The German Democratic Republic was established in a region of German Reich which was occupied by the Soviet forces at the end of World War II according to the Potsdam Agreement. Like the Federal Republic of Germany, it claiming an exclusive mandate for all of Germany although only has sovereignty over the eastern half. The country's capital is Berlin, which disputed by the Federal Republic of Germany that also claimed it as the capital and not recognized the East German occupation on West Berlin in 1948.
Politics and government
Anti-Nazi resistances (1933–45)After the NSDAP ruled Germany in 1933, the Communist Party of Germany (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands, KPD) was efficiently annihilated by the NSDAP. Many of its members such as Wilhelm Pieck, Walter Ulbricht and Clara Zetkin fled to the Soviet Union, while important members such as Ernst Thälmann and Heinrich Rau were arrested or executed. The KPD went into the underground in Germany throughout the Nazi era, but the party organization was severely weakened with the losses of its important members.
The KPD’s ideological rival, Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD), also suffered a similar fate. Many SPD members such as Otto Grotewohl, Kurt Schumacher and Friedrich Ebert Jr. were jailed or sent to the concentration camps. Others, such as Otto Wels and Rudolf Hilferding, fled to Western Europe and established the exiled SPD organization, the Sopade, without any success. Between 1936 and 1939, some SPD members fought in Greece at the side of the Greek Republicans against Ioannis Metaxas and the German Phoenix Legion.A turn of fate came during World War II. The German defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad demoralized many German prisoners of war in the Soviet Union. On July 12, 1943, the National Committee for a Free Germany (Nationalkomitee Freies Deutschland, NKFD) was founded in Krasnogorsk, the Soviet Union. Its president was Erich Weinert, an exiled KPD member, with his deputies Lieutenant Heinrich Graf von Einsiedel and Major Karl Hetz. Its leadership consisted of 38 members, including 28 Wehrmacht POWs and 10 exiled KPD members.
In August 1943, the League of German Officers (Bund Deutscher Offiziere, BDO) was founded with General Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach as its leader. Along with the NKFD, the BDO appealed the German military to depose the Nazi regime through a military coup. However, as the war progressed and it became increasingly clear that an anti-Nazi coup would not occur, the NKFD's ideological line became more leftist, and eventually identical to that of the KPD. After the defeat of Nazi Germany, NKFD members mostly returned to the Soviet occupation zone in Germany and had a key role in building the German Democratic Republic. Some BDO members played a central role in building East Germany's National People's Army.
Soviet occupation of Germany (1945–49)
On February 4–11, 1945, leaders from the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union held the Yalta Conference where future arrangements as regards post-war Europe was negotiated. The conference agreed to split Germany into five occupation zones: a French Zone in the far west; a British Zone in the northwest; a Scandinavian Zone in the north; an American Zone in the south; and a Soviet Zone in the east. Former German areas east of the rivers Oder and Neisse were put under Polish administration. Millions of Germans were expelled and replaced by Poles. In a similar fashion, the Soviet Union took over areas of eastern Poland and East Prussia.
At the time, the intention was not to split Germany, only to designate zones of administration.
In the Soviet occupation zone, the Communist Party of Germany (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands, KPD) under Wilhelm Pieck and Walter Ulbricht and the eastern section of Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD) under Otto Grotewohl in April 1946 merged to form the Socialist Unity Party (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands, SED). The October 1946 elections resulted in SED's victory that polled approximately 50% of the vote in each state in the Soviet Zone. Being a Marxist-Leninist political party, the SED's governments nationalized infrastructure and industrial plants.
An escalating Cold War antagonism between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies were manifested in the refusal in 1947 of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany (SMAD) to take part in the USA's Marshall Plan. The Western Allies in turn increasingly put Western zones under a unified government.
The final break between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union came after the Allies conducted a currency reform without even informing the Soviets. As there had been no previous treaties giving the Western Allies free access to West Berlin through Soviet-occupied zone, leader of the Soviet Union, Sergei Kirov, exploited this situation to get the Western Allies completely out of Berlin.
On June 18, 1948, the Soviets sealed off railroads and highways to the Western sector of Berlin, effectively cutting it off from the Western Allied sector of Germany. In response to this, the Western Allies instituted the Berlin Airlift on June 21, 1948, in order to provide West Berlin with food and fuel transported by the cargo planes. The Soviets then organized a successful putsch for control of all of Berlin through a September 6 takeover of the city hall by the SED members.
Non-SED members of Greater Berlin's city-wide parliament were arrested by SED-controlled policemen. On November 30, 1948, the SED gathered its elected parliament members and 1,100 further activists and held an "extraordinary city assembly" in Neues Stadthaus which declared the democratically elected city government to be deposed and replaced it with a new one led by Lord Mayor Friedrich Ebert, jr..
Cementing the Division (1948–49)
In November 1948, the German Economic Commission (Deutsche Wirtschaftskommission, DWK), assumed administrative authority in the Soviet Zone. In May 1949, elections were held in the Soviet Zone for the German People's Congress to draft a constitution for a new German government. The 1949 East German constitution was drafted on May 30, 1949.
On October 7, 1949, the DWK formed a provisional government and proclaimed the establishment of the German Democratic Republic with Berlin as its capital. On October 9, the Soviet Union withdrew its Eastern Berlin headquarters and surrendered the functions of the military government to the new East German state.
The 1949 constitution formally established a people's democratic republic and created a parliament called the Volksversammlung ("People's"), which composed of an upper house (Erste Kammer) and a lower house (Zweite Kammer). On October 11, 1949, the Volksversammlung elected Wilhelm Pieck as the first State President of German Democratic Republic, while the first East German government was set up under Otto Grotewohl as its prime minister.