East Berlin

Last updated

East Berlin
Восточный Берлин
Berlin (Ost)
Flag of East Berlin (1956-1990).svg
Coat of arms of Berlin (1935).svg
Coat of arms
District of Berlin in German Democratic Republic (-water).svg
East Berlin is shown in red.
Governing Mayor  
Friedrich Ebert Jr. (SED)
Herbert Fechner (SED)
Erhard Krack (SED)
Ingrid Pankraz (PDS)
Christian Hartenhauer (PDS)
Tino Schwierzina (SDP)
Thomas Krüger (SDP)
Historical era Cold War
 Establishment of East Germany
7 October 1949
3 October 1990
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of Germany (1946-1949).svg Allied-occupied Germany
Germany Flag of Germany.svg
Berlin Flag of Berlin.svg

East Berlin was the de facto capital city of the German Democratic Republic from 1949 to 1990. Formally, it was the Soviet sector of Berlin, established in 1945. The American, British, and French sectors were known as West Berlin. From 13 August 1961 until 9 November 1989, East Berlin was separated from West Berlin by the Berlin Wall. The Western Allied powers did not recognize East Berlin as the GDR's capital, nor the GDR's authority to govern East Berlin. On 3 October 1990, the day Germany was officially reunified, East and West Berlin formally reunited as the city of Berlin.



With the London Protocol of 1944 signed on 12 September 1944, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union decided to divide Germany into three occupation zones and to establish a special area of Berlin, which was occupied by the three Allied Forces together. [1] In May 1945, the Soviet Union installed a city government for the whole city that was called "Magistrate of Greater Berlin", which existed until 1947. After the war, the Allied Forces initially administered the city together within the Allied Kommandatura, which served as the governing body of the city. However, in 1948 the Soviet representative left the Kommandatura and the common administration broke apart during the following months. In the Soviet sector, a separate city government was established, which continued to call itself the "Magistrate of Greater Berlin".

When the German Democratic Republic was established in 1949, it immediately claimed East Berlin as its capital—a claim that was recognized by all communist countries. Nevertheless, its representatives to the People's Chamber were not directly elected and did not have full voting rights until 1981. [2]

In June 1948, all railways and roads leading to West Berlin were blocked, and East Berliners were not allowed to emigrate. Nevertheless, more than 1,000 East Germans were escaping to West Berlin each day by 1960, caused by the strains on the East German economy from war reparations owed to the Soviet Union, massive destruction of industry, and lack of assistance from the Marshall Plan. In August 1961, the East German Government tried to stop the population exodus by enclosing West Berlin within the Berlin Wall. It was very dangerous for fleeing residents to cross because armed soldiers were trained to shoot illegal migrants. [3]

East Germany was a socialist republic. Eventually, Christian churches were allowed to operate without restraint after years of harassment by authorities. In the 1970s, the wages of East Berliners rose and working hours fell. [4]

The Soviet Union and the Communist bloc recognized East Berlin as the GDR's capital. However, Western Allies (the US, UK, and France) never formally acknowledged the authority of the East German government to govern East Berlin. Official Allied protocol recognized only the authority of the Soviet Union in East Berlin in accordance with the occupation status of Berlin as a whole. The United States Command Berlin, for example, published detailed instructions for U.S. military and civilian personnel wishing to visit East Berlin. [5] In fact, the three Western commandants regularly protested against the presence of the East German National People's Army (NVA) in East Berlin, particularly on the occasion of military parades. Nevertheless, the three Western Allies eventually established embassies in East Berlin in the 1970s, although they never recognized it as the capital of East Germany. Treaties instead used terms such as "seat of government." [6]

On 3 October 1990, East and West Germany and East and West Berlin were reunited, thus formally ending the existence of East Berlin. Citywide elections in December 1990 resulted in the first "all-Berlin" mayor being elected to take office in January 1991, with the separate offices of mayors in East and West Berlin expiring at the time, and Eberhard Diepgen (a former mayor of West Berlin) became the first elected mayor of a reunited Berlin. [7]

East Berlin today

Since reunification, the German government has spent vast amounts of money on reintegrating the two halves of the city and bringing services and infrastructure in the former East Berlin up to the standard established in West Berlin.

After reunification, the East German economy suffered significantly. Under the adopted policy of privatization of state-owned firms under the auspices of the Treuhandanstalt, many East German factories were shut down—which also led to mass unemployment—due to gaps in productivity with and investment compared to West German companies, as well as an inability to comply with West German pollution and safety standards in a way that was deemed cost-effective. Because of this, a massive amount of West German economic aid was poured into East Germany to revitalize it. This stimulus was part-funded through a 7.5% tax on income for individuals and companies (in addition to normal income tax or company tax) known as the Solidaritätszuschlaggesetz (SolZG) or "solidarity surcharge", which though only in effect for 1991–1992 (later reintroduced in 1995 at 7.5 and then dropped down to 5.5% in 1998 and continues to be levied to this day) led to a great deal of resentment toward the East Germans. [8] [9] [10]

Despite the large sums of economic aid poured into East Berlin, there still remain obvious differences between the former East and West Berlins. East Berlin has a distinct visual style; this is partly due to the greater survival of prewar façades and streetscapes, with some still showing signs of wartime damage. The unique look of Stalinist architecture that was used in East Berlin (along with the rest of the former GDR) also contrasts markedly with the urban development styles employed in the former West Berlin. Additionally, the former East Berlin (along with the rest of the former GDR) retains a small number of its GDR-era street and place names commemorating German socialist heroes, such as Karl-Marx-Allee, Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, and Karl-Liebknecht-Straße. Many such names, however, were deemed inappropriate (for various reasons) and, through decommunization, changed after a long process of review (so, for instance, Leninallee reverted to Landsberger Allee in 1991, and Dimitroffstraße reverted to Danziger Straße in 1995).

Another symbolic icon of the former East Berlin (and of East Germany as a whole) is the "Ampelmännchen" (tr. "little traffic light men"), a stylized version of a fedora-wearing man crossing the street, which is found on traffic lights at many pedestrian crosswalks throughout the former East. Following a civic debate about whether the Ampelmännchen should be abolished or disseminated more widely (due to concerns of consistency), several crosswalks in some parts of the former West Berlin also employ the Ampelmännchen.

Twenty-five years after the two cities were reunified, the people of East and West Berlin still had noticeable differences between them, which became more apparent among the older generations. The two groups also had sometimes-derogatory slang terms to refer to each other. A former East Berliner (or East German) was known as an "Ossi" (from the German word for east, Ost), and a former West Berliner (or West German) was known as a "Wessi" (from the German word for west, West). Both sides also engaged in stereotyping the other. A stereotypical Ossi had little ambition or poor work ethic and was chronically bitter, while a stereotypical Wessi was arrogant, selfish, impatient and pushy. [11]


Boroughs of East Berlin (as of 1987) EastBerlinBoroughs.png
Boroughs of East Berlin (as of 1987)

At the time of German reunification, East Berlin comprised the boroughs of


See also

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Alexanderplatz Square in Berlin, Germany

Alexanderplatz is a large public square and transport hub in the central Mitte district of Berlin. The square is named after the Russian Tsar Alexander I and is often referred to simply as Alex, which also denotes the larger neighbourhood stretching from Mollstraße in the north-east to Spandauer Straße and the Rotes Rathaus in the south-west.

Mitte Borough of Berlin in Germany

Mitte is the first and most central borough of Berlin. The borough consists of six sub-entities: Mitte proper, Gesundbrunnen, Hansaviertel, Moabit, Tiergarten and Wedding.

Schloßplatz (Berlin)

Schloßplatz is a square located on Museum Island (Museumsinsel) in Berlin, Germany. It measures about 225 m by 175 m, with its long side oriented on an axis approximately southwest/northeast. At its west corner is the Schlossbrücke, from which Unter den Linden leads west to the Brandenburg Gate. From the same corner, Karl-Liebknecht-Straße runs northeast alongside the square and on to Alexanderplatz. Until the early 20th century, only the square south of the palace was so named, the square north of it being the Lustgarten.

U2 (Berlin U-Bahn) Underground line in Berlin

U2 is a line of the Berlin U-Bahn. The U2 line starts at Pankow S-Bahn station, runs through the eastern city centre (Alexanderplatz) to Potsdamer Platz, the western city centre and finally to the Ruhleben terminal station.

U5 (Berlin U-Bahn)

U5 is a line on the Berlin U-Bahn. It runs from Hauptbahnhof in Mitte eastwards through Alexanderplatz, Friedrichshain, Lichtenberg and Friedrichsfelde, surfaces in Biesdorf-Süd to pass Kaulsdorf and Hellersdorf above ground and finally reaches city limits at Hönow.

Friedrichshain Quarter of Berlin in Germany

Friedrichshain is a quarter (Ortsteil) of the borough of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg in Berlin, Germany. From its creation in 1920 until 2001, it was a freestanding city borough. Formerly part of East Berlin, it is adjacent to Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg and Lichtenberg.

Karl-Marx-Allee Street in Berlin, Germany

Karl-Marx-Allee is a monumental socialist boulevard built by the GDR between 1952 and 1960 in Berlin Friedrichshain and Mitte. Today the boulevard is named after Karl Marx. It should not be confused with the Karl-Marx-Straße in the Neukölln district of Berlin.

Wilhelmstrasse Major thoroughfare in the Mitte and Kreuzberg districts of Berlin, Germany

Wilhelmstrasse is a major thoroughfare in the central Mitte and Kreuzberg districts of Berlin, Germany. Until 1945, it was recognised as the centre of the government, first of the Kingdom of Prussia, later of the unified German Reich, housing in particular the Reich Chancellery and the Foreign Office. The street's name was thus also frequently used as a metonym for overall German governmental administration: much as the term "Whitehall" is often used to signify the British governmental administration as a whole. In English, "the Wilhelmstrasse" usually referred to the German Foreign Office.

Berlin border crossings Post-WWII crossings in divided Berlin, Germany

The Berlin border crossings were border crossings created as a result of the post-World War II division of Germany. Prior to the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, travel between the Eastern and Western sectors of Berlin was completely uncontrolled, although restrictions were increasingly introduced by the Soviet and East German authorities at major crossings between the sectors. This free access, especially after the closure of the Inner German border, allowed the Eastern Bloc emigration and defection to occur. East German officials, humiliated by this mass defection, subsequently chose to erect the Berlin Wall in order to prevent residents from leaving East Germany.

Karl-Liebknecht-Straße Major street in the Berlin Mitte district

Karl-Liebknecht-Straße is a major street in the central Mitte district of the German capital Berlin. It is named after Karl Liebknecht (1871–1919), one of the founders of the Communist Party of Germany. The street connects the Unter den Linden boulevard with the Prenzlauer Allee arterial road leading to the northern city limits. Although part of the street dates back to medieval times, most of the buildings at its side were built in the 1960s, when East Berlin's centre was redesigned as the capital of East Germany.


Voßstraße ; German pronunciation: [ˈfɔsˌʃtʁaːsə] is a street in central Berlin, the capital of Germany. It runs east–west from Ebertstraße to Wilhelmstraße in the borough of Mitte, one street north of Leipziger Straße and very close to Potsdamer Platz. It is best known for being the location of Hitler's new Reich Chancellery complex, and the bunker where he spent his last days.

Leipziger Straße

Leipziger Straße is a major thoroughfare in the central Mitte district of Berlin, capital of Germany. It runs from Leipziger Platz, an octagonal square adjacent to Potsdamer Platz in the west, to Spittelmarkt in the east. Part of the Bundesstraße 1 highway, it is today one of the city's main east–west road links.

Marx-Engels Forum Park in Berlin, Germany

Marx-Engels-Forum is a public park in the central Mitte district of Berlin, the capital of Germany. It is named for Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, authors of The Communist Manifesto of 1848 and regarded as two of the most influential people in the socialist movement. The park was created by the authorities of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1986.

Kopenhagener Straße Street in Berlin-Prenzlauer-Berg, Germany

The Kopenhagener Straße is a street in Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg district, which runs parallel to the Ringbahn tracks between busy Schönhauser Allee in the east all the way to the Mauerpark in the west, where the Berlin Wall separated the Soviet from the French sector. The street was named on 30 April 1899 after the Danish capital Copenhagen.

Mitte (locality) Quarter of Berlin in Germany

Mitte is a central locality (Ortsteil) of Berlin in the eponymous district (Bezirk) of Mitte. Until 2001, it was itself an autonomous district.

Architecture of Berlin Overview of the architecture in Berlin

Berlin's history has left the city with an eclectic assortment of architecture. The city's appearance in the 21st century has been shaped by the key role the city played in Germany's 20th-century history. Each of the governments based in Berlin—the Kingdom of Prussia, the 1871 German Empire, the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany, East Germany and the reunified Federal Republic of Germany—initiated ambitious construction programs, with each adding its distinct flavour to the city's architecture.

<i>Statue of Joseph Stalin, Berlin</i>

The Berlin Stalin statue was a bronze portrayal of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. A Komsomol delegation had presented the sculpture to the East Berlin government on the occasion of the Third World Festival of Youth and Students in 1951. The monument was formally dedicated on 3 August 1951 after temporary placement at a location on a newly designed and impressive boulevard, Stalinallee, being constructed at the time in what was then the Berlin district of Friedrichshain. Stalin monuments were generally removed from public view by the leadership of the Soviet Union and other associated countries, including East Germany, during the period of De-Stalinization. In Berlin the statue and all street signs designating Stalinallee were hastily removed one night in a clandestine operation and the street was renamed Karl-Marx-Allee and Frankfurter Allee. The bronze sculpture was smashed and the pieces were recycled.

Edmund Collein

Edmund Collein was an East German architect and urban planner. He is also known for his photography while studying at the Bauhaus art school.

History of the Berlin U-Bahn Aspect of history

The Berlin U-Bahn originated in 1880 with Werner Siemens' idea to build an urban railway in Berlin. During the nine years after the German Empire was founded, the city's population grew by over one-third and traffic problems increased. In 1896, Siemens & Halske began to construct the first stretch of overhead railway. On 1 April 1897, the company began construction of an electric underground railway. The Berliner Verkehrs Aktiengesellschaft (BVG) was formed in 1928, and took over further construction and operation of the network. In 1938, the company was renamed Berlin Transport Company; the original acronym, however, remained. Since 1994, the BVG has been a public company.


  1. Knowles, Chris (29 January 2014). "Germany 1945-1949: a case study in post-conflict reconstruction". History & Policy. History & Policy. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  2. Berlin seit dem Kriegsende, Helmut Peitsch, Manchester University Press, 1989 page 18
  3. Conrad Stein, R. (1997). Berlin. Children's Press. p. 29.
  4. Grant, R.G (1999). The Berlin Wall. Steck-Vaughn Company.
  5. "Helpful Hints for US Visitors to East Berlin" (PDF). Headquarters, U.S. Command Berlin. 9 November 1981.{{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. Architecture, Politics, and Identity in Divided Berlin, Emily Pugh, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014, pages 159
  7. Berlin Mayoral Contest Has Many Uncertainties, The New York Times , 1 December 1990
  8. "BZSt - Tax withholding amount". www.bzst.de. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  9. "Company Tax in the EU- Germany". Your Europe - Business. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  10. Grant, R.G. (1999). The Berlin Wall. Steck-Vaughn Company.
  11. Conrad Stein, R. (1997). Berlin. Children's Press. p. 14.