Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the significance of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and all that it purported to stand for has been largely cast aside. Other than as a cautionary tale, the GDR has been widely seen as offering little to contemporary political discourse. By contrast, in recent years, its experience, especially in its early formative period, has attracted a lot of attention from historians. In part this burst of activity can be attributed to the opening of closed archives in eastern Europe, but it is also related to the desire to understand better how a flawed system could maintain such seeming stability for so long, and then, how all that could collapse so suddenly and ignobly in 1989. Was its demise inevitable, rooted, as it were, in the DNA of the system, or were there alternative paths that could have been taken? Much of the recent research is founded on the premise that insights and answers to such questions can be uncovered by going back to the origins of the system. This article is written in the same vein. Its aim is to shed light on how aspects of the East German workplace evolved in the period between the beginnings of Soviet occupation and the establishment of a Soviet-style planned economy by 1949–50.