Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview

mediately left for West Germany. Ms case illustrated that Honecker was once again supporting his Soviet masters; but it also provided a glimpse of the possible opposition within the high echelons of the East German communist leadership.


Bibliography

Asmus Ronald, "The Dialectics of Detente and Discord: The Moscow-East Berlin-Bonn Triangle," Orbis, 28. 4 ( 1986), pp. 743-744; Grote Manfred, "The Socialist Unity Party of Germany," in Stephen Fischer-Galati, The Communist Parties of Eastern Europe ( New York, 1979).

Foreign Relation of East Germany. East Germany never really enjoyed full sovereignty during its entire existence. Consequently, its diplomacy was simply a reflection of Soviet foreign affairs. In 1949 only the Soviet satellites, plus Communist China and North Korea recognized the newly established East German state. The stream of East Germans seeking asylum in the West (over 2.5 million refugees crossed into West German between 1945 and 1961) further raised questions about the East German government's legitimacy. Through its first two decades of existence, the major aim of East Germany was to gain international recognition. In this it was aided by the Soviet leaders.

The second major issue was the relations between the two Germanics. West Germany had been recognized by most states as representing the interests of all Germans (see Hallstein Doctrine). On March 10, 1952, Joseph Stalin sent a note to Western statesmen, proposing the dismantling of the East German state in exchange for the unification of Germany. The former Allied Powers would then sign a peace treaty with this unified state. The government of this state would be elected through free elections, and it would then declare the neutralization of Germany and its exit from NATO. The Western Allies did not respond to the offer. They considered it to be but a propaganda ploy to fragment the Western alliance.

After the rejection of Stalin's offer the Stalinization of East Germany proceeded at a fast pace. Even the last traces of an independent East German foreign policy line were erased. The building of the Berlin Wall (see Berlin Wall) in August 1961, however, helped to consolidate the position of East German communists within the state. During the following decade East Germany gained increasing stature and international recognition outside the Soviet Bloc. Yet, as late as 1967, the East German regime's standing within the Soviet empire was still precarious.

The West German government initiated a new policy toward Eastern Europe (see Ostpolitik), and it projected a new image toward the entire East. What was even more alarming to Ulbricht (see Ulbricht, Walter) and his followers was that West Germany's diplomatic and political offensive was coordinated with the diplomacy of the United States and of NATO. Ulbricht's reaction was vicious, far more so than that of Moscow. He campaigned for a united offensive against the West, even at a time when Leonid Brezhnev was exploring possible cooperation with West Germany. He proposed several times that the offensive should include the severance of West Berlin.

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