglected all modern German jazz musicians and only occasionally presented records with amateur Dixieland bands in the area. No German record company seems to be prepared on the artistic obligation to publish the modern German jazz appropriate as it is the case in the field of symphonic and chamber music." As if this appeal had been heard and had caused a new generation of jazz producers, such as Siegfried Loch, and Hans-Georg Brunner Schwer, to emerge, records of Klaus Doldinger, Albert Mangelsdorff, but also by Attila Zoller or Wolfgang Dauner came onto the market shortly thereafter.

Eberhard WeberThe music critic and producer Joachim-Ernst Berendt took a special, outstanding, position at this time; he has influenced the German Jazz mainly in the 1960s and 1970s. Without him, neither the European Free Jazz, even as individual musicians like Mangelsdorff, Doldinger and others would have gained the importance that they have for the German jazz today. Berendt was the first and only global player of the jazz critics and producers of the German jazz scene, who introduced jazz from Germany abroad.

The best-known jazz groups in West Germany were the quintets of Albert Mangelsdorff (with Heinz Sauer and Günter Kronberg), Michael Naura (with Wolfgang Schlüter), and the quartet of Klaus Doldinger (with Ingfried Hoffmann.) Innovators were also the Lauth Wolfgang quartet with Fritz Hartschuh and the trio of Wolfgang Dauner (with Eberhard Weber and Fred Braceful). Musically there was a deliberate, but careful delineation of the American model. With their growing popularity, Doldinger and Mangelsdorff could also perform abroad and publish records. Naura had to retire from active life as a musician because of illness, and later became an editor of the Jazz part of the NDR (Northern German Broadcast). For the GDR, the Manfred Ludwig sextet has to be mentioned firstly for a long time the only band, which turned to the style of modern jazz.

In 1965, the quintet of Gunter Hampel, a moderate Free Jazz maintainer, with musicians such as Manfred Schoof, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Buschi Niebergall and Pierre Courbois, stepped on the German jazz scene and performed many concerts in the "province". Free jazz, without compromises, could be heard from the Manfred Schoof quintet (Voices) and an octet by Peter Brötzmann (Machine Gun). Especially in the smaller towns of western Germany, the jazz music clubs disappeared with the advent of the Beat. From the mid-1960s in the GDR onward, the trio of Joachim Kühn (who migrated to the West in 1966), Friedhelm Schönfeld, and Manfred Schulze found their own ways into free jazz.

The 70s

The 1970s were marked by the globalization and commercialization of the German jazz world. Jazz was combined with various other music genres. Successful jazz musicians such as Christian Burchard's Embryo, Klaus Doldinger, Volker Kriegel, and the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble followed this trend in the direction of rock music in West Germany. At the same time, younger musicians like Herbert Joos, Alfred Harth and Theo Jörgensmann stepped into public acknowledgment and aroused the attention of the jazz scene with their music. It is noteworthy that the German musicians achieved an acceptance with the local audience on par with american jazz musicians. The Theo Jörgensmann quartet an avant-garde jazz group, for example, was even in the Best-of Lists of Popular Music in the Music-Yearbook Rock Session. At the same time the German record labels FMP, ECM and ENJA established in the market. Also acoustic-romantic performances by Joachim Kühn and other pianists like Rainer Brüninghaus came into fashion. In Moers and other West German towns, festivals were held that focused on these new developments in jazz.

In the 1970s, scholastic learning of jazz was also achieved in West Germany. The annual summer course at the Akademie Remscheid (Remscheid Academy) was very popular among young jazz musicians. There is hardly a professional jazz musician, born between 1940 and 1960, who did not attend this course as a student or teacher.

After 1970, the mighty ministries of East Germany gave up their antagonism towards jazz music, giving the "explanation" that jazz had become an integral part of East German culture and politics. Klaus Lenz and the Modern Soul band found its own way to the Fusion of rock and jazz music. In East Germany in particular, free jazz musicians developed their own gestures and improvised first on apparently East German-specific material in such a way that the idea of an "Eisler Weill Folk-Free jazz" [11] could take hold abroad. The self-assertion was more strongly pronounced in East rather than in West Germany. Among the better-known artists of this era were Conny Bauer and Ulrich Gumpert (Zentralquartett), as well as Manfred Hering and Günter "Baby" Sommer. This music communicated with a very broad, young audience, and was very successful. The jazz journalist Bert Noglik noted in retrospect: "In the course of the seventies in the GDR in the evolution of jazz the Free Jazz (in a broader sense) has cristallized to be the form of the major direction of practice and its majority passes and exists both in quantitative and in qualitative respects. This statement refers to the musicians, the audience and also on the organizational structure of the concert and tour management. All of this is even more astonishing when one considers that in the eastern and western neighboring regions always flowed a relatively strong mainstream music."[12]

The 80s

In the 1980s, the jazz audience, as well as the jazz scene, split in many different directions in West Germany. There were forms which included traditional repertory, the various currents of free jazz and fusion music, a turning to Neobop, but also style elements that hinted to the Modern Creative, and the neo-classical jazz. In Cologne, there was a strong initiative for Jazz, founding the initiative "Kölner Jazz Haus" (Cologne Jazz House), from which projects such as the Kölner Saxophon Mafia (Cologne Saxophone Mafia) emerged. A new interest awakened for the work of Big Bands. Jazz arrangers such as Peter Herbolzheimer raised this genre in Germany to an international level. New venues were opened in mid-sized cities. Due to the large number of different jazz styles, such concerts were poorly attended, especially in the larger cities.

In East Germany, the development was more clearly arranged. In the 1980s, there was a greater exchange between jazz musicians from West and East Germany. If the cooperation took place within the borders of the GDR, normally a non-german musician was also invited to give this event an international complexion. Economically jazz musicians in the GDR lived in comparatively assured or prosperous circumstances, because they worked in an environment of subsidized culture, and unlike their western colleagues did not need to follow the regulations of the free market economy. In addition to a comparatively wide Dixieland scene in the area and mainstream american-style jazz, free improvisational music developed in a way that Fred Van Hove (later relativated) spoke misguidedly of the, "Promised Land of Improvised Music".

The 1990s to the present

In 1992, the jazz researcher Ekkehard Jost discerned two basic trends of the jazz scene: one, jazz as a repertoire music and two, jazz in stable and dynamic development. The latter survives through musical practice and is based on the origins of jazz. In the 1990s, even more than in the 1980s, the marketing of music styles dominated the music business, and jazz in particular. Helge Schneider, a well-known entertainer, knew how to integrate jazz into his own comedic art. Another well-known German jazz musician and entertainer is Götz Alsmann, as well as the successful trumpeter Till Brönner. A number of other jazz musicians became established through entertainment-jazz in the scene as well. However, these are not the only musicians who work as jazz musicians sometimes under difficult conditions in Germany, and who are responsible for creating such diverse styles of jazz.

In addition, between East and West Germany, an alignment of styles occurred, much to the detriment of the East German jazz culture. In the course of time, elements of jazz were often integrated into other styles like hip-hop, and later in Drum 'n' Bass and others. These results were assessed as Acid Jazz or as Nu jazz if there is sufficient jazz participation. Today jazz can be found in a variety of musical styles, such as German Hip-Hop, House, Drum 'n' Bass, dance music, and many others.

Jazz is in low demand on German television. Jazz clubs and other venues still must face the fact that the number of visitors is often difficult to predict and highly variable. Often, younger audiences stay away. Even for tax purposes (so-called "Ausländersteuer" i.e. foreigner tax), the major international musicians, in particular the Modern Creative musicians, who play in Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Italy and France, increasingly skip Germany on their routes and tours.

Although there are much more jazz musicians in Germany now than in the 1960s and 1970s, it is much easier for the public to form their own individual opinion of the jazz musicians and their music because of electronic media. Traditional opinion makers like the public broadcasters editorial offices for jazz lose influence. Even organizers and concert agencies no longer set up the liking of the audience, as in the past, but they only follow the latest trends.

It is uncertain in which direction the German Jazz will move in the future. The situation of Germany's most renowned jazz festival (JazzFest Berlin) is perhaps symptomatic for this. Since the 1990s it is criticised regularily, and its artistic directors fell back on highly elaborate concepts without a clear artistic line being visible.


For a small country, the people of East Germany achieved some remarkable results in many sports including cycling, weightlifting, swimming, track and field, boxing, skating and other winter sports. One reason for the success was the leadership of Dr. Manfred Hoeppner which started in the late 1960s.

Another supporting reason was Anabolic steroid doping, which has been the most detected doping substances in IOC-accredited laboratories for many years and is now banned by all major sporting bodies. It allowed East Germany, with its small population, to become a world leader in the following two decades, winning a large number of Olympic and world gold medals and records.

Another factor for success was the furtherance-system for young people in GDR. When some children were aged around 6 until 10 years old (or older) sport-teachers at school were encouraged to look for certain talents in every pupil. For older pupils it was possible to attend grammar-schools with a focus on sports (for example sailing, football and swimming). This policy was also used for talented pupils with regard to music or mathematics.

Sports clubs were highly subsidized, especially sports in which it was possible to get international fame. For example, the major leagues for ice hockey and basketball just included each 2 teams (excluding the school and university sport). Football (soccer) was the most popular sport. Club football sides like Dynamo Dresden, 1. FC Magdeburg, FC Carl Zeiss Jena, 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig and BFC Dynamo did have some success in European competition. Many East German players became integral parts of the reunified national football team, for example Matthias Sammer and Ulf Kirsten. Other sports enjoyed great popularity like figure skating, especially because of sportswomen like Katharina Witt.

East Germans patriotically supported their athletes to success in international competitions for similar reasons as those in other countries, and this no doubt played its part in the success that state enjoyed. However, as with other Soviet states, a widely held perception existed that international athletic success advertised their political and economic system to a worldwide audience. In the special case of East Germany, being the minority section of the divided Cold War era Germany, the particular success of that state was considered to foster international acceptance of the GDR as a state in its own right.

Stamps and philately

Stamp celebrating the GDR's 25th anniversary in 1974.Communist States gave much importance to philately and the GDR was one of those which printed the most beautiful stamps. However, their philatelic value was sometimes questioned in the West since GDR stamps were usually part of a 3- or 4-stamp series and one of them would be very difficult to find and then would acquire an expensive value in the philatelic market.

Television and radio

Television and radio in East Germany was state controlled. Rundfunk der DDR was the official radio broadcasting organisation from 1952 until German reunification. The organization was based in the Funkhaus Nalepastraße in East Berlin. Deutscher Fernsehfunk (DFF), from 1972–1990 known as Fernsehen der DDR or DDR-FS, was the state television broadcaster from 1952.


By the mid-1980s, East Germany possessed a well-developed communications system. There were approximately 3.6 million telephones in usage (21.8 for every 100 inhabitants), and 16,476 telex stations. Both of these networks were run by the Deutsche Post der DDR (East German Post Office). East Germany was assigned telephone country code 37; in 1991, several months after reunification, East German telephone exchanges were incorporated into country code 49.

An unusual feature of the telephone network was that in most cases, direct dialing for long distance calls was not possible. Although area codes were assigned to all major towns and cities, they were only used for switching international calls. Instead, each location had its own list of dialing codes - with shorter codes for local calls, and longer codes for long distance calls. This was due to the way the calls were routed over the trunk network. After reunification, the existing network was largely replaced, and area codes and dialing became standardised.

In 1976 East Germany inaugurated the operation of a ground-based radio station at Fürstenwalde for the purpose of relaying and receiving communications from Soviet satellites, and serve as a participant in the international telecommunications organization established by the Soviet government, Intersputnik.

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