Background: The GDR was always fond of anniversaries. This is a translation of the first two chapters of a booklet titled Ten years of the German Democratic Republic, published by the GDR government on the 10th anniversary of its establishment. It was something of a commemorative item, laying out the accomplishments and policies of the GDR. It provides a good example of the typical rhetoric of the period. The introduction is by Wilhelm Pieck, then president of the GDR, an office later abolished.
The source: Zehn Jahre Deutsche Demokratische Republic (Berlin: Ministerrat der DDR, 1959).
This volume in honor of the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the German Democratic Republic provides a brief overview of the development of our workers’ and farmers’ state and its peaceful policies. It provides the reader with an overview of the heroic efforts our workers made to overcome the catastrophic consequences of the criminal Hitlerite war and their efforts to build a new and happy life.
The founding of the German Democratic Republic was a turning point in the history of Germany and Europe. It was the answer of the peace-loving forces of our people to the attempt of the imperialists and militarists to gain power over the whole of German by founding the Bonn splinter state. The founding of the German Democratic Republic defeated the roots of Fascism and militarism in a large part of Germany. It secured the national and social accomplishments of the people and created the basis for peaceful development. The government of the German Democratic Republic realized the most important lessons the German people needed to learn from its history, along with the central elements of the Potsdam Accords of the anti-Hitler coalition. The German Democratic Republic is the only legal state on German soil, whereas the existence and policies of the Bonn government are a violation of international law. The German Democratic Republic is a reliable barrier against revanchist German militarism and a significant force for the preservation of peace in Europe. Europe’s problems cannot be solved in a lasting and peaceful way without it.
The historical significance of the founding of our peace-loving state for the German people and the peoples of Europe increases with the continuing growth of Fascism and militarism in Germany’s Western zone. Hitler’s followers again hold positions of power and attempt to draw the nations of Western Europe into atomic war to advance their revanchist plans. They see West Germany as a staging point and advance base for atomic war. Under the leadership of Hitler’s criminal generals, they seek to build the strongest military power in Western Europe and are beginning to arm themselves with atomic rockets. They reject any agreement with our republic to reunify Germany, seek to annex the German Democratic Republic, and carry out outrageous chauvinistic rabble-rousing against Germany’s eastern and western neighbors in pursuit of their revanchist territorial demands. The German militarists who have twice driven the peoples of Europe and Germany into bloody world wars apparently cannot imagine Germany free from war. They are preparing a new war in the Western zone.
The central problem in German politics is thus controlling German militarism and securing peace. Realizing the Soviet proposal for a peace treaty with Germany and the removal of the occupation regime in West Berlin would be a decisive step forward. That would remove the main barriers to a peaceful solution to the German question: the atomic arming of West Germany, the rocket bases and the revanchist policies of the West German government. The peace treaty would eliminate the remains of the Second World War and advance understanding between both German states. That would be a major contribution to guaranteeing peace in the entire world.
The population of the German Democratic Republic has used the glorious Soviet army’s destruction of Fascism to build its new life. The united working class and the parties and organizations united in the democratic bloc and the unity of the workers in the National Front of Democratic Germany are the foundation of the broad and true democracy of our young state. The people themselves under the leadership of the party of the working class determine social relationships and production. New relationships are developing between people and public property, work, and our workers’ and farmers’ state. The relationships of the workers in factories and institutions, agriculture, and crafts are characterized increasingly by mutual camaraderie and cooperation. During the past ten years, our people have made a major step from “I” to “we.” “Plan together, work together, govern together!” is already a fact in the lives of millions of people in our state. As our constitution declares, in the German Democratic Republic all power comes from the people.
The free unfolding of all of our people’s political, economic, and cultural forces has led to dramatic growth in industrial and agricultural production in the past ten years. As a result of the heroic efforts of our workers, farmers, scientists, technicians, craftsmen, artists, and officials, the German Democratic Republic has become the fifth largest industrial power in Europe. Our new school system opens the doors to all capable pupils, mobilizing the intellectual strengths of our population for further advances in all areas. The great successes in the planned growth of our economy enabled the V. Party Congress of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany to make the primary economic goal to catch up with and surpass West Germany in the consumption of all important products by the year 1961. The splendid initiatives of our workers in the socialist reconstruction of our factories, in the developing of competition and innovation, in struggling to win the title “Brigade of Socialist Labor,” provide a guarantee that this noble goal will be met. The German Democratic Republic has proven to the entire German people that prestige and prosperity can be gained only by peaceful work, not by war. The major Seven Year Plan of the German Democratic Republic also serves this noble goal as well as the happiness of our people. It is yet further proof of the peaceful goals of our state.
Our republic has won the esteem and recognition of the world in these past ten years by its active policies on behalf of peace and understanding. The participation and active contributions of the delegation of the German Democratic Republic at the Geneva conference of foreign ministers led to a de facto recognition of the German Democratic Republic by the Western powers. Our relations with the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries rests on the principles of socialist internationalism, equality, and close fraternal cooperation. The Soviet Union has always been our truest friend and helper in building socialism and in our efforts to solve the critical questions of the German people. Based on the principles of peaceful coexistence, respect for sovereignty, and nonintervention in internal affairs, our friendly relations with the anti-imperialist nations and the peoples fighting for freedom from colonial domination are deepening. Fruitful economic and cultural relations with many capitalist nations, particularly in Europe and South America, are developing. The German Democratic Republic is developing friendly relations with those nations who wish good relations on the basis of equality that serves international understanding and world peace.
The ten years of the German Democratic Republic are ten years of dramatic growth in the political, economic and cultural realms, as well as an untiring fight for guaranteeing peace. The hard-working people of our republic will continue to build socialism at a rapid pace. They will prove to our brothers in West Germany by their deeds that it is better to sweat a thousand drops of sweat for prosperity and peace than to shed a single drop of blood in war. The German Democratic Republic will show the way to a happy future for the entire German people.
The founding of the German Democratic Republic fulfilled in one third of Germany the striving of the German people for a peace-loving, democratic, and socially secure German state.
Since the establishment of the German Democratic Republic on 7 October 1949, peace-loving people of Germany, so long subjected to militaristic and war-mongering forces, finally have a strong, indestructible state of their own.
That was the result of a long, sacrificial struggle by the democratic forces of our people, namely the working class, against German militarism, against the “Blood and Iron” policies that brought inexpressible agony to humanity in the two world wars of this century. The imperial dynasty fell in the storms of revolution in 1918, but the power of the capitalists, Junker class, and generals remained untouched. Only the victory of the Soviet army in alliance with the Allied forces over the Fascist Hitler regime provided German democratic forces the opportunity to build a state free of militarists and imperialists.
In view of the enormous crimes that German Fascists, militarists, and capitalists committed during the Second World War, and of the 55 million who died, the great powers of the anti-Hitler coalition pledged to wage a war that would eliminate the very roots of German militarism. The Potsdam Accords authorized the Allied Control Commission to use all measures to disarm and demilitarize Germany. That included the elimination of all military organizations and clubs that for decades had supported the militaristic traditions, thereby “forever preventing the rebirth or reestablishment of German militarism and Nazism.”
German democratic forces entirely supported this goal, especially since the goal of these measures was “to give the German people the possibility of building a new life on the basic of democratic and peaceful principles.”
According to the Potsdam Accords, the democratic foundations should be established in the economic realm by decentralizing as quickly as possible the Germany economy. This means abolishing the existing concentration of economic power, “particularly in the form of cartels, syndicates, trusts, and other monopolies.”
The Potsdam Accords also pledged to view Germany as an economic whole during the occupation and declared that central administrative offices for all of Germany would be established. The Allied Control Commission was to establish such offices in the areas of finance, transportation, foreign trade, and industry. These policies offered sufficient opportunities for a new path for the German people. It meant tearing out the roots of German militarism so that the hard-working, gifted German people can enjoy a happiness and prosperity that in no way endangers its neighbors.
Taking stock of the lesson of history that only the united work of all progressive and creative forces of a people can guarantee victory over reaction and militarism, the anti-Fascist forces in the eastern part of Germany that became the German Democratic Republic resolved to work together. In a free and democratic referendum, the factories of war criminals and active Nazis became the property of the people. Democratic land reform gave the land formerly owned by the Junkers to the farmers and laborers who had worked on it for centuries. Over 51,000 landless farmers, refugees, small farmers, and laborers participated in land reform.
The German warmongers who were defeated in the Second World War lost all of their economic and political power east of the Elbe. The working people in the cities and the countryside, the technicians, engineers, scientists, and artists resolved to overcome the chaos left by the Hitler regime and to build a new life.
Wilhelm Pieck, the honored President of the German Democratic Republic, recognized during his first election the heroism of those men, workers above all, who gave their all to get the economy moving again, often hungry and ill-clothed, sometimes clearing the rubble with their bare hands.
The economic principles proclaimed by the Potsdam Accords were realized in Eastern Germany: Syndicates, cartels, and trusts of every sort were eliminated. Society was transformed democratically. Everything displaying the spirit of Nazism, racism, and revanchism was eliminated from the schools, public bodies, radio, press, film, and theater. The people returned to their humanistic traditions. Artists, writers, and scientists driven away by the Hitler regime were welcomed back by democratic parties and organizations. War propaganda and racism are criminal offenses in the German Democratic Republic.
Huge tasks stood before the new democratic organs. They were in the hands of reliable opponents of Hitler-Fascism, people who had sat in jails, prisons or concentration camps or who had returned from the emigration forced on them by the Nazi regime. The dark forces that had driven the German people to the worst catastrophe of their history fought bitterly to hold on to their positions in the government and the economy. They used every method from common slander to open sabotage, arson, and bloody terror to hold back the wheel of history and restore the conditions that had led to Fascism and war. They found eager support from reactionary forces in West Germany, aided by those elements who had “fled” to the West because they were forced to give up their dirty political games as the result of the democratic development in Eastern Germany.
The new democratic organs were fully supported by the Soviet military authorities. They rigorously followed the directives of the Allied Control Commission, the logical consequence of which was to give the anti-Fascist democratic forces every opportunity to create a peace-loving German state on democratic foundations.
Things developed in an entirely different way in the Western occupation zones. The American, British, and French occupation forces stubbornly sabotaged the concrete requirements of the Potsdam Accords. When they realized that the German people under the leadership of a democratic, anti-Fascist core really intended to break the power of the corporations, militarists, and imperialists, they systematically began plans to split Germany.
In violation of the Potsdam Accords which saw the establishment of central administrative offices for the whole of Germany, the American and British zones as early as 1946 developed the so-called Bi-Zone, which paved the way for the Bonn splinter state. The Western Powers rendered the Allied Control Commission impotent by separate agreements that had as their goal eliminating any Soviet influence over developments in the Western zones. With the establishment of a separate currency on 20 June 1948, the principles of the Potsdam Accords were violated in the most blatant way. They had obligated the Allied Control Commission to view Germany as a single economic unit.
Immediately after the unconditional military surrender of Fascist Germany, the Western powers allowed whole units of the Fascist army to continue to exist., the so-called service groups or labor battalions, which became the reserve of the Bonn Federal Police and the Federal Army. One year after the Potsdam Accords, which had called for the elimination of all military units in Germany, more than 150,000 German soldiers and officers were serving the English and American occupation powers.
The Western powers interpreted the Potsdam Accords’ call to eliminate excessive concentration of German economic power in a way that led to a strengthening of the old and the building of new monopolies. These policies completely contradicted the wishes of the nations, and even of the German people. The democratic referendum in Saxony, and similar ones in Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia made clear the wishes of the broadest range of the people to end the excessive power of the capitalist bosses. Even the CDU in the British Zone in 1946 declared that “the concentration of economic concerns in the hands of a few . . . is a danger for the political freedom of the individual as well as the nation as a whole.”
Ignoring popular wishes and breaking opposition to the ominous policies of the capitalist bosses, all the old firms in West Germany have regained their power. Names like Thyssen, Mannesmann, Hoesch, Haniel, Klöckner, Krupp, IG-Farben, AEG, and Siemens, as well as Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Bank, and Commerz-Bank demonstrate the power of the syndicates, cartels, trusts, and other monopolies in West Germany. 51 enormous concerns today comprise 46% of the entire stock capital in the Federal Republic, almost twice as much as in 1938.
The concentrated economic power in the hands of the few is dangerous because it controls the highest potential for armaments manufacture in Western Europe. The power of the monopolies in league with an army led by former Hitler generals endangers the peace of Europe. Twice this century German militarism and the reactionary forces of the monopolist bourgeois (e.g., the Junkers) set afire world wars. To prevent them from doing it a third time is the critical task of the peace-loving German people.
Not only have the Western occupation forces hindered the development of central German administrative offices, they have stubbornly refused to allow the establishment of a unified German government. Soviet delegations proposed united German governments as part of a peace treaty at conferences of foreign ministers in Paris in 1946, in London in 1947, in Paris in 1949, and in Berlin in 1954. The foreign ministers of the three Western powers rejected every proposal. Instead, West Germany became a part of the North Atlantic Treaty, creating the foundation for the economic and military domination of the Western European peoples by an aggressive West German militarism and imperialism.
The masses in Eastern Germany build their economy and society on other foundations, with other forces and with other goals. When the same forces that had controlled the Weimar and Hitler regimes and who bore the responsibility for the war joined to form the Bonn splinter state, democratic forces replied on 7 October 1949 by founding the German Democratic Republic. They created a powerful bastion in the heart of Europe to oppose the aggressive militaristic forces of the Bonn splinter state.
The founding of the German Democratic Republic led to the first truly democratic state in Germany’s history. The instigators and benefactors of war have been made politically and economically impotent. The workers, farmers, and other democratic citizens have joined together to guarantee the national interests of the German people by fighting to eliminate the roots of war. For the first time in German history, the GDR is controlled by those who are the main productive force of the nation, whose great potential could not be realized under the rule of the monopolies and big land owners.
The working class has proven to be the main force in eliminating imperialism, militarism and the worst consequences of the war. After 1945 the working class in Eastern Germany drew the correct conclusions from the past and joined in a united party, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, enabling it under Marxist-Leninist leadership to organize those classes and groups on whose cooperation and initiative the great national work of reconstruction depended.
The strength and self-confidence of the masses, led by the working class, grew in the fight for implementing the decisions of the Potsdam Accords. They increasingly joined in working for the new order and created the foundation of the new state, a state of the people in which all could develop their creative abilities.
The new state which was built on the ruins of the old Fascist state no longer held back the progressive development of the society. The productive forces of the German people, the working masses, are no longer the slaves of the state. The state has truly become the servant of the society. The governing power of the workers and farmers in the GDR is the decisive tool which the help of which the working masses are advancing society. The government of the workers and farmers in the GDR guides social life in ways that satisfy the needs of the workers.
The Sorbs, whose national questions have been solved in an exemplary way, see the GDR as their homeland because this state represents their interests and gives them equality in every area with the Germans. Signs are in both languages in the relevant counties, the Sorbish language is taught in the schools, the Sorbish newspaper Nowa Doba appears daily, and the State Committee for Radio has a studio for Sorbish programs.
The basic national questions of the German people can be solved only under the leadership of the working class, firmly allied with all other working people. That is why it needed a Marxist party that immediately took the initiative and showed the German people the way to the future. The Socialist Unity Party of Germany organized the great united front of the people against the destroyers of Germany, and for a peace-loving, democratic Germany. The party developed the program to solve the national question in Germany. In agreement with the majority of the workers in the German Democratic Republic and based on the successes and achievements of the hart building period from 1945-1952, the SED decided at its II. Party Conference in 1952 to build the foundations of socialism in the GDR. This program gave the masses the promise of a secure life, a future of peace and growing prosperity. The II. Party Conference of the SED gave powerful impetus to the development of increased production in the GDR.
Entirely new industries were built on the basis of socialism, branches that did not exist in Eastern Germany before 1945. Despite occasional shortages of raw materials, new heavy industry developed. The products of the people’s industries of the GDR have won a respectable place in international trade. Working farmers everywhere are joining collective farms, enabling them to use new technology provided to them through the governmental machine and tractor stations to develop large-scale socialist agriculture.
Together with these developments is the continuing growth of the material wealth of the society and of each individual citizen of the GDR. The national income of the German Democratic Republic has nearly doubled since its foundation. Individual consumption has increased to a similar degree. This has created the material foundation for the economic goals established by the V. Party Congress of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany in July 1958. The goal is to build the economy of the GDR to the point that by 1961 our per capita consumption of all important foodstuffs and consumer goods will equal that of West Germany.
The growth of science and culture is increasing hand in hand with the growth of the GDR’s economy. Gaining knowledge in the GDR is not a privilege of a small and fortunate class. The school system has been built on entirely new foundations, breaking the education advantage of the privileged. The doors to the universities are open wide to the children of workers and farmers. Splendid works of art prove that the GDR has become the homeland to a new flowering of German national culture.
These developments were possible only because the interests of the citizens and the interests of the state are identical in the GDR. The workers take an increasing role in leading their state. That is consistent with the Potsdam Accords and the legal position of the GDR.
The degree that the activity of the German democratic forces of developed has given the GDR the right to make sovereign decisions on all domestic and foreign issues. In unbreakable friendship with the Soviet Union and the other lands of the socialist bloc, the GDR is entering the family of peace-loving nations. The guiding principle of the German Democratic Republic’s foreign policy was and is the struggle to maintain peace and to guarantee the security of the peoples of the world.
Accordingly, a treaty of friendship, cooperation and mutual defense between the European socialist nations was signed in Warsaw in May 1955. Minister President Grotewohl told the Volkskammer of the GDR that the Warsaw Pact was an instrument to reduce international tensions and to maintain the peace and security of the peoples. The participation of the GDR in the Warsaw Pact strengthens its international standing and was a decisive step toward gaining full sovereignty.
The full sovereignty of the GDR was guaranteed in the treaty of 20 September 1955 between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the German Democratic Republic. The treaty established relations between the Soviet Union and the GDR on the basis of full equality, mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty, and nonintervention in each other’s internal affairs. The GDR’s freedom of action in internal matters as well as its relations with West Germany and other states was assured. The Office of the High Commissioner was abolished and the laws and directives of the Allied Control Commission were now void on the GDR’s territory. The peace treaty is a work of peace that will make reunification easier and strengthen the international standing of the German Democratic Republic.
The citizens of the GDR are thankful to the government and peoples of the USSR. It was the USSR that fully supported the democratic renewal of Germany in the difficult years following the world war. The GDR is tied to the USSR by strong bands of friendship. It knows it has the full support of that powerful socialist nation in its struggle for the great national goals of the German people.
The people of the GDR and the peace-loving democratic forces in all of Germany look with pride on their state, whose international standing is steadily growing because of its big domestic successes and the peaceful policies of its government. The GDR, which strives in all of its policies for peace, has become a significant international element. The entire world increasingly is realizing that the GDR is the first peace-loving and truly democratic state in Germany, and that it is the only legal German state. The GDR is the legal German state because it developed according to international agreements, and also because its existence encourages the forces of progress and because the social order created by the German people themselves in the GDR is the surest guarantee for peace.
The remaining chapters are titled:
Go to the GDR Page.
Go to the German Propaganda Archive Home Page.