East Berlin

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For other uses, see East Berlin (disambiguation).
East Berlin
Berlin (Ost)
Soviet-occupied sector of Berlin. (de jure), capital of East Germany. (de facto)


Flag Coat of arms
Flag Coat of arms
Location of East Berlin
The four occupation zones of Berlin.
East Berlin is shown in red.
Historical era Cold War
 •  Established 1949
 •  Reunification 3 October 1990
 •  1989 409 km2 (158 sq mi)
 •  1989 1,279,212 
Density 3,127.7 /km2  (8,100.6 /sq mi)

East Berlin existed between 1949 and 1990 and consisted of the Soviet sector of Berlin established in 1945. The American, British, and French sectors became West Berlin, strongly associated with West Germany, while East Berlin was the de facto capital of East Germany. From 13 August 1961 until 9 November 1989, East Berlin was separated from West Berlin by the Berlin Wall.

In East German official usage, it became widespread in the 1970s to refer to the Western part of the city as "Westberlin", whilst calling the Eastern part simply "Berlin". (See also Naming conventions).


With the London Protocol from 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 administrated 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 "Magistrate of Greater Berlin".

When the German Democratic Republic was formed 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. East Berliners were not allowed to leave. However, more than one-thousand East Germans were going to West Berlin each day by 1960. This was because the great amount of war reparations owed to the Soviet Union after WWII, combined with the massive destruction of industry and lack of assistance from the Marshal Plan put great strains on the East German economy. In August 1961, the East German Government tried to stop that from happening by building the Berlin Wall. It was very dangerous to cross because of the presence of armed guards that were trained to shoot people that attempted to cross.[3]

East Germany was a socialist republic, but there was not complete economic equality. Privileges such as prestigious apartments and good schooling were given to members of the ruling party and their family. Eventually, Christian churches were allowed to operate without restraint after years of harassment by authorities. In the 1970s wages of East Berliners rose and working hours fell.[4]

The Western Allies (the US, Britain, and France) never formally acknowledged the authority of the East German government to govern East Berlin; the 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 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, West and East Germany and West and East Berlin were reunited, thus formally ending the existence of East Berlin.

East Berlin today[edit]

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. Many East German factories were shut down due to inability to comply with West German pollution and safety standards, as well as inability to compete with West German factories. 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, which led to a great deal of resentment toward the East Germans.[7] Despite the large sums of economic aid poured into East Berlin, there still remain obvious differences between the former East and West Berlin. East Berlin has a distinct visual style; this is partly due to the greater survival of prewar façades and streetscapes, with some even 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 country) 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 changed after a long process of review. Another popular 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. These days they are also visible in parts of the former West Berlin 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. Even to this day, 25 years after the two cities were reunified, the people of East and West Berlin have noticeable differences between each other, which become more apparent among the older generations. The two groups also have sometimes-derogatory slang terms to refer to each other. A former East Berliner (or East German) is known as an "Ossi" (from the German word for east, Ost), and a former West Berliner (or West German) is known as a "Wessi" (from the German word for west, West). Both sides also engage in stereotyping the other. A stereotypical Ossi has little ambition or poor work ethic and is chronically bitter, while a stereotypical Wessi is arrogant, selfish, impatient, and pushy.[8]

Soviet and East German Commandants of East Berlin[edit]

Marx-Engels-Platz and the Palast der Republik in East Berlin in the summer of 1989. The Fernsehturm (TV Tower) is visible in the background
Boroughs of East Berlin (as of 1987)
Name [9] Term
Nikolay Berzarin 2 May 1945 – 16 June 1945
Aleksandr Gorbatov 17 June 1945 – 19 November 1945
Dimitry Smirnov 19 November 1945 – 1 April 1946
Aleksandr Kotikov 1 April 1946 – 7 June 1950
Sergey Dienghin 7 June 1950 – April 1953
Pavel Dibrov April 1953 – 23 June 1956
Andrey Chamov 28 June 1956 – 26 February 1958
Nikolay Zakharov 26 February 1958 – 9 May 1961
Andrey Soloviev 9 May 1961 – 22 August 1962
Helmut Poppe 22 August 1962 – 31 May 1971
Artur Kunath 1 June 1971 – 31 August 1978
Karl-Heinz Drews 1 September 1978 – 31 December 1988
Wolfgang Dombrowski 1 January 1989 – 30 September 1990
Detlef Wendorf 1 October 1990 – 2 October 1990

Boroughs of East Berlin[edit]

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

Images of East Berlin[edit]

See also[edit]

Statues of Marx and Engels, Marx-Engels-Forum


  • Durie, W. (2012). The British Garrison Berlin 1945–1994 "No where to go" Berlin: Vergangenheits/Berlin. ISBN 978-3-86408-068-5.
Part of a series on the
History of Berlin
Margraviate of Brandenburg (1157–1806)
Kingdom of Prussia (1701–1918)
German Empire (1871–1918)
Weimar Republic (1919–33)
Nazi Germany (1933–45)
West Germany and East Germany (1945–90)
Federal Republic of Germany (1990–present)
See also
  1. ^ Knowles, Chris (29 January). "Germany 1945-1949: a case study in post-conflict reconstruction". History & Policy. History & Policy. Retrieved 19 July 2016.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  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. 1981-11-09. 
  6. ^ Architecture, Politics, and Identity in Divided Berlin, Emily Pugh, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014, pages 159
  7. ^ Grant, R.G. (1999). The Berlin Wall. Steck-Vaughn Company. 
  8. ^ Conrad Stein, R. (1997). Berlin. Children's Press. p. 14. 
  9. ^ "Commandants of Berlin Soviet Zone". World Statesmen.org. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°31′7″N 13°24′16″E / 52.51861°N 13.40444°E / 52.51861; 13.40444