I've read an interview with Nick Cave, who lived in West Berlin in the 1980s and was a drug addict. He said that the "stuff" was very cheap and good - by that he probably meant very pure. And he said that the word on the street was that the drugs must have been supplied by communists to undermine western capitalists. Has this been researched?

Also, from various media I got the impression that West Berlin had a high number of drug addicts. Was that really much above European average?

EDIT: google search yields a few articles from the 1970s and 1980s that seem to support the view that heroin was in fact very available in West Berlin at that time.

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    Some of the street pushing was done by communists and anarchists - I don't think most of the smuggling was done by them. Generally that counter-culture OFTEN used drugs and maybe even defined itself via those ("Zentralrat der umherschweifenden Haschrebellen").
    – user45891
    Dec 5, 2014 at 21:42
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    It may happen that such practice existed for mainly profit, and not for ideological reason, just like North Korea is actively involved in all kid of illegal trafficking.
    – Greg
    May 26, 2017 at 17:25

3 Answers 3


Looks like it's unlikely that anyone will provide a definite answer anytime soon so let this be a temporary answer.

In the book "The substance abuse problems" by Sidney Cohen (as well as in some newspaper articles) the availability of drugs in West Berlin (mostly heroine and hashish) is explained by the trafficking done by guest workers from Turkey and middle east. The East Berlin authorities are still somewhat implicated, because the guest workers mostly landed in Schönefeld airport, which is in East Berlin, and underwent customs checks there. Then they could proceed to West Berlin without going through the customs again. It remains to be researched whether East Berlin customs officers were instructed to keep a blind eye on drugs, knowing that their destination is the other side of the wall.

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    This answer seems quite reasonable, +1. Also note that, if East Germany would have supplied the drugs, they would have to be bought using hard currency, which was in short supply in East Germany.
    – sbi
    Oct 20, 2012 at 20:31
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    "bought using hard currency"? – And then promptly resold using even harder currency with a substantial profit margin! (Not saying that the East did this or that, just the argument in comment above is nonsensical.) Jul 24, 2019 at 17:56

I found some news reports from the 1970s saying that the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had evidence that heroin was being smuggled into West Berlin, and that the smuggling was being done with the knowledge of the East Germans. The Senate investigation was prompted by reports that the heroin was being targeted at US military personnel in Germany.

I looked to see whether any DEA reports from this period had been released under the US Freedom of Information Act, but I couldn't find anything relating to West Berlin. I suppose that, if it involved US military personnel, the details may still be classified.

However, as with the previous answer, this seems to suggest that the East Berlin authorities acted as a conduit for smugglers from Turkey and the Middle East.


For the DDR the general rule existed that for transit the shortet route must be taken. From Schönefeld Airport the bus had to be taken to the crossing point Rudow which was about 1500 meters away.

By Allied law, foreigners were allowed to remain 30 days without a visa.

It is however known that certain persons or groups of persons where allowed to go through Bahnhof Friedrichstraße for 'political' reasons (often under escort).

From Bahnhof Friedrichstraße there are 5 different ways to get into the western sectors (2 U-Bahn, 3 S-Bahn), where checks may have accured once in 5 years (Customs looking for duty free cigarettes or alcohol which were sold inside the station).

Around 1981 thousands of pennyless Tamils arrived within a 48 hour period this way and was reported by the eastern media as 'social chaos in the West... '.

It was believed that RAF and Red Army terrorists were allowed in in this way since the Rudow crosspoint passport checks were (sometimes) done by customs.

It was not believed by the authorities that the DDR tolerated wholesale importation of drugs. (I was a police resevist at the time and that was what we were told)

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