Hence the systematic escapes from the GDR to West Germany (3 million people in ten years), favored by the situation in Berlin with easy access from one sector to another. To prevent these escapes, a concrete wall was erected in 1961 across Berlin to reinforce the ruthless police measures against fugitives. In East Germany, too, the historic regions had been replaced by districts, on the basis of purely economic criteria. In addition to the withdrawals from industrial plants, there were also those on current production and supplies to the USSR at prices set by the purchaser. Land reform had forced peasants to enter collectivized cooperatives. The reconstruction plans (1949-50, then five years) for the development of the textile and chemical industry with the raw materials available (lignite and peat) demanded excessive work from the workers. Thus the East Berlin general strike of June 17, 1953 matured as an uprising against the communist economic and political regime, which only Soviet tanks could suffocate in blood. The remilitarization and integration of the East German forces had also taken place in the GDR Warsaw Pact, the anti-NATO. According to Abbreviationfinder, the Berlin-Pankow regime was at the fore in the controversy against West Germany which was accused of having reinstated Nazis, banning the Communist Party, thereby violating the tripartite decisions of Potsdam: by virtue of these the only democratic state German would have been that of Berlin-Pankow and in this direction the unification should have started. In 1961 the Berlin problem re-emerged threatening not only in the German internal controversy, but also in the relations between the United States and the Soviet Union; in the Vienna meeting between Kennedy and Khrushchev Soviet proposals for a peace with the two separate Germanys and with a demilitarized free city Berlin were rejected according to Adenauer’s directives. Meanwhile, Bonn’s foreign policy became more autonomous: the treaty that Adenauer concluded with de Gaulle’s France in 1963 for a Franco-German collaboration on a cultural, economic and military level meant a certain distancing from Washington and London, albeit in faithfulness to the Europeanism previously expressed by the accession of the Federal Republic of Germany to the European cooperation treaties, in agreement with R. Schuman and A. De Gasperi. The replacement of L. Erhard to the chancellery (1966), however, meant less intransigence regarding unification as the absorption of East into West Germany and relations with the German Democratic Republic. The pressure of the Berliners to obtain the opening of the Wall at least at Christmas and Easter converged to mitigate the formal intransigences of mutual ignorance with the pressures of industry and commerce that also established relations with Communist countries, evading the exclusion of diplomatic relations with the states that recognized East Germany. Even representatives of the Churches recommended a less intransigent position also with regard to the Oder-Neisse line claimed by Poland.
On the other hand, East Germany itself was regaining a prominent place in industrial production and international trade; and on this basis also the East Germans revealed the need for greater autonomy and prestige within the framework of the Warsaw Pact and in the economic system controlled by Moscow. On both sides there was the idea of separation and mutual recognition. The new KG Kiesinger coalition government between Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, with the Foreigners (1966-69) W. Brandt, of the SPD, former burgomaster of West Berlin, proceeded on this directive of indirect contacts and recognitions with the new Poland and with the German Democratic Republic, facing new orientations of the electoral body (reappearance of neo-Nazis, unrest and dissidents in the governing and extra-parliamentary groups of radical criticism) and left unrest in universities, particularly in West Berlin (1967-68). The new Ostpolitik showed a more decisive character when Brandt took over the government at the head of a coalition between Social Democrats and Liberals, pushing the Christian Democrats back to the opposition after twenty years of dominance (October 1969). While the new federal president, the socialist G. Heinemann (1969-74), issued anti-militarist declarations, Brandt entered into negotiations with Moscow and Warsaw, at the same time pressing for the occupying powers to agree on Berlin: which took place in September 1971 with the recognition of West Berlin’s links with Germany Western and with a mitigation of the Wall with East Berlin. The agreement with Moscow was based on the mutual renunciation of the use of force and that with Warsaw on the recognition of the border at the Oder-Neisse. In December 1972, the ratification of the Basic Treaty (Grundvertrag) between the two Germanys finally normalized relations between East and West. In the German Democratic Republic, the 1970s saw the replacement, at the head of the hegemonic party (SED), of W. Ulbricht with E. Honecker (1971), who in 1976 also assumed the post of head of state. In West Germany, Brandt was replaced at the chancellery by party comrade H. Schmidt in 1974. If in foreign policy Schmidt’s chancellorship was characterized by a substantial continuity with the line of his predecessor, within there was a weakening of the reformist drive, determined in part by the economic crisis which, although manifesting itself in a less serious form than in other countries, did not spare even the Federal Republic of Germany, a crisis to which was added a violent terrorist offensive, the fierce “ecological” movements and a harsh Christian Democratic opposition to the Bundestag. In October 1982 (after the turnaround of the FDP liberals) the Social Democrats lost the chancellery, which they had controlled for about 15 years: the Christian Democrats of the CDU-CSU came to power with H. Kohl as chancellor. The Liberals retained the posts they held in the previous government, with HD Genscher as Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor. The elections of March 1983 sanctioned this turning point with a clear victory for the Christian Democrats and a strong defeat for the Social Democrats; the anti-nuclear party of the Greens joined the Bundestag. The elections of January 1987, while recording a decrease in the number of Christian Democrats, did not change the balance of government. In the German Democratic Republic in those years the discontent of young people and intellectuals was growing, whose aspirations for renewal were frustrated by the conservative attitude of the government, which, despite a vast purge within the party (April 1986), wanted to reject requests for reform on the model of perestroika Soviet: the authorities, deeming the improvements in inter-German relations made since 1985 sufficient, continued in the repression of dissent, intervening harshly in particular against the youth demonstrations of January 1988. In this situation, during the same year the escapes towards West Germany resumed massively, which marked a level never reached since 1961.