"No one has the intention of erecting a wall!" - Walter Ulbricht, June 15,1961.

The Wall was erected anyway, because more than 2.6 million East Germans escaped to West Berlin or West Germany from 1949 to 1961. People with West German DM could get goods very cheaply in the Eastern part of Berlin. Many young smart people escaped to West Germany in search for better life. GDR was piling up problems and most simple solution was to build up the wall.

After building the wall, things changed.

According to this article 63,000 East Berliners lost their jobs in the West. Trade between people from West Berlin and East Berlin stopped. State deficits grew rapidly, world competitiveness became a far-off dream, and discontent continued to mount. Economic and budgetary distortions remained, making it difficult either to direct resources or to control a budget. Dissatisfaction in east part of the city grew.

Except prevention of further emigration, what benefits did GDR directly receive from building the wall?

  • It created a more stable situation for the party create their desired economic / social system. Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 15:47

1 Answer 1


the main benefit was not getting the government arrested and replaced by others who were more likely to do as they were told by the USSR.

The GDR government was under a lot of pressure from Moscow to "do something" about the flood of their citizens fleeing to the west.
That flood of refugees, most of them the brightest and best educated of the country, was also seriously affecting the economy at all levels.
So putting a stop to it, in a command economy like the Soviet style system the GDR employed, was paramount.

And of course they portrayed it internally as a system to prevent intrusion by imperialist capitalist forces, a great patriotic work. Which kinda worked (though there were of course always a group of malcontents who wanted out anyway, no matter the amount of propaganda poured into them).

As to foreign trade, there was not a lot of that anyway outside the Comecon and Warsaw pact, the wall had little or no effect on that.

  • 1
    What I think should now be clear is that the whole panoply of Soviet defence, of which this was part, was driven by intense conditions of paranoia inside the USSR. The Nazi invasion of 1941 had left the country rigid with fear of being overrun by the western powers.
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 17:16
  • @WS2 not quite. While paranoia had something to do with it, incessant imperial ambitions, especially the overriding urge to spread communism around the world by the sword, played a big part. The German invasion of 1941 was in fact in response to Soviet troop buildup along the border, Stalin was planning to invade Germany in July, Germany beat them at it by striking first (and ill prepared as a result). There's no big peaceful bear in Russia, it was a vicious violent predator.
    – jwenting
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 21:05
  • @jwenting: July 1943 just maybe. No way in hosea Stalin was foolish enough to invade German occupied Poland in 1941. Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 2:28
  • 1
    @PieterGeerkens the Soviets were stockpiling equipment and troops along the borders at the time, and the rethoric Stalin was using was consistent with him planning an invasion. You don't do that when you plan it for 2 years hence, you do it if you plan it for 2 weeks, 2 months at most in the future. The German invasion came as a surprise, given that the Germans were utterly ill prepared for it. They had no winter gear whatsoever for example, which Soviet intelligence had been looking for as an indication of an impending attack.
    – jwenting
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 7:05
  • @jwenting The war of 1939 to 45 cost Britain, and the white Commonwealth, casualties of approx. one in every 200 of population. That was the number killed. Germany lost about one in every 45 of its population. Do you happen to know what that figure was for the Soviet Union? They lost one in how many? IT WAS ONE IN EVERY 8! Nearly 30 million were killed by the Nazi killing machine. It is only when you take that fact on board that you will begin to understand Soviet paranoia, and the background to the Cold War with the West.
    – WS2
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 0:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.