The East German Economy in the 20th Century

CFP: a conference in Washington, DC, in Sep 2009

Falling Behind or Catching Up? - The East German Economy in the 20th Century

Prof. Dr. Hartmut Berghoff, GHI Washington Dr. Uta Andrea Balbier, GHI Washington, Washington, DC 24.09.2009-26.09.2009, German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C.
Deadline: 15.08.2008

Falling Behind or Catching Up? - The East German Economy in the 20th Century

In 1970, Walter Ulbricht famously declared that the German Democratic Republic would overtake the western economies without bothering to catch up with them. This declaration became the rallying cry for the GDR's attempt not to copy western products and economic strategies but to find its own path to industrial accomplishment. Even if this eagerness could not prevent the economic decline of the GDR, we still have to consider the relative success and longevity of the East German economy. By many measures it was the strongest economy in the Eastern bloc and one of the strongest worldwide. Nonetheless, the economic history of the GDR is discussed primarily as a failure and as a preeminent example of the deficiencies of central planning, especially when contrasted with the outstanding economic success of the Federal Republic.

This conference sets out to analyze both the successes and failures of the East German economy. It will not limit its perspective to the period of the GDR's existence but will also consider the decades before 1945 as well as the post-1990 era. It will explore the factors behind both the strengths and weaknesses of the eastern German economy and consider the economic history of the region within its broader political, cultural, and social contexts.

The conference aims to discuss the history of the GDR's economy in its global context. Therefore, the project will focus not just on the internal workings of East Germany's planning system and enterprises but will also examine the external factors that affected the East German economy (e.g., Soviet policies, German-German trade, COMECON, international economic crises).

We especially welcome contributions that deal with the following topics: