Occupied Germany
the east 1945-1948
GDR 1969-1989
Foreign Policy

GDR 1949-1969 : Foreign Policy

The GDR was founded in 1949 as a product of the early cold war. A socialist one-party-state (the SED lead an Anti-Fascist Coalition of parties which did not compete with each other and, at elections, presented a combined list of candidates), it joined the COMECON in 1950 and the Warsaw Pact in 1955, the year in which it established the Nationale Volksarmee (nat'l people's army).
A treaty with Poland was signed, in which the GDR renounced any claims on the territories annexed by Poland, while Poland renounced any claims for financial compansation, from World War II. The GDR was a Soviet satellite state. Its foreign policy mirrored that of the USSR; like the latter, the GDR supported Egypt in 1956 against the Anglo-French aggression, the Vietcong and Vietminh against US intervention in Vietnam etc.
The GDR established a fertilizer plant in Hamhung, North Korea, to contribute to the country's economic reconstruction after the devastating Korean war. The GDR recognized and supported the Castro Regime in Cuba, the marxist freedom fighters in Angola and Moçambique.
With regard to the FRG, the GDR government had a policy of its own. Both German states claimed to be the sole legitimate successor of the German Reich (which ceased to exist in 1945), and thus were in a special competition for international recognition, for cultural heritage, for any kind of visible success. Internationally, Germany was treated as one entity, the final political settlement in the country still having to be achieved - Germany had not been given a peace treaty after World War II. At the Olympic Games, until Tokyo 1964, one combined German Team competed.
Diplomatic competition was most visible in newly independent countries of the third world, many governments of whom tended to look more favourably on socialist governments of the east. The economically more successful FRG pursued the Hallstein Doctrine, refusing diplomatic relations with any counry which recognized the GDR.
In the area of sports, the competition became most visible and the GDR most successful, the latter establishing itself as the third sports superpower behind the US and the USSR, in medal standings at Olympics since 1968 clearly atop everyone else, especially the west Germans. Doping can explain only a part of that success.

The GDR had to cope with an economically very successful state, where the same language was spoken and where all its citizens willing to cross the border were accepted with open arms. Until 1961 it was powerless to stop the constant outflow of parts of its workforce, so harmful to its economy. Then, in violation of Allied agreements over Berlin, the USSR handed over its sector of Berlin to the GDR which declared it Capital of the GDR, and proceeded to close the gap in the Iron Curtain - the Berlin Wall was constructed. Mass emigration stopped immediately.

In 1968, GDR forces joined Soviet and other Warsaw Pact forces in invading Czechoslovakia and toppling the "counterrevolutionaries" Dubcek and Svoboda, ending the Prague Spring and forcing Czechoslovakia back into line.

DOCUMENTS DDR-Wappen - Hammer und Zirkel, from DDR im WWW, in German
East German Propaganda, from German Propaganda Archive at Calvin College, speeches, posters, other propaganda items
Poster collection DHM, clickavle titles, in German (5 posters from GDR)
The Lost Border, photographs of the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall by Brian Rose
Letter From Chairman Khrushchev to President Kennedy on a German Peace Treaty, September 29, 1961, from Cold War Page at MtHolyoke
Message From Chairman Khrushchev to President Kennedy on the status of Berlin, July 1962, from Cold War Page at MtHolyoke
Briefing for President Kennedy on Berlin, 1962, by John C. Ausland
The Warsaw Pact 1955, from Modern History Sourcebook
Exchange of Letters between India and the GDR regarding Trade Arrangements, Oct. 16 1954, from India Bilateral Treaties
Exchange of Letters between India and the GDR regarding the Promotion of Trade, Oct. 8 1956, from India Bilateral Treaties
Exchange of Letters between India and the GDR regarding Trade and Payment, Dec. 18 1959, from India Bilateral Treaties
Exchange of Letters between India and the GDR concerning the establishment of a joint regular shipping line, Nov. 23 1963, from India Bilateral Treaties
Exchange of Letters between India and the GDR concerning scientific cooperation, Feb. 2 1964, from India Bilateral Treaties

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on June 22nd 2006

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