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Chronicle 1961

In the night of the 12 to the 13 of August, Walter Ulbricht, as SED (Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Ger.: Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands)) party leader and Chairman of the National Defence Council of the GDR, (German Democratic Republic [East Germany]. (Ger.: Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR)) gave the order to seal off the sector border in Berlin. Having obtained the agreement of the Soviet Union a few days previously, and with the support of the Soviet troops in the GDR, the regime closed off the last route for escape from the Party dictatorship: in the early morning of August 13, border police started ripping up streets in the middle of Berlin, pieces of asphalt and paving stones were piled up to form barricades, concrete posts were driven into the ground and barbed-wire barriers erected. more
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    • 1961

      7 March

      At an international press conference for the Leipzig Trade Fair, the GDR Minister for Foreign Trade, Heinrich Rau, announces that the GDR intends in future to use the Soviet system of technological norms so that disruptions in German-German trade can be compensated more effectively by Soviet supplies.


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    • 1961

      8 March

      Speaking in parliament, West German Chancellor Adenauer describes the Soviet memorandum of 17 February as "friendlier in tone", but as "very uncompromising in effect", owing to its legal reaffirmation of the post-war borders. He says that, whereas the Soviet Union recognises the right of other peoples to self-determination, it denies this right to the "residents of the Soviet Zone". He adds that the West German government, together with the Allies, will examine the memorandum "very thoroughly in all its aspects".
    • 1961

      9 March

      In Moscow, the American ambassador Llewellyn Thompson conveys a message from US President Kennedy to Nikita Khrushchev. In it, the US President proposes a meeting of both leaders to take place soon at a neutral location. Khrushchev agrees and takes the opportunity of the ambassador’s visit to hold an exchange of views. more
    • 1961

      12 March

      At the World Ice Hockey Championships in Switzerland, the two German teams come up against each other. But the West German team doesn’t take the field, because the hoisting of the GDR flag and the playing of the GDR anthem are tantamount to factual recognition. The next day, "Neues Deutschland" appears with the headlines: "Hallstein Doctrine causes defeat. Adenauer forbids the game of the West German hockey team against the GDR squad / Fear of potential defeat / Bonn controls West German sport / Applause for GDR team."
    • 1961

      13 March

      Willy Brandt (SPD), the Ruling Mayor of Berlin (photo taken in 1962)
      After West German Foreign Minister Heinrich von Brentano, the Ruling Mayor of Berlin, Willy Brandt, also pays a visit to the USA. Kennedy assures him that the freedom of West Berlin will be maintained at any cost until Germany is reunited in peace and liberty. In a television interview, Willy Brandt does not rule out the possibility that Soviet pressure could be brought to bear again with regard to Berlin in the course of 1961.


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    • 1961

      16-19 March

      The SED Central Committee ponders over the causes of the economic crisis. The supply of food is becoming worse and worse, industrial production is lagging behind, and the healthcare system is in a catastrophic state. more
    • 1961

      18 March

      Franz Josef Strauss, West German Defence Minister and CSU Chairman (photo taken in the sixties)
      West German Defence Minister Franz Josef Strauss is elected as the new CSU chairman at an extraordinary party congress, succeeding Hanns Seidel, who has fallen ill. Strauss will hold this post until his death in 1988.
    • 1961

      18 March

      In an address on RIAS radio, the West German Minister for All-German Affairs, Ernst Lemmer, calls for a referendum to be held in both parts of Germany as prerequisite for a peace treaty. Lemmer says that such a vote would be "the clearest and most unambiguous decision by all Germans on their own future. In this way, the question could be settled whether the people think an all-German government chosen by free election is the right course to take."
    • 1961

      20 March

      At a meeting with the Soviet ambassador in East Berlin, Mikhail Pervuchin, SED leader Ulbricht announces that measures will soon be taken against those GDR citizens that are working in West Berlin, the so-called "Grenzgänger" ("border-crossers"): "This will provoke a great stir in the West," Ulbricht says in so many words, "but that doesn’t matter. If people who don’t use their energies for the GDR leave, nothing is lost".
    • 1961

      23 March

      In a memorandum on Berlin, the American secret service, the CIA, proposes the scenario that the Soviet Union is trying to force the West to withdraw from West Berlin by escalating the situation. Among other things, the paper considers the instigation of a rebellion in the GDR, but comes to the conclusion that a rebellion is "not a practicable secret action, unless an open military conflict between the Soviet Union and the West were to be directly imminent." more
    • 1961

      24 March

      In a RIAS interview, the West German Minister for All-German Affairs, Ernst Lemmer, describes the fiasco in the East German economy, as it has been revealed at the 12th conference of the SED Central Committee, as "the result of false economic and social policies that hit those hardest who were not to blame for the deplorable state of affairs." With a "view to all of Germany", he asks his compatriots in the "Zone" to consider carefully their decision "to leave for the West". He says they should ask themselves "whether they do not do our country and our people a greater service by staying on."


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    • 1961

      25 March

      SED Politburo member Erich Honecker tells the GDR parliament (Volkskammer) on March 25: "Neither ox nor mule – or, to be more precise, neither Brandt nor Strauss - can stay socialism’s rule."
    • 1961

      27 March

      Despite the influx of refugees from the GDR, there is a lack of labour in West Germany owing to the high rate of economic growth. The West German government launches initiatives to recruit foreign workers, at first mainly from Italy.


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    • 1961

      28/29 March

      In Moscow, the Political Consultative Committee of the Warsaw Pact states comes together. SED leader Ulbricht laments the fact that West Berlin is a "huge hole in the middle of our republic that costs us more than a billion marks a year." more
    • March 1961

      In March 1961, 16,094 people flee from the GDR. Of these, 50.6 percent are young people under the age of 25.
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