1 January: Passport and visa-free travel is introduced between the GDR and Poland; this is extended to the CSSR from 15 January and to Bulgaria in April. The direct consequence of the more relaxed travel regulations, particularly to the CSSR, is a sudden increase in escape attempts to West Germany by GDR citizens.
15 January: A new industrial relations charter in West Germany strengthens the rights of employees and unions.
28 January: West German Chancellor Willy Brandt and the prime ministers of the West German states agree on a so-called "Radikalenerlass": anyone who does not pledge to stand up for the free and democratic constitutional order as laid down in the constitution is not to be employed as a civil servant.
27 April: A "constructive" vote of no confidence against Willy Brandt called by the CDU/CSU (citing Art. 67 of the constitution) fails in the West German Bundestag.
17 May: After fierce debate, the West German Bundestag approves the "Eastern Treaties" (the Treaties of Moscow and Warsaw). As a "gesture of good will", the GDR loosens travel regulations.
26 May: Signing of the German-German "Traffic Treaty", the first time a treaty has been concluded between the two German states in their own right and not as part of Allied agreements. The agreement regulates transit traffic from both sides. As a consequence of this agreement, the GDR makes it easier to travel and visit in both directions.
June: The main leaders of the RAF terrorists are arrested: Andreas Baader, Holger Meins and Jan-Carl Raspe on 1 June, Gudrun Ensslin on 7 June and Ulrike Meinhof on 15 June. The hunt for other RAF members is in full swing.
3 June: The foreign ministers of the Four Powers sign the final protocol on the "Four-Power Agreement". The "Transit Agreement" and the new travel and visiting regulations of 1971 can now come into force as agreed. From 3 October, West Berliners can visit the GDR including East Berlin once or several times for up to thirty days a year for "humanitarian, family, religious, cultural or tourist reasons".
24 June: Direct dialling on the telephone is once more allowed between West Berlin and 32 local networks in the GDR.
13 July: In the first half of 1972, the remaining private and semi-state-owned companies and the producers’ cooperatives manufacturing on an industrial basis in the GDR are placed under state ownership. Proudly, SED chief Honecker reports to the "dear comrade Leonid Ilyitch" in Moscow that the GDR has "successfully concluded the transformation of partly state-owned companies, private firms and industrial trade cooperatives into state-owned companies that was launched after the 8th Party Conference".
The liquidation of the middle classes, celebrated as a "victory of socialist production methods", aggravates the economic problems of the GDR: the economic planners are overtaxed by now also having to look after the "1000 little things" for everyday needs that have up to now been flexibly produced by small and medium-sized companies but now begin to disappear from the shops.
22 September: West German Chancellor Willy Brandt proposes a vote of confidence (Art. 68 of the Constitution). He does not achieve the necessary majority to hold early elections, because his cabinet does not join the vote.
16 October: In the GDR, the "Law to Regulate Questions of Citizenship" comes into force. People who fled the GDR before 1 January 1972 lose their GDR citizenship, no longer face prosecution and are allowed to use transit routes and travel to the GDR for visits without risking arrest.
22 October: The GDR interior minister issues an "Order regarding Travel Regulations for GDR Citizens", under which GDR citizens below retirement age can be allowed to travel to West Germany or West Berlin in exceptional cases, for so-called "urgent family affairs".
The reasons for travel for which permits can be issued are restricted to births, marriages, life-threatening illnesses and deaths of direct West German relatives; in 1973 this list is extended to include silver, gold, 60th, 65th and 70th wedding anniversaries.
To receive a permit, it is necessary to have the written permission of one’s place of employment, as well as family members, particularly children, who have to remain in the GDR as hostages. Up to 1982, around 40,000 GDR citizens receive permission to visit their relatives in West Germany.
19 November: At early parliamentary elections, SPD and FDP receive 45.8 and 8.4 percent respectively of the vote, giving them a clear majority over the CDU/CSU (44.9%). Willy Brandt (SPD) is re-elected as chancellor on 14 December.
1 December: West Germany opens an embassy in Beijing.
21 December: Signing of the "Basic Treaty" between the GDR and West Germany, which is meant to lead to "normal and neighbourly relations" (Article 1) on the basis of equality. Among other things, West Germany recognises the GDR as an independent and autonomous state and accepts the inviolability of the GDR’s national border. However, it does not recognise GDR citizenship.
The GDR agrees "to regulate practical and humanitarian issues in the course of the normalisation of relations". Further concessions, such as the start of daily commuting near the border and family reunifications, are one consequence.