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  • Cited by 4
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
October 2013
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Book description

By many measures, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) had the strongest economy in the Eastern bloc and was one of the most important industrial nations worldwide. Nonetheless, the economic history of the GDR has been primarily discussed as a failure when compared with the economic success of the Federal Republic and is often cited as one of the pre-eminent examples of central planning's deficiencies. This volume analyzes both the successes and failures of the East German economy. The contributors consider the economic history of East Germany within its broader political, cultural and social contexts. Rather than limit their perspective to the period of the GDR's existence, the essays additionally consider the decades before 1945 and the post-1990 era. Contributors also trace the present and future of the East German economy and suggest possible outcomes.


‘This stellar and invaluable volume of essays offers a state-of-the-art integrated narrative from the post-division to post-reunification East German economy. Avoiding a simple ‘failure’ story, it shows the contradictory qualities of the East German economy that once appeared as a star performer that might ‘overtake without catching up’ with the West, to use the famous paradoxical promise of Walter Ulbricht. This book reminds us that core parts of Eastern Germany were always ‘Central Germany’ (Mitteldeutschland) and that understanding the fading trajectory of the East German economic experiment is central to understanding German history more generally.’

Jeffrey Fear - University of Glasgow

'First as supposed industrial powerhouse of the Soviet economic bloc, then as alleged rust belt of a failed state socialism, the former German Democratic Republic and its successor component of united Germany generated lurid and exaggerated assessments of economic performance. Now, almost a quarter century after the Wall fell, a team of leading economic historians has produced a nuanced and indispensable assessment of its crisis-strewn history from World War II to the present.'

Charles S. Maier - Harvard University and author of Dissolution: The Crisis of Communism and the End of East Germany

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