Young Pioneer Tours

DDR Germany Guide

It is no secret that at YPT we are kinda into the former Eastern Bloc and you cannot deal with the former eastern bloc without mentioning East Germany. But what was the DDR/GDR has it gone and most importantly, can you visit former communist Germany?

Fear not, we are here to answer everything you ever wanted to know about the German Democratic Republic and how to visit.

What’s in a Name?

Let’s start with the nomenclature of the former German State. You will often see the names East Germany, the DDR, and the GDR used interchangeably, they are all the dame, but of course different!

GDR – German Democratic Republic – The English translation of the official name of East Germany. Similar to how the “real name” for North Korea is the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea.

DDR – Deutsche Demokratische Republik – Quite simply the German translation of German Democratic Republic.

East Germany – Again to hark back to “North Korea” the geographic reference to one country with two governments. In contrast to West Germany, or the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG).

Where was East Germany?

East German Map

East Germany made up the Soviet occupation zone following World War 2. The US, UK, and French zones were what formed West Germany. Berlin was similarly split, but that is a whole other story!

East Germany was home to cities like Dresden, Leipzig, Potsdam, and others. The countryside was dotted with forbidden Soviet military towns that stood ready for a possible escalation of Cold War hostilities.

How long did the East German state last?

Officially there was a socialist Germany from 1949 until reunification in 1990.

Why was the Berlin wall built?

The Berlin Wall was built in 1961 to stop an exodus from the eastern, communist part of divided Germany to the more prosperous West. Between 1949 and 1961 more than 2.6 million East Germans, out of a total population of 17 million, had escaped.

When Did East Germany Fall?


East Germany fell symbolically on November 9th, 1989 when the Berlin Wall collapsed. However, it officially dissolved a few months later on the 3rd of October 1990.

What Was East Germany Like?

The question of what life in East Germany was life is deserving of multiple articles of its own. From the Stasi secret police to the food, this article detailing 43 bizarre facts about life in East Germany details many interesting aspects of what life in East Germany was like.

What Was the Political State in East Germany?

Marx DDR

East Germany was very much a Marxist-Leninist state run on Soviet lines. Officially the government was running a United Front, much like North Korea today, although the “leading party” was the Socialist Unity Party.

Can You Still Visit East Germany?

Yes and no, the site of East Germany no longer exists, but you can visit the east of Germany and see all the sites related to the former GDR. There are still a lot of cool tourist attractions you can see in DDR Germany in the company of Eastern Bloc experts like Soviet Wastelands:

  • East Berlin – You can still see remnants of the former Berlin Wall, escape tunnels, and of course, checkpoint Charlie amounts to other things.
  • Soviet-German Museum in Karlshorst
  • Dave along the old “internal border” – aside from the Berlin Wall East and West Germany were separated by a huge internal border. It is possible to drive down here
  • Visit a Soviet military base in Wünsdorf-Waldstadt, now abandoned at the fall of the Berlin Wall, this is where one of Germany’s last remaining Lenin monuments remains to greet the intrepid travellers who make the journey to this forgotten base.
  • the city of Halle Neustadt, a rather dystopian city full of brutalist architecture, socialist nostalgia, and DDR relics.

Was East Germany Communist?

Lenin DDR

Whilst it may seem like an obvious question, some states that seem obviously communist sometimes aren’t. Take North Korea, for example. However, the DDR was Communist. It was a satellite state of the Soviet Union, Soviet occupation authorities began transferring administrative responsibility to German communist leaders in 1948 and the GDR began to function as a state on 7 October 1949. However, Soviet forces remained in the country throughout the Cold War.

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