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When Did East Berlin Become Communist?

by | Mar 7, 2024 | Cold War Tour Berlin


Understanding the historical timeline of East Berlin becoming communist is crucial in comprehending the
socio-political dynamics of the Cold War era. In this blog post, we will explore the specific events and
factors that led to the establishment of a communist regime in East Berlin.

The Division of Germany

After World War II, Germany was divided into four occupation zones controlled by the Allied powers: the United
States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. Berlin, as the capital, was also divided into four
sectors according to the same occupation zones. The Soviet Union controlled the eastern part of Berlin, which
later evolved into East Berlin.

Rise of Communism in Germany

In the post-war period, the Soviet Union sought to spread communism and establish friendly socialist states in
Eastern Europe. The German Communist Party (KPD) gained significant influence during this time, particularly
in East Germany.

However, it was the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) formed in 1946 that eventually became the ruling
party in East Germany. SED was a merger of the KPD and the Social Democratic Party (SPD), which was more
moderate in its ideology.

The Berlin Blockade and Airlift

In 1948, tensions escalated between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, leading to the Berlin Blockade.
The Soviet Union blockaded West Berlin, cutting off all land and water routes. This was a response to the
introduction of a new currency in the Western zones, which the Soviet Union saw as a threat to their control
over the city.

In response, the Western Allies initiated the Berlin Airlift, supplying West Berlin with essential goods and
provisions through massive airlift operations. This air bridge became a symbol of Western solidarity and
determination in the face of Soviet aggression.

Forming the German Democratic Republic (GDR)

The Berlin Blockade heightened tensions between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies. In October 1949, the
Soviet-controlled zone of Germany was officially established as the German Democratic Republic (GDR), often
referred to as East Germany.

Walter Ulbricht, a leading member of SED, became the General Secretary of the party and later the first
President of the GDR. Under his leadership, the GDR pursued an aggressive policy of consolidating power and
heavily influencing all aspects of society.

Construction of the Berlin Wall

The reality of two distinct German states, each with its own political and economic systems, led to a massive
exodus of people from East Germany to West Germany. To halt the mass emigration of its citizens, the GDR
constructed the Berlin Wall in August 1961.

The Wall physically divided Berlin, cutting off East Berlin from West Berlin. It stood as a symbol of the Iron
Curtain separating the capitalist West from the communist East.


East Berlin officially became communist shortly after World War II when the Soviet Union solidified its control
over the eastern part of the city. The establishment of the German Democratic Republic, the rise of the East
German Communist Party, and the construction of the Berlin Wall were all significant events that contributed
to the communist regime in East Berlin.

Understanding the historical context and the specific factors that led to the establishment of communism in
East Berlin provides valuable insights into the geopolitical dynamics of the Cold War era.


  • Smith, Tony. “A History of the Berlin Wall.” Wiley Online Library. Wiley, 2009.
  • Feisst, Sabine. “The Berlin Wall: Divided Germany from 1961-1989.” Macat International Ltd., 2016.

When Did East Berlin Become Communist?