First posted on June 12th 2006, last revised on June 22nd 2006






External Links

For links on general historical dictionaries, go to Historical Dictionary main page

Printed Reference : Historical Dictionaries, the GDR

Stefan Sommer, Das Grosse Lexikon des DDR-Alltags (The Large Lexicon of GDR Everyday Life), Berlin : Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf 2002 (in German) [G]
Simone Tippach-Schneider, Das Grosse Lexikon der DDR-Werbung (The Large Lexicon of GDR Advertisement), Berlin : Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf 2002 (in German) [G]
DDR Lexikon, from DDR Wissen, online, in German
DDR-Alltag in Schlagwörtern (GDR Everyday Life in Keywords), posted by MDR, in German
Kleines Lexikon der Amtlichen Erwerbstätigenstatistik in der DDR (Small Lexicon of the Official Employe's Statistics of the GDR) posted by Zentrum für Historische Sozialforschung, in German
Tom Kirk, Cssell's Dictionary of Modern German History, London : Cassell 2002 [G]


Abortion
... in German : Schwangerschaftsabbruch, Abtreibung. In 1950 the GDR legalized abortion under certain conditions; in 1972 (two years before the FRG) it lgalized abortion within the first three months of the pregnancy.

Basic Treaty
... in German : Grundlagenvertrag, a treaty signed by representatives of the FRG and GDR in 1972 (Ostpolitik). It contained the de facto recognition of each other, the establishment of premanent representations (in place of embassies), regulated cross border family visits and other matters.

Berlin Airlift
... in German : Berliner Luftbrücke. see under Berlin Blockade.

Berlin Blockade
... in German : Berlin-Blockade. After a currency reform had been introduced in the western zones of Germany and the western sectors of Berlin without his prior consultation, Soviet strongman Joseph Stalin on June 24th 1948 ordered the streets, railroads and canals connecting West Berlin with West Germany to be closed. He offered to suply the city of c. 2 million with food and coal; the mayor of West Berlin refused the offer. The western Allies, under U.S. leadership, organized the Berlin Airlift, supplying the city through the air over period of almost 11 months; on May 12th 1949 the blockade was lifted.

Berlin Wall
... in German : Berliner Mauer. While the Iron Curtain, separating the Soviet Occupation Zone / GDR from West Germany and West Berlin, was erected in 1946 to 1948, the border separating the western sectors of Berlin from East Berlin remained open until 1961. Until then, thousands of East Germans left the GDR via Berlin. In 1961 the USSR handed over the administration of East Berlin to the GDR, and within a short time a provisional wall was built, later replaced by the wall. Known as the Berlin Wall, GDR propaganda referred to it as the Anti-Imperialist Protection Wall; completely built on East Berlin territory, the only assault from western direction was conducted by Graffiti artists. During the wall's 28 year history, a number of refugees were shot while trying to surmount the wall; border guards had the order shoot to kill. The wall was a visible reminder of the East German's lack of freedom to travel. On the occasion of an open-air concert staged by the Eurythmics in West Berlin, close to the wall, East German music fans approached the wall to listen in. When driven off by border guards, they shouted "the wall has to go !" On November 9th 1989 it was opened; border controls seized, and within a few months, the wall had been torn down, with the exception of minor stretches serving as a historical monument.

Birth Rate
... in German : Geburtenrate. Mothers were expected to have a full-time job; living standard in the GDR was the highest in the Soviet Bloc, but lower than in the FRG; GDR citizens enjoyed a lot of leisure, as law limited the workday to 8 hours, the work week to 40 hours. The GDR had the lowest birth rate in the Soviet Bloc, one of the lowest in Europe, but underscored by that of the FRG. For precise figures see B.R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics : Europe 1750-1988, Stockton Press 1992, p.109.

Block Parties
... in German : Blockparteien. A term used for CDU, DBD, NDPD and LDPD, political parties which acted subordinate to the SED in the People's Chamber. As the parties did not actually compete against each other see under elections), the block parties lacked a profile of their own.

Brandenburg
... In 1945 the Soviet military administration created the Province Brandenburg (the former Prussian province of Brandenburg, minus the Neumark), renamed Land Brandenburg in 1947. Berlin had been carved out as a separate administrative unit in 1920. In 1949 constituent Land of the GDR. The Land Brandenburg was dissolved in 1952, into the Bezirke (districts) Cottbus, Frankfurt/Oder, Potsdam, recreated (with minor border modifications) in 1990.

Cadre
... in German : Kader. A term which in the GDR could describe a fellow worker / colleague at work, but also a party official or a sports official; in the latter sense they were regarded an elite, providing the collective with leadership in the socialist sense.

Capital
... in German : Hauptstadt. The GDR proclaimed (East) Berlin to be her capital. Until 1961, even under Soviet perspective, East Berlin was not even part of East Germany. Because of this situation, the GDR, one of the most successful sports nations, never staged an international sports event; western nations would not have recognized East Berlin as a venue.

CDU
... in full : Christlich-Demokratische Union; political party founded in East Berlin on June 26th 1945 (prior to the party with the same name in West Germany). During GDR times referred to as one of the Block Parties. Subordinate to the SED; only on one occasion did CDU members of the People's Chamber vote against an SED proposed law - in the case of the abortion legislation of 1972. During the transition in 1989/1990 the CDU transformed into a counterpart of the FRG CDU and, in the free elections held in March 1990, became the strongest political party. With unification, the CDUs of FRG and GDR merged.

Central Committee
... in full : Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, in German : Zentralkomittee der Sozialistischen Einheitspartei Deutschlands (SED). Headed by the Secretary General of the Central Committee (Generalsekretär). Modelled after the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR. The Secretary General was the leading statesman of the GDR (1949-1971 Walter Ulbricht; from 1953 to 1968 referred to as First Secretary); from 1971 to 1989 Erich Honecker, in 1989 briefly Egon Krenz). The Central Committee since 1968 had 165 members and 57 candidates; it had 20 departments. When Erich Honecker resigned on November 9th 1989, the Central Committee elected his successor and decided to grant freedom to travel / open the Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain.

Collectivization
... in German : Kollektivisierung. Due to the fact that a good number of GDR farmers had been allotted small plots of land rather recently (see Land Reform) and many of the recipients had little experience in farming, the state call upon them to voluntarily join collectives, called LPG (Landwirtschaftliche Produktionsgenossenschaft; Agricultural Production Collectives, from 1952) had some resonance. Those who did not volunteer were coerced to do so.

COMECON
... in full : Council of Mutual Economic Aid; in German : RGW, Rat für Gegenseitige Wirtschaftshilfe. Established in 1949 to counter OECD; the GDR joined in 1950. Among her functions was the coordination of the planned economies of member states; the GDR was assigned to produce cars, Hungary busses instead. The GDR and Poland were to build ships for the Soviet navy. The USSR was to supply her East European satellites with gas and oil (Druzhba line), at fixed prices (below market value). Dissolved in 1991.

Concentration Camps
... in German : Konzentrationslager. On territory of the Soviet Occupation Zone three major camps were located : Buchenwald, Oranienburg, Sachsenhausen. Established and run by the SS until 1945, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen were taken over by the Soviets in 1945, now housing Nazis and politically unwanted elements labelled Nazis by the USSR. They were closed down by the GDR, upon independence (1950). Sachsenhausen in 1945-1960 had housed c. 60,000 inmates, of whom c.12,000 had died; the figures for Buchenwald were c.28,000 / c. 7,000. The deaths are attributed to malnutrition and disease; neither camp had industrial killing facilities as Auschwitz had. The term used for the camps under Soviet administration was Speziallager / Special Camp; responsible for the administration was the NKVD.

Council of State
... in German : Staatsrat. Following the death of Wilhelm Pieck, the first and only president of the GDR, a collective presidency in form of the Council of State was created (1960), following the Soviet model. The President of the Council of State (until 1971 Walter Ulbricht, 1971-1976 Willy Stoph, 1976-1989 Erich Honecker) was the highest ranking politician in the GDR; however the most powerful politician was the secretary general of the Central Committee of the SED. Abolished by decision of the People's Chamber on April 5th 1990.

Currency
... in German : Währung. Until 1948 the Allied Powers, although joint administration of occupied Germany did not work, held on to the fiction of Germany as one single political and economic entity; the prewar Reichsmark continued to be valid. Due to the excessive amount of paper money printed by the Reichsbank during the Nazi years, to the large-scale destruction caused by the war and to the dysfunctionality of the economy, Germany East and West experienced hyperinflation and a Black Market economy. In June 1948 the west introduced a currency reform; Soviet authorities introduced a currency reform in their zone/sector almost immediately, establishing the Mark (Ostmark). During the 1950es, production normalized; yet the GDR pursued the policy of printing more money than goods available. The foreign exchange rate was fixed by the state. Food Rationing was abolished in 1958. With western relatives visiting regularly from 1972 onward, the West German DM became inofficial currency in the GDR. Already in 1962 the GDR opened Intershops, selling goods priced in West German DM. On July 1st 1990, thus prior to Unification, the DM was introduced as regular currency in the GDR.

DBD
... in full : Demokratische Bauernpartei Deutschlands (Democratic Farmers' Party of Germany), established 1948, one of the Block Parties, subordinate to the SED. Did poorly in the elections of March 1990; then merged with the CDU.

Demontage
... a French word, used as a loanword in German. When the Soviet Military Administration in Germany was established in June 1945, large stretches of Soviet territory still suffered from the destruction caused during the war. Stalin wanted to rebuild the Soviet economy by dismantling industrial facilities in occupied Germany (Demontage) and reassembling them in the USSR.

Denazification
... in German : Denazifizierung. At Potsdam the Allies agreed on purging German society from Nazis who had actively participated in the establishment of party dictatorship, in the violation of human rights in Germany or outside of it. In 1945 all Allies were serious in this matter; in 1946 the western Allies began to show a more relaxed attitude, while the Soviet Military Administration continued to pursue a hardline policy; Nazis and some labelled as Nazis were interned in concentration camps, and many of the interned died there. Novelist Heinrich Mann, in exile in the U.S., declared his intention to move to the GDR, as he perceived this to be the better German state, where more serious effort had been undertaken to Denazify (he died before he could return).

Dependent Society
... in German : Anspruchsgesellschaft. The GDR provided her citizens with guaranteed jobs, cheap housing, subsidized goods (or at least goods sold at cost). GDR citizens had money to spend, but the items they wanted to buy were often unavailable, as the system was incapable or unwilling to produce the amount the market required. GDR citizens came to regard the benefits the system provided (job security, education, health and child care, leisure time and vacation) as their birth right, but were increasingly critical of what was denied to them (freedom of travel; the inability of the shops to provide what they wanted). On the eve of the fall of communism, GDR citizens wanted to travel, to spend, and were less concerned about having to earn a living first; they were accustomed to have the state provide for them.

Dissent
... in German : Regimekritik (criticism of the regime). In the 1950es there were critics of the political course within the SED (Herrnstadt 1953); intellectuals with a worldwide reputation such as Bertolt Brecht could risk criticizing official policy while remaining in the country; many chose to move into the FRG instead. Following the construction of the Berlin Wall, this was less of an option; still, a number of intellectuals such as Robert Havemann and Wolf Biermann were outspoken critics of policy and conditions in the GDR. While touring the FRG, Biermann was informed that he 'had been deprived of his GDR citizenship'. The policy of GDR authorities was to isolate prominent dissenters within GDR society, and occasionally, to deprive them of their citizenship while abroad. Dissenters were not allowed to organize; when the GDR found herself in a crisis in 1989, political groups had to organize, with environmentalist groups, the churches providing a basis, novelists and church leaders being among the more active persons.

Districts
... in German : Bezirke. In 1952, the GDR implemented an administrative reform; the 5 Länder were dissolved, replaced by 14 Bezirke (districts) - Schwerin, Rostock. Neubrandenburg, Cottbus, Frankfurt/Oder, Potsdam, Leipzig, Dresden, Chemnitz / Karl-Marx-Stadt, Halle, Magdeburg, Erfurt, Gera, Suhl. In 1990 the 5 Länder were recreated. While the GDR constitution from 1949 to 1952 and again in 1990 was federal (at least in theory), from 1952 to 1990 is was centralist.

East Berlin
... in German : Ostberlin. At the end of World War II, Berlin was occupied by Soviet forces. In accordance to agreement, the Soviets handed over control over the western parts of Berlin to the U.S., U.K. and France, in return for the U.S. and U.K. forces to withdraw from territory allocated to the Soviet Occupation Zone. Berlin, according to the Four Power Agreement, was to be administrated jointly. This did not work out; both sides held up the fiction of an undivided, jointly administrated Berlin, while from 1949 onward the FRG treated the western sectors of Berlin as her territory, the GDR East Berlin not only as her territory, but even as her capital. Both sides, in official terminology, would refer to the share they held as 'Berlin'. the terms West / East Berlin were colloquial language. Books printed in Berlin simply stated Berlin; scholars have to determine, when quoting them, if it as East or West. The historic center of Berlin, in its entirety, was located in the Soviet sector / East Berlin; the western sectors comprised of the western suburbs. Berlin was reunified as one city in 1990.

East Germany
... in German : Ostdeutschland. At the end of World War II, Germany (in her prewar borders, of 1937) was divided in three parts - West Germany, i.e. the zones and sectors occupied by the U.S., the U.K. and France; the Soviet Occupation Zone and Sector, and the territories to the east of Oder and Neisse rivers, the ethnic German population of which had either fled the advancing Soviet forces, or was expelled by Soviets or Poles, who annexed the land. In international terminology, East Germany described the Soviet Zone / GDR. The GDR, upon integration in the Soviet Bloc, signed a treaty with Poland recognizing the Oder-Neisse-Line, in return for Poland waiving the claim for compensations. Thus, the GDR was not opposed to the term East Germany.
The FRG, until 1990, claimed to be the only legitimate successor of the German Empire in its borders of 1937; in West German terminology, until into the 1960es, the term East Germany was used for the territories east of the Oder-Neisse-Line, in FRG maps shown as "currently under Polish/Soviet administration". About 10 million refugees originating from these regions lived in the FRG; the territory held by the GDR was referred to as Ostzone (Eastern Zone) or Mitteldeutschland (Central Germany).
In the late 1960es/1970es, the term Ostdeutschland (East Germany) came to be used to describe the GDR in the FRG as well; only a minority would insist on Mitteldeutschland / Central Germany instead. Just prior to unification in 1990, the FRG recognized, the GDR reiterated her recognition of the Oder-Neisse-Line as Germany's eastern border.

Elections
... in German : Wahlen. The political parties (SED, CDU, LDPD, DBD, NDPD) did not compete against each other in elections held betweem 1949 and 1989; certain numbers of seats were assigned to the individual parties; voters were presented with one list of candidates and were given the choice to approve or disprove of it. Published election results usually were in the high 90es; at least the approving figures in local elections held in 1989 had been tampered with. In March 1990, free elections were held; the SED lost dramatically, the CDU and LDPD, supported by FRG counterparts, emerged as the winners.

Environmental Movement
... in German : Umweltbewegung. GDR mining enterprises poured unwanted items into rivers (some of which, Werra and Elbe, crossed into the FRG), the Werra cntained a lot of salt, the Elbe equally uninhabitable to most fish. GDR power stations burnt lignite, with a high sulphur content, producing Sulphurmonoxide and Sulphurdioxide; the GDR did not establish filter stations attached to the power stations, as customary in the FRG. The result was frequent severe smog, especially in the southern regions of the republic (lignite country) where asthma also was wide spread. At the turn from the 1970es to the 1980es, grassroots environmental movements emerged. The state did not suppress these environmentalist organizations, but proceeded to closely observe them, regarding them with suspicion and often creating difficulties for them. Little was done to address the cause - environmental pollution.

Exodus
... in German : Exodus. Until the construction of the Berlin Wall, the Iron Curtain had a major flaw - the open spot in central Berlin, through which, between 1949 and 1961 an estimated 3.4 million East Germans escaped - by comparison, the total population figure of the GDR as around 17 million. Following the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, the number of defections decreased considerably. The Basic Treaty of 1972 and follow-up agreements foresaw legal emigration, numbers being far below those of pre-1961. The summer of 1989 saw the exodus of thousands of GDR citizens vacationing in Hungary, of further thousands climbing the fence of the FRG embassy in Prague; by November 1989 Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain were opened, and for the following couple of months, c.50,000 East Germans moved west every month, until statistics were no longer kept. See also under Refugees

Factory Militias
... in German : Kampfgruppen der Arbeiterklasse. Factory militias had played an important role in the Russian Revolution of 1917 and became an integral element of Soviet-style socialist societies. In the GDR they were established following the June Uprising of 1953, with the task of containing/combatting 'counterrevolutionary elements'. When Honecker ordered the Chinese solution for November 9th 1989, Factory Militias were part of the forces which were to clamp down on the demonstrators in Leipzig (see Monday Demonstrations). Members enjoyed financial benefits.

FDGB
... in full : Freier Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund (Free German Federation of Labour Unions). Established in 1948. As according to official propaganda, in the GDR factories, farmlands, machinery were owned by workers and peasants, the FDGB did not function as representative of the workers vis-a-vis the employers / the state, but rather as a tool to control the workers. When, in June 1953, mass demonstrations against sudden rises in prices and production quota broke out, the protest was organized outside of the framework of the FDGB. The FDGB dissolved itself in May 1990.

FDJ
... in full : Freie Deutsche Jugend (Free German Youth). Scout-like socialist youth organization founded by German exiles in France 1936, Czechoslovakia 1938 and Britain 1939. Established in the Soviet Occupation Zone in 1946; members were identified by their blue shirts. Membership was voluntary; however non-members faced discrimination in the GDR. The purpose of the FDJ was to raise a generation in Marxist-Leninist spirit. In 1989/1990, in consequence of the fall of communism and German unification, the organization became insignificant..

Five Year Plan
... in German : Fünfjahresplan or Fünfjahrplan. Following the Soviet model, the GDR was a centralized state-planned economy; a state planning commission was established in 1950. The years 1949-1950 were covered by a provisional Two Years Plan; Five Year Plans covered the years 1951-1955, 1956-1960, 1961-1965, 1966-1970 etc. Early plans were realized for the most part; beginning with the Oil Crisis of 1973, the world market greatly affected the GDR economy and the plans expressed wishful thinking rather than realistic goals.

Fixed Exchange Rate
... The GDR was a centrally planned economy; the exchange rate was set as 1 (west German) DM = 1 (GDR) Mark. West German visitors of the GDR, at the border crossing point, were compelled to exchange a minimum amount at that rate (25 Marks). On the streets of the GDR, West Germans (recognized by clothing, accent or hairstyle) could be approached and offered an unofficial exchange rate, usually at about 1:3 or 1:4 instead of 1:1. If the person offering this rate was an undercover agent, acceptance could mean jail. On July 1st 1990 the GDR Mark officially was replaced by the DM, at a rate of 2 (GDR) Marks = 1 DM.

Food Rationing
... in German : Lebensmittelrationierung. In the GDR abolished in 1958.

Four Powers Agreement
... in German : Viermächteabkommen. Signd by the U.S., USSR, th U.K. and France; concluded in 1971 to regulate the administration of Berlin.

GDR
... in full : German Democratic Republic, in German : Deutsche Demokratische Republic / DDR. Established on October 7th 1949; abolished on October 3rd 1990 (unification).

Guest Workers
... in German : Gastarbeiter; official GDR term : Vertragsarbeitnehmer (contract workers). Prior to the construction of the Berlin Wall, the GDR lost c.3.4 million inhabitants due to emigration, many of whom were skilled labour, difficult to replace. In order to replete their labour force, the GDR in the 1960es signed contracts with other socialist countries (Vietnam, Cuba, later Angola, Moçambique etc.) based on which workers from these countries moved to the GDR in order to work there on a temporary basis. By 1989 the number of these guest workers was just under 90,000, two thirds of them Vietnamese.

Hallstein Doctrine
... in German : Hallstein-Doktrin. Formulated by Walter Hallstein, secretary of state in the foreign ministry of the FRG in 1955. It postulated that the FRG would cut diplomatic ties with any country which would grant diplomatic recognition to the GDR . The FRG implemented the doctrine from 1955 to 1969 (the FRG claimed to be the only legitimate successor state of Germany in the borders of 1937). As the FRG went through her 'economic miracle' and rose to become the world's third largest economy, the diplomtic pressure was not without effect. In 1969 the doctrine was replaced by the Ostpolitik.

Hero of Labour
... in German : Held der Arbeit; title/medal created in the GDR, following the Soviet model; normally only one awardee per year; often no such award was given; first awarded in 1950, last awarded in 1986. The honour was intended to promote 'socialist spirit' at the workplace. Adolf Hennecke, a miner who in 1948 is claimed to have produced 387 % of the coal he was expected to produce (a feat highy advertised by SBZ propaganda), may be regarded as a predecessor. However, usually awardees were high-ranking GDR politicians.

Intershop
... In 1962 the GDR opened Intershops, initially for western visitors only, selling goods priced in West German DM; later they were made accessible to GDR citizens holding DM.

Iron Curtain
... in German : Eiserner Vorhang. Term phrased by Joseph Goebbels in February 1945, who envisioned the development as it unfolded a year later. Popularized by Winston Churchill in his Fulham speech of March 1946. Construction, on East German soil, was begun in 1946. The Iron curtain consisted of a high, patially electrified barbed wire fence, a strip of land well-lit at night, with mines, officers on watchtowers every couple of hundred meters ordered shoot to kill, German shepherd dogs trained to kill let loose, followed by a wall or another fence. An athletic refugee who might have overcome these obstacles was still not safe, for beyond the Iron Curtain was still GDR territory; he could run into patrols or Selbstschussanlagen, mechanisms by which, when stepping on/against a wire, he would trigger a gun and shoot himself. Only completed with the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Dismantled in 1989/1990. The Iron Curtain was expensive to maintain, as entire power stations were built to power the lighting (on a clear night, the curtain could be seen from the moon) and a considerable force of border guards was tied up with an unproductive activity.

June Uprising of 1953
... in German : 17. Juni. The GDR State Planning Commission, in order to balance the books, in June announced a raise in the price of consumer goods as well as in production targets workers had to meet in order to get full payment. The measures, suddenly introduced, caused spontaneous demonstrations by workers; within days the demonstrations had swollen, and turned political, calling for free elections. At that moment, Soviet troops interfered. Evaluating the event as an almost-revolution, the GDR implemented a number of fundamental changes - the introduction of Factory Militias to 'combat Counterrevolution', a cleansing of the party, and other organizations, of 'Counterrevolutionary elements'. The State Planning Commission avoided repeating the mistake of 1953; most goods produced in the GDR for the domestic market were sold at or even below cost, but in insufficient numbers.

Land Reform
... in German : Bodenreform. In the Soviet Occupation Zone, lands owned by nobles, by war criminals and any land estates over 100 ha was confiscated without compensation (1945). The larger part of the land was leased in small plots to former farmhands, refugees and other recipients. The measure was intended to raise the popularity of the Communist Party, ahead of elections, and had, to that end, some success. In the 1950es, the farmers were called upon to voluntarily join collectives (see collectivization).

Länder
... a term corresponding to 'states' in the U.S. The Soviet military administration, in 1945-1946, established, in the Soviet Zone of Occupation, a German civil administration on regional level - the Länder (and the Western Allies proceeded in a similar way in their ones of occupation). In the SBZ, the Länder were Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg, Sachsen-Anhalt, Sachsen and Thüringen. They were new political entities, as Prussia was intentionally broken up (1947), and often a number of smaller entities were merged, thus the hyphenated names. In 1949 the GDR was founded as a federal state; in reality the country was centrally administrated. In 1952 the 5 Länder were abolished, replaced by 14 smaller districts.
The FRG, in 1949, refused to recognize the GDR and foresaw an option for the Länder of, what in FRG terminology of the time was called the SBZ, to apply for annexation into the FRG, an application for which there was no mechanism which might block it. When the procedure of unification was discussed in 1990, the most uncomplicated way seemed to be the reestablishment of the Länder and their individual application for annexation. This was done, with slight border modifications (as compared to 1953).

LDPD
... in full : Liberal-Demokratische Partei Deutschlands, established in 1945. One of the Block Parties, subordinate to the SED in GDR times. During the transition in 1989-1990 it approached the position and received the support of the FRG's FDP, with which it merged after unification.

Leisure
... the corresponding term in German, Freizeit, literally translates to 'free time'. The GDR held the 8 hour workday and the 40 hour workweek as norm; employees had regular vacation. The country developed into a leisure society; GDR citizens had time and money (less in comparison with citizens in the west, and there were restrictions posed by the market). So activities such as sports, gardening (many held an allotment called Kleingarten), breeding rabbits, pigeons, tropical fish, collecting stamps, vacationing (especially camping) were highly popular; many clubs with the puropse of dealing with one or more of these activities were organized. The GDR encouraged these activities.

Lignite
... in German : Braunkohle. Not as good a supplier of heat, when burnt, as coal; usually containing a high degree of sulphur and thus harmful to the environment. Produced in the GDR in open-cast mining. Production figures increased sharply following the Oil Crisis of 1973; the GDR became the world's largest producer and consumer of lignite. In consequence, large stretches of land were turned into moonscapes; the area surrounding power stations (run without filter stations - regarded too expensive) were often subjected to Smog. Occasionally, snow came down in brown colour. The forests in the Elbsandstein Mountains, separating the GDR from Czechoslovakia, were dead, suffocated by the exhausts. Upon unification, at the request of the local population, these power stations were closed down.

Lineofdemarcation
... in German : Demarkationslinie. The border line separating the various occupation zones and sectors the Allies had agreed upon. The Iron Curtain was not contructed on the line, but on Soviet/GDR territory. The term mostly was applied to the (until 1961 hardly apparent) border between West and East Berlin, before construction of the Berlin Wall.

Mail Order Catalogues
... in German : Versandhauskataloge. Mail order businesses in the GDR : HO (1954, reorganized as Centrum in 1964), Konsum (1954). They published catalogues offering a wide range of consumer goods. In the 1970es, following the Oil Crisis, the companies experienced increasing difficulty in supplying the market with many goods, and the printing/sending of mail order catalogues was terminated.

Mark
... see under Currency.

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
... Land created by the Soviet military administration in 1945 by merging the former Länder of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz with what Hither Pomerania (Vorpommern), the remnant of Pomerania after most of the province had been occupied and annexed by Poland. The capital was Schwerin; the inhabitants of Pomerania were not that happy about the measure, as they felt more closely related to Brandenburg than to Mecklenburg. In 1949 constituent Land of the GDR. The land was dissolved in 1952, partitioned into the Bezirke (Districts) Neubrandenburg, Schwerin and Rostock, with small stretches of land becoming part of the Bezirke (Districts) Potsdam respectively Frankfurt/Oder. Recreated in 1990, with minor border adjustments as compared to 1952.

Monday Demonstrationhs
... in German : Montagsdemonstrationen. Demonstrations instituted as a regular event by Lutheran Minister Christian Führer, starting from Leipzig's Nicolai church. During the summer of 1989, numbers of participants swelled and reached significant levels; on November 9th 70,000 marched through the city, shouting 'Wir sind das Volk' (we are the people). A clampdown by the armed forces and factory militias, ordered for that day by head of state Erich Honecker, was refused by military command, citing the numbers of demonstants being too big. The events of Leipzig on November 9th 1989 caused Erich Honecker to resign; the very same night, the Berlin Wall was opened.

National People's Army
... in German : Nationale Volksarmee, NVA. In 1949, when FRG and GDR were released into independence, the powers agreed on wanting to see neither of the German states having an army. During the Korean War, the U.S. changed her attitude, urging the FRG to establish an army; it did so in 1955. The GDR responded by creating the NVA (1956) and joining the Warsaw Pact (1955). Mandatory military service was introduced in 1962. Strength c. 170,000 men. In 1990, following German Unification, integrated into the FRG Bundeswehr.

NDPD
... in full : National-Demokratische Partei Deutschlands. Established in 1948; during GDR times one of the Block Parties subordinate to the SED. Did miserably in the elections of March 1990; upon unification joined the FDP.

Neues Deutschland
... translates to 'New Germany'. Founded as the official newspaper of the SED in 1946; it survived the fall of communism in 1989, but declined from 1,000,000 copies daily to c. 50,000 in 2005. Her main readership is found in the territory of the former GDR.

New Economic System
... abbreviated NES. Following the theories of Soviet economist Evsei Liberman, the NES was adopted by the GDR in July 1963. It emphasized the inclusion of scientists in the planning body and the application of scientific methods in the formulation of five year plans. It was oriented on profit, the prediction of market developments, and by providing the individual enterprises with a wider room to make decisions, decentralized the economy somewhat. In 1967-1968 the NES was phased out, central control of the economy strengthened again. See Fulbrook 1992 pp.202-205

Oder-Neisse Line
... in German : Oder-Neisse Linie or Oder-Neisse Grenze (border). In 1939, Germany and the USSR had agreed to partition Poland; the USSR proceded to occupy and annex the eastern provinces of Poland (in Soviet terminology : Western Belarus and Western Ukraine). During the war, by circumstance, the USSR, the U.S. and Britain became allies. The U.K. had entered the war for the sake of Poland. Thus, Poland had to be compensated for her eastern provinces, which the USSR was unwilling to return. Stalin planned to do so by establishing the Oder-Neisse Line as Germany's eastern and Poland's western border; at the Potsdam Conference the western allies agreed to this solution. The German population living east of the line was forcibly expelled (c. 10 million). Shortly after the Potsdam Conference, Soviet authorities encouraged the Poles to occupy Stettin and Swinemünde, on the west bank of the Oder, and to expel her remaining German population. In 1949/1950 the GDR formally recognized the Oder-Neisse Line (and the new border west of Stettin) as her border to Poland. The FRG, established in 1949, however, claimed to be the sole legitimate successor state of the German Empire in her borders of 1937; this meant non-recognition of the Oder-Neisse Line. Only in 1990, immediately prior to German unification, did the FRG recognize, the GDR confirm her recognition of the factual German-Polish border.

Oil Crisis
... in German : Ölkrise. The GDR was the most industrialized economy within COMECON, with a chemical- pharmaceutical industry (Leuna, former IG Farben) and thus heavily dependent on imported oil - and without oilfields of her own. The USSR delivered oil at favourable prices - but in rather limited quantity. When the oil price dramatically increased in 1973, the GDR had to adopt drastic measures (which caused havoc with her Five Year Plans); she now attempted to acquire a maximum of foreign, hard currency by selling off whatever possible, and tried to make maximum use of her lignite reserves. The GDR population had to experience worsened shortage in the supply of consumer goods. Oil prices were reduced to normal in 1981, due to the Gulf War.

Olympic Team
... in German : Olympische Mannschaft. In 1948, German athletes were not invited to participate in the Olympic Games; from 1952 to 1964 the FRG and GDR sent one compined team representing Germany. From 1968 to 1988 the GDR and the FRG sent separate teams, the GDR outdoing her FRG rivals disproportionally. If anything, the success of GDR athletes ('state amateurs') filled the citizens of the GDR with pride in their state.

Ostpolitik
... literally : Policy toward the East, Eastern Policy, shaped by the FRG administration lead by Willy Brandt 1969-1974. The FRG normalized relations with the socialist governments of Eastern and Eastern Central Europe; the FRG guaranteed credits in hard currency (Hermes credits) in return for political concessions, among which regulations for West Germans visiting their East European relatives, Family reunions etc. Regarding the GDR, the most important part was the Basic Treaty of 1972. The policy was continued by the FRG administrations of Helmut Schmidt (1974-1982) and Helmut Kohl (1982-1989). Willy Brandt in 1971 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Palast der Republik
... Palace of the Republic, major venue for indoor events of political and cultural nature in East Berlin; constructed in 1973-1976, in 1994 cleansing of asbestos was begun; demolition was decided upon in 2003, scheduled for 2006. The building, when constructed, was intended to represent the GDR; the Berlinners called it 'Erichs Lampenladen' (Erich Honecker's lamp store). It had been built on the site of the Hohenzollern Stadtschloss, the war-damaged remnants of which were torn down in 1950.

People's Chamber
... in German : Volkskammer. Name of the parliament of the GDR. Established in 1949; a rubber stamp parliament; the only disputed decision in her history was the abortion legislation of 1972. In elections, voters only had the choice to approve or disprove of the candidate of the SED list. Dissolved in 1990, on the occasion of German Unification.

Politburo
... in German : Politbüro; full title : Politbüro des Zentralkomittees der SED. Consisting of 15 to 25 members and about 10 candidates, the actual decision-making body in the GDR; the task of the cabinet was to implement the decisions of the Politburo.

Propaganda
... in German : Propaganda. The SED had, within the GDR, control over the media (newspapers, radio, television), over education an the import of books, newspapers. Policies / institutions of the GDR were often described by euphemisms - the Berlin Wall as "Anti-Imperialist Protection Wall", West Germans described as Fascists and lackeys to U.S. imperialists, refugees as "Republicflüchtline", refugees fleeing the republic, with he undertone of traitors.
The GDR populace developed a degree of immunity to propaganda language; popularly the Berlin Wall was called the Big Wooden Fence, the Palace of the Republic Erich's Lamp Store etc. From the 1970es onward, the vast majority of GDR citizens could see West German tv programs; before, they could listen to RIAS radio programmes broadcast from West Berlin; the SED therefore never really had a monopoly over politicaql information.

Refugees
... in German : Flüchtlinge. Soviet diplomatic concerns, the will to keep up the fiction of an undivided Berlin under joint Allied control and the hope to use it as a bargain in negotiations leading to a neutralized Germany, prevented the construction of the Berlin Wall prior to 1961. Thus, Berlin was a hole in the Iron Curtain, through which an estimated 3.4 million East Germans escaped into the west 1949-1961 ( Exodus). Many fled because of political reasons; from the mid-1950es many were attracted by professional opportunities in the booming FRG. The GDR, experiencing a constant labour shortage due to the continuing exodus, especially in certain, highly qualified professions, in 1957 made Republikflucht (Fleeing the Republic) a crime. In 1961 the Berlin Wall was constructed; escaping became much more risky, the number of refugees declined drastically. Following the Basic Treaty of 1972, visits of West Germans to the GDR became much more frequent; some made it their business to aid GDR citizens in their attempt to escape (Fluchthelfer); these, often FRG citizens, equally were treated by the GDR as criminals. An estimated 75,000 GDR citizens was sentenced for attempting to flee.
The GDR also provided shelter for a number of political refugees fleeing the situation in their country; a number of West Germans chose to move into the GDR; following the coup in 1973, a number of Chileans chose the GDR as their exile. One of them went on to marry the daughter of Erich Honecker.

Round Table
... in German : Runder Tisch. In the early phase of transition, between opening of the Berlin Wall (Nov. 9th 1989) and the election held on March 18th 1990, the SED invited political opposition groups to join her in a round table conference, in order to discuss the future.

Sachsen
... in English at times referred to as Saxony. Until 1918 Kingdom, from 1918 Free State within the Weimar Republic; in 1945 reconstituted as Land by the Soviet Military Administration, capital Dresden. In 1949 constituent Land of the GDR. In 1952 dissolved into the Bezirke (districts) Dresden, Leipzig and Chemnitz. Reconstituted, with minor border corrections, as Freistaat (Free State, compatible to Land) in 1990.

Sachsen-Anhalt
... in English sometimes referred to as Saxony-Anhalt. Province created by the Soviet military administration in 1945, by merging the Land Anhalt with parts of the former Prussian province of Sachsen (Saxony) and the annexation of a number of smaller territories; in 1947 renamed Land Sachsen-Anhalt. Capital Magdeburg. In 1949 constituent Land of the GDR. In 1952 dissolved, into the districts Magdeburg and Halle; 1990 recreated, with minor border modifications.

SED
... in full : Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (Socialist Unity Party of Germany). Formed in 1946 in the Soviet Occupation Zone by the enforced merger of the Communist and Social Democratic Parties. The leading political force in the GDR (founded 1949). In 1989 renamed in PdS, in 2005 in Linkspartei, the party survived the fall of communism, with her main clientele in the former GDR.

Socialist Unity Party
... in German : Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands. See under SED.

Society for Sports and Technology
... in German : Gesellschaft für Sport und Technik. A youth organization established in the GDR in 1952, with the intention to prepare the youth for military service (established at a time when the GDR did not have a regular army yet). It was, later together with the NVA, responsible for organizing the premilitary education, for boys and girls; non-participants would find it impossible to enter university or get professional training. In the 1980es the organization declined, her events often being turned into trips for the purpose of entertainment.

Soviet Military Administration
... in German : Sowjetische Militäradministration in Deutschland, SMAD. Governed the Soviet Occupation Zone in Germany from June 1945 to August 1949, when the GDR became independent. Responsible for the reorganization of political life (Länder, political parties; but also responsible for rigid Denazification, Demontage, interference in German political affairs with the intention to remodel state and society in her zone into the socialist sense, according to the Soviet model.

Soviet Occupation Zone
... in German : Sowjetische Besatzungszone, SBZ, Ostzone (= Eastern Zone). Part of Germany administrated by the Soviet Military Administration 1945-1949; separated from Germany's west by the Iron Curtain; the Soviets supported the gradual transfer of a multiparty democratic administration into a one-party socialist state following the Soviet model. In 1949, except for the Soviet sector of Berlin, released into independence as GDR. As the FRG did not recognize the GDR, conservative circles in West Germany continued to use the terms SBZ or Ostzone to describe the GDR.

Spring of Prague
... in German : Prager Frühling. When Warsaw Pact troops (except those of Romania) invaded Czechoslovakia on August 21st 1968 in order to terminate what Soviet and GDR propaganda called 'Counterrevolution' (i.e. the Spring of Prague), GDR troops were among the invaders. Czechs stated it to be a sad case that the country, after 1939-1945, again saw German occupants, linking the GDR to the Nazi occupation less than 3 decades ago.

Stasi
... in full : Staatssicherheit (State Security). The Ministerium für Staatssicherheit was established in 1950. It ran the secret service of the GDR, both inside the country where it spied on the GDR citizens on a massive scale, and abroad, where it conducted political and industrial spionage. Stasi was the most prolific of GDR enterprises, perhaps with the exception of her Olympic athletes, but also, because of her omnipresence, hugely unpopular. During the events leading to the fall of communism in the GDR, Stasi offices became targets; the demonstrators occupying the offices wanted to prevent the destruction of Stasi archives. Renamed Office for Ntional Security in 1989, dissolved in 1990.

State Planning Commission
... in German : Staatliche Plankommission. see under Five Year Plans.

Television
... in German : Fernsehen. The DFF (Deutscher Fernseh-Funk, German Television Broadcast) began operating in 1952; a second channel was taken into operation in 1969. The program consisted of news (GDR style, uncritical of the authorities), of informative magazines, documentaries, of entertainment (detective stories, variety programs, musicals, films, many of whom were made in GDR, by DFF or by DEFA). While news and politically streamlined magazines were often boring, a good number of educational and entertainment programs were popular and of quality.
By the 1980es, most residents of the GDR could watch West German tv programs; thus the DFF had lost her monopoly on news.

Thüringen
... in English sometimes called Thuringia. Land constituted in 1920, reconstituted, with minor bordr modifications, by the Soviet Military Administration in 1945, capital Erfurt. Became constituent part of the GDR in 1949; dissolved into the Bezirke (Districts) Erfurt, Gera and Suhl in 1952; recreated in 1990.

Tourism
... in German : Tourismus. In the GDR, the FDGB maintained a series of hostels; members could apply for using their facilities. In the Soviet Bloc, group travels (in so-called delegations, more often than not for the purpose of recreation) were quite common. In the 1960es and 1970es camping vacations became popular, inside the GDR and in her neighbouring socialist countries. The exodus of 1989 began with GDR camping tourists on vacation in Hungary expressing their intention not to return home.

Trabi
... in full : Trabant; car model produced by Sachsenwerke Zwickau from 1957 to 1990. Equipped with a 2 cylinder engine, maximum speed, under favourable circumstances, 120 km/h, body panels made from Duroplast, a plastic to which resin was added, supported by wool or cotton. The model of 1961 remained unchanged until 1990. The car was sold almost at cost, but production figures were low so that customers had to wait for years after signing an order - up to 12 years. One year old Trabis were sold for a price higher than that of a new one - the customer did not have to wait. While equipped with rather primitive technology, the Trabant provided the East German family with the freedom to move, to go on camping vacation. Many GDR families developed an emotional relation with their car, gave it a name. See the movie "Go, Trabi, Go".

United Nations
... in German : Vereinte Nationen. Established in 1945. When the FRG and GDR were established in 1949, both claimed to be the sole legitimate German state; both joined the UN together in 1973, when the FRG tacitly had dropped this claim (Ostpolitik).

Universities
... in German : Universit&aum;ten. A number of universities were located in the GDR - the Humboldt University in Berlin, the University of Leipzig the most prominent; further the univesities of Erfurt, Halle-Wittenberg, Frankfurt/Oder, Rostock and Greifswald. In the GDR, access to universities was restricted; children of 'reliable' families (membership in the SED and related organizations), children from families with a working class background were given preferential treatment. Unlike their counterparts in western Europe, theGDR universities did not experience massive expansion in the 1960es to 1970es. GDR scholars had to follow political guidelines; the reference list of a scholarly study published in the GDR would consist of three segments - 1st, of classics of Marxism and Leninism, 2nd of books written by socialist authors, 3rd by 'others'.

Warsaw Pact
... in German : Warschauer Pakt or Warschauer Vertrag. An organization of mutual military defense, members the USSR, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and the GDR, founded in 1955. It regarded NATO her prospective enemy and attempted to match/numerically outdo NATO. Within the Warsaw Pact, weapons systems were standardized; common manoeuvers regularly held. In August 1968 Warsaw Pact units (except those of Romania) jointly launched the invasion of Czechoslovakia (see Spring of Prague). The GDR left the Warsaw Pact in October 1990; the organization dissolved in July 1991.

Women's Rights
... in German : Rechte der Frau, Frauenrechte. Regulated in the constitution of the GDR of 1949; women had the right to vote, the obligation to have a full-time job. The GDR (i.e. most factories) provided daycare for young children; divorce legislation did not discriminate against women and as comparatively uncomplicated. Universities accepted a good number of female applicants. The GDR, by comparison, had a larger percentage of female medical doctors and university professors than the FRG. Abortion legislation was liberalized in 1972. However, in the top ranks of party and state, women were strongly underrepresented.








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