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Germany – East Germany, 1945-89

1. The Origins of East Germany, 1945-49

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about how the German Democratic Republic emerged following the Second World War, focusing in particular on: (i) the importance of the occupying powers (Britain, France, the United States and the Soviet Union) in deciding what Germany should look like after the Second World War; (ii) the question of whether the western powers should have handed over territory to the Soviets so readily; (iii) the lack of any forced 'communisation' in the early stages of the Soviet occupation; (iv) the extent to which the Soviets engineered the merger between the SPD and the KPD to create the SED; (v) the figure of Walter Ulbricht; (vi) the fears of a nationalist backlash against the division of Germany into zones of occupation; and (vii) the reasons Stalin resisted the transformation of the Soviet zone of occupation into an actual country, and the extent to which his hand was forced by the creation of West Germany in 1949.


In this course, Professor Patrick Major (University of Reading) explores the history of East Germany from the end of the Second World War to the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989. In the first module, we think about the origins of East Germany in the years immediately following the Second World War. After that, we think about Stalin's blockade of Berlin between May 1948 and June 1949 and the Berlin Airlift, before turning in the third module to consider the economy of East Germany between 1948-89. In the fourth module, we focus on the anti-government protests that took place across East Germany on 17 June 1953, before turning in the fifth module to consider the events that led to the erection of the Berlin Wall on 13 August 1961. Finally, in the sixth module, we think about the events that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of East Germany.


Patrick Major is Professor of History at the University of Reading. His research interests are primarily the political, social and cultural history of divided Germany in the Cold War. He has recently completed a large project on the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall, and is currently undertaking a project on Anglo-American and German film depictions of 'bad Nazis' and 'good Germans', which has been funded by the British Academy.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Major, P. (2021, March 23). Germany – East Germany, 1945-89 - The Origins of East Germany, 1945-49 [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Major, P. "Germany – East Germany, 1945-89 – The Origins of East Germany, 1945-49." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Mar 2021,