East Germany: 33 Revealing Vintage Photos From Behind The Iron Curtain

Photographic Treasure Trove: What East Germany Was Really Like

pictures of old east germany

In eastern Germany today, you still prepare yourself to see some serious skin should you summer along one of its waterways. Many towns and villages were severed from their markets and economic hinterlands, which caused areas close to the border to go into an economic and demographic decline. Welcome to the Dick Cheney Administration March 23, , Messmer found the remarkable photos in a box at the Stasi Archive in Berlin, where mile upon mile of yellowing paperwork - the files of the secret policemen which they managed to neither burn or shred in the East German state's dying hours - now reside.


Many western commentators have maintained that loyalty to the SED was a primary criterion for getting a good job, and that professionalism was secondary to political criteria in personnel recruitment and development. Watchtowers, walls and fences stood along the marshy shoreline to deter escape attempts and the water was patrolled by high-speed East German boats. Thanks a lot mate! The East German view: The member parties were almost completely subservient to the SED, and had to accept its " leading role " as a condition of their existence. There was no East German Kate Moss.

The seat of command of the Soviet forces in East Germany was referred to as Karlshorst. The term Westdeutschland West Germany , when used by West Germans was almost always a reference to the geographic region of Western Germany and not to the area within the boundaries of the Federal Republic of Germany. However, this use was not always consistent; for example, West Berliners frequently used the term Westdeutschland to denote the Federal Republic.

Explaining the internal impact of the GDR government from the perspective of German history in the long term, historian Gerhard A. It was constrained by the powerful example of the increasingly prosperous West, to which East Germans compared their state.

The changes made by the communists were most apparent in ending capitalism and transforming industry and agriculture, and in the thrust of the educational system and the media. On the other hand, there was relatively little change made in the historically independent domains of the sciences, the engineering professions, the Protestant churches, and in many bourgeois lifestyles. Social policy, says Ritter, became a critical legitimization tool in the last decades and mixed socialist and traditional elements about equally.

Initially this meant the construction of three zones of occupation, i. Later, a French zone was carved out of the American and British zones.

The two former parties were notorious rivals when they were active before the Nazis consolidated all power and criminalised their agitation. The unification of the two parties was symbolic [ citation needed ] of the new friendship of German socialists in defeating their common enemy; however, the communists, who held a majority, had virtually total control over policy.

As West Germany was reorganised and gained independence from its occupiers, the German Democratic Republic was established in East Germany in The creation of the two states solidified the division of Germany.

There have been several debates about whether a real chance for reunification had been missed in Socialist leader Otto Grotewohl — became prime minister until his death.

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.

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".

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 recognise 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". This assessment of the Basic Treaty was confirmed in a decision of the Federal Constitutional Court in ; [43]. From the beginning, the newly formed GDR tried to establish its own separate identity. The SED destroyed a number of symbolic relics of the former Prussian aristocracy: In , 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.

In August Hungary removed its border restrictions and unsealed its border, and more than 13, people left East Germany by crossing the border via Czechoslovakia into Hungary and then on to Austria and West Germany. Kurt Masur , the conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra , led local negotiations with the government and held town meetings in the concert hall.

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 abandoned power shortly afterward. Although there were some limited attempts to create a permanent democratic East Germany, this did not come to pass. 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 recreated. On 1 July a currency union preceded the political union: 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 GDR 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 East Germany to the Federal German Republic.

Because of the resulting deindustrialisation 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 socialist 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 , [57] and after that time, East Germany had very low birth rates, [58] 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. The new Bezirke , named after their district centres, were as follows: 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 —91 , 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 It was considered one of the most professional and best prepared military forces in the world.

The NVA consisted of the following branches:. 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. It was an all-volunteer force. 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 and neighbourhoods.

They received their training from the Volkspolizei and the Ministry of the Interior. Membership was voluntary, but SED members were required to join as part of their membership obligation. In the s, East German leaders acknowledged that former construction soldiers were at a disadvantage when they rejoined the civilian sphere.

The East German state promoted an anti-imperialist line that was reflected in all its media and all the schools. Popular reaction to these measures was mixed, and Western media penetrated the country both through cross-border television and radio broadcasts from West Germany and from the American propaganda network Radio Free Europe.

Dissidents, particularly professionals, sometimes fled to West Germany, which was relatively easy before the construction of the Berlin Wall in After receiving wider international diplomatic recognition in —73, the DDR began active cooperation with Third World socialist governments and national liberation movements.

While the USSR was in control of the overall strategy and Cuban armed forces were involved in the actual combat mostly in the People's Republic of Angola and socialist Ethiopia , the DDR provided experts for military hardware maintenance and personnel training, and oversaw creation of secret security agencies based on its own Stasi model.

The first military agreement was signed in with the People's Republic of the Congo. In friendship treaties were signed with Angola, Mozambique and Ethiopia. It was estimated that altogether, — DDR military and security experts were dispatched to Africa.

In addition, representatives from African and Arab countries and liberation movements underwent military training in the DDR. The East German economy began poorly because of the devastation caused by the Second World War; the loss of so many young soldiers, the disruption of business and transportation, and finally reparations owed to the USSR.

The Red Army dismantled and transported to Russia the infrastructure and industrial plants of the Soviet Zone of Occupation.

By the early s, the reparations were paid in agricultural and industrial products; and Lower Silesia , with its coal mines and Szczecin , an important natural port, were given to Poland by the decision of Stalin. In , collective state enterprises earned In , the average annual growth of the GDP was approximately five percent. This made East German economy the richest in all of the Soviet Bloc until after the fall of Communism in the country. Notable East German exports were photographic cameras , under the Praktica brand; automobiles under the Trabant , Wartburg , and the IFA brands; hunting rifles, sextants , typewriters and wristwatches.

Until the s, East Germans endured shortages of basic foodstuffs such as sugar and coffee. East Germans with friends or relatives in the West or with any access to a hard currency and the necessary Staatsbank foreign currency account could afford Western products and export-quality East German products via Intershop. Consumer goods also were available, by post, from the Danish Jauerfood , and Genex companies. The government used money and prices as political devices, providing highly subsidised prices for a wide range of basic goods and services, in what was known as "the second pay packet".

For the consumer, it led to the substitution of GDR money with time, barter, and hard currencies. Ironically, the socialist economy became steadily more dependent on financial infusions from hard-currency loans from West Germany.

East Germans, meanwhile, came to see their soft currency as worthless relative to the Deutsche Mark DM. Many western commentators have maintained that loyalty to the SED was a primary criterion for getting a good job, and that professionalism was secondary to political criteria in personnel recruitment and development. No worker could be sacked, unless for serious misconduct or incompetence; even in such cases, alternative work would be offered. With a very low birth rate and a high rate of exodus, East Germany was losing workers.

As the goal of socialism is the elimination of capitalist economics, the GDR strove to reduce wealth disparity between individuals through the elimination of private property, businesses and stores.

While enforcement of this ideal led to a more economically even society, it prompted many with economic ambition or those who did not agree with its enforcement to escape—typically those with higher education: This growing loss of skilled personnel was intended to be curtailed with the building of the wall.

They numbered more than , by Many, such as future politician Zeca Schall who emigrated from Angola in as a contract worker stayed in Germany after the Wende.

Religion became contested ground in the GDR, with the governing Communists promoting state atheism , although some people remained loyal to Christian communities.

In , the renowned philosophical theologian, Paul Tillich , claimed that the Protestant population in East Germany had the most admirable Church in Protestantism, because the Communists there had not been able to win a spiritual victory over them.

When it first came to power, the Communist party asserted the compatibility of Christianity and Marxism and sought Christian participation in the building of socialism. At first the promotion of atheism received little official attention. In the mids, as the Cold War heated up, atheism became a topic of major interest for the state, in both domestic and foreign contexts. University chairs and departments devoted to the study of scientific atheism were founded and much literature scholarly and popular on the subject was produced.

Official and scholarly attention to atheism renewed beginning in , though this time with more emphasis on scholarship and on the training of cadres than on propaganda. Throughout, the attention paid to atheism in East Germany was never intended to jeopardise the cooperation that was desired from those East Germans who were religious. The families were forced to line up and pose for the pictures, which were used as 'evidence'. The photographs were also used to train up border guards, so they knew what people might try to do to escape the confines of East Germany.

These pictures were found in the archives of East Germany's Stasi secret police, presumably the clothing of someone who had tried to flee the Communist regime. Messmer found the remarkable photos in a box at the Stasi Archive in Berlin, where mile upon mile of yellowing paperwork - the files of the secret policemen which they managed to neither burn or shred in the East German state's dying hours - now reside.

Together, they constitute a fascinating if grim epitaph to a nation which erected the Berlin Wall to hermetically seal in its citizens. One of the photos shows a man sitting in a homemade raft made out of polystyrene slabs, nylon rope, and wooden boards.

He was transporting it to the Baltic Sea near the East German resort of Boltenhagen on July 9, , when he was apprehended, tried and flung into prison.

A picture of a ladder, which some desperate person had used to try to escape to the West. The ingenuity of people trying to escape was remarkable: Other pictures, like these blood stained tops, look more like a picture which might be taken by police for use in a court case today. Another is of a primitive float constructed out of a car tyre inner tube, a fan motor and car battery. The craft was assembled by a man who worked in a factory which made Trabant cars. He intended also to sail from Boltenhagen to get to the west on June 26, But he was apprehended before he hit the shoreline and also ended up in jail.

All the pictures have now been brought together in a book by the photographer Arwed Messmer. One of the more poignant photos shows a young boy standing outside a car with its boot open, his sister forced to lie inside, just as she was found when their car was stopped at Checkpoint Bravo in Berlin as it headed west on September 12 It is believed the children were sent to a Stasi orphanage, their mother arrested.

Also caught in the cold glare of the Stasi photographic lens was an East German family and their West Berlin escape helpers, Oliver Mierendorf and Karlheinz Hetschold, who tried to smuggle them west in an Opel car on September 21, The ingenuity of the people smugglers knew no bounds.

One of the photos shows a young girl lying in the gearbox compartment at the front of a Peugeot on September 9, , as two U.

Tunnels, people caught in vans, others caught in car boots as well as models of the Stasi HQ speak from the pages of the book: The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline. The ones who didn't get away: Share this article Share. Share or comment on this article e-mail 1k.

Dogs viciously attack boar in Vietnam X-rated audio clip is accidentally played during news report Insanely high and dangerous base jump exit attempted by two men Prankster kicks random woman from behind causing injuries Adorable Husky howls 'I love you' with excited owner Texas police probe Austin bombers car after he blew himself up Austin police say serial bomber was a 'very troubled young man' Conservative MP Watling brandishes passport in Commons debate Snake charmer passes out when python strangles him during show.

Reverend, 72, is given a black eye and bitten on the arm Girl, 7, is left brain-dead after prank where she Now sober and married, Johnny Anton Yelchin's parents settle lawsuit with Fiat Chrysler Cate Blanchett claims she 'knew nothing about the As the BBC says it plans to rerun her riotously eccentric Michael Barrymore to return to ITV for the first time Roofer is saddled with years worth My generation is the healthiest, Comments Share what you think.

Bing Site Web Enter search term: Beyonce and Jay Z film motorbike scene in Jamaica Myleene Klass earned six times more cash than Kym Marsh last year Hooligans jump a fence and rush the field after a closely fought soccer match. Schoolchildren on a class outing having an ice cream break in front of a shop in Erfurt, A young couple getting close on the sidewalk as a "hooligan" looks on. A parade in East Berlin in marking the 10th anniversary of the proclamation of East Germany.

A group of youths gathers on their motorcycles near Hoyerswerda, A couple out dancing. Women planting potatoes in a field in Two men in East Berlin deliver coal to apartments in the city. Children playing with a soccer ball at the Berlin Wall in Erin Kelly is a freelance writer, artist and video editor that splits her time between the humid Midwest and the dusty corners of her mind.

You might also like.

Iamges: pictures of old east germany

pictures of old east germany

Border Troops of the German Democratic Republic. Not all of those killed on the border were attempting to escape.

pictures of old east germany

Jacoby, Jeff 8 November

pictures of old east germany

For older pupils it was possible to attend grammar schools with a focus on sports for example sailing, football and swimming. Chief among these pictures of old east germany testosterone deficiency symptoms Ministry of National Defence. Retrieved 10 May Various mostly unofficial memorials were set up on the western side by people seeking to commemorate victims of the border. Share this article Share. Brendan Fraser, 49, takes sons on tube ride during Barbados vacation