able resources. The dismantling and transfer of German industrial enterprises began immediately after the conquest. Machinery and equipment were removed completely from 1,900 firms and transported to the Soviet Union during the first few months of the occupation. This was done in such haste that equipment was often permitted to rust on unused railroad tracks when no appropriate buildings could be found to house it. In addition, reparations were taken out of the current production of those firms that were left behind, and these were usually declared joint Soviet-German companies. Most medium and large firms were simply stripped. At the same time, 200 large firms that were exempt were also declared joint Soviet-German companies. All these firms had Soviet directors appointed to head them who then proceeded to loot them thoroughly. The final outcome was the complete takeover of German industry in the Soviet zone. German agriculture was also looted by the Soviet occupational authorities. The huge occupational forces were fed and housed at Germany's expense. During the first two years of occupation, most choice produce went to the Soviet occupational army.
In political life, the Soviet authorities behaved somewhat differently. Once the horrors of war had subsided, they tried to promote a version of the Popular Front of the interwar years. They encouraged leftist parties and individuals to work for the elimination of Nazism from society. They quickly restored municipal services and reestablished cultural institutions. In this the Soviet authorities faced great difficulties. The infrastructures of most cities were in shambles. Drinking water, electricity, and heating fuel were not available. Epidemics threatened the physically weakened population. To ease the problems, the Soviet army helped clear the rubble from city streets and shipped some food supplies to the Germans. At the same time, the production of German agriculture had to support the huge occupying army. New organizations were encouraged to emerge after 1945. A trade union association was established with Soviet blessing, dominated mostly by German communists. The Free German Youth (see Free German Youth Organization) association was organized. A Cultural League for the Democratic Renewal of Germany (see Kulturbund) was formed. The Aufbau Verlag, a state publishing firm (see Aufbau Verlag) was also established.
Dennis Mike, German Democratic Republic: Politics, Economics, and Society ( London, 1988); Nettle Jonathan P., The Eastern Zone and Soviet Policy in Germany, 1945-1950 ( London, 1951).
Sports. The Socialist Unity party of East Germany always considered sports a measure of a society's strength and level of development. In 1974, at the Eighth Party Congress, Erich Honecker (see Honecker, Erich) declared:
Our state is respected in the world today not only because of the excellent performance of our top athletes but also because of the unrelenting attention which we devote to physical culture and sports to make them an everyday need of each and every citizen.