A surviving East Germany - People's War

lordroel

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So not many TLs exist that i know of where East Germany surviving a bit longer than OTL, James G on alternate-timelines.com tries out this scenario and have East Germany outlast the nation who created it, but if it will survive long and prosperous, you can find out in People's War

Here is a preview of his TL.

PEOPLE’S WAR – EAST GERMANY, 1995

One – Temporary closure

At the end of June 1989, the East German government decided to close the country’s external borders. The frontier controls weren’t completely sealed with some traffic open to Westerners and also a few East Germans allowed out, yet the usual summer vacations to be taken by tens of thousands of the nation’s citizens to various countries within the ‘friendly’ Eastern Bloc were no longer possible. Exit visas were cancelled for trips to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. A trickle of people would still be allowed to make crossings because the closure wasn’t meant to be air-tight, but it would be good enough. It was announced as a temporary measure though without a firm end date given. The reason presented to the people of East Germany was due to the ‘troubling international situation’. Neighbouring governments, allies they were, weren’t that impressed: the East German visitors brought with them money to spend and, in addition, that excuse brought questions aplenty about views from East Berlin on their regimes. Internal trouble was anticipated in response by the Politburo led by the ageing and ailing Erich Honecker. The people wouldn’t like it and there would be some unrest. Nonetheless, the leadership stuck with their decision.

What was done was to head-off further expected trouble, worse than people upset at their holidays abroad cancelled. The political situation underway in both Poland and Hungary, especially the latter where many East Germans often went to spend their summer vacations, was troubling just as the country’s leadership had explained as their reasoning. A briefing was delivered by the Stasi to the Politburo ahead of the decision on the borders concerning something else going on with Hungary, beyond the transfer of power from fellow socialists to quasi-democrats. That concerned a plan concocted by outside troublemakers behind the ‘Pan-European Picnic’ to try and do something amazing: bring down the entire power superstructure of Eastern Bloc countries resistant to change, reform & liberalisation through seeing people cross into the West via borders to be opened through the Iron Curtain. Other options as to dealing with that were discussed, including ‘active measures’, but Honecker and his cohorts opted for that temporary closing of the borders. That was deemed less dramatic and more proportional.

What wasn’t expected then was that those borders would stay sealed for good. Moreover, the Politburo didn’t foresee the Eastern Bloc falling apart around them just as those schemers against them aimed to see done. There was also no foresight that acting as was done in June ‘89, even though it brought about some internal trouble, would keep the regime that led East Germany in power with all that they had into the 1990s and long past the additional implosion of the Soviet Union as well.

The German Democratic Republic would outlast those who created it.
 

uk 75

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Woops..I worked in East Berlin from 1987 to 1990
The GDR only existed as long as the Soviet Union was prepared to keep it alive. Once Gorbachev decided to let East Bloc nations decide their own fate, ending the Breshnev doctrine, the GDR was doomed.
To understand why you have to realise how powerful and prosperous West Germany (Bundesrepublik or Federal Republic) was in the 80s. After the US it had the most effective army and air force in NATO but much more than that it enjoyed a high standard of living and a lively open political society with an educated, skilled population. In comparison Britain looked and felt like Poland.
East Germans (except for a small area in the South) could see this for themselves on Television. Helmut Schmidt and Willy Brandt were socialist politicians who ordinary East Germans respected
As soon as Gorbi gave the signal, little Trabant cars and not the GSFG rolled westwards.
 

Hood

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I know its not your AU but someone else's but I'm not feeling the scenario as highly plausible, the GDR was already facing quite serious unrest, the idea that the people would sit tight as they watched the rest of the Eastern Bloc dissolve around them (especially if the GSFG is pulling out too) and not want to escape to the West at all until the 1990s seems rather far fetched, even getting the GDR tanks on the streets to force the people to be quiet would be an explosive move.
 

kaiserd

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To truly murder a metaphor - while a straw can break a camels back it certainly doesn’t follow that the camel would have survived and prospered for long if that particular piece of straw hadn’t been placed on its back at that particular moment.

There’s no realistic scenario in which the GDR survives the withdrawal of Soviet military “support”, the fall of other Eastern European Communist regimes, and it’s own inherent failure in the eyes of most of its own people.
A hardline shift to even harsher repression and force isn’t realistic in such a scenario (Why would the people required to implement it do so in such a scenario when it was so clear in what direction the wind was blowing? Why wouldn’t West Germany and the West intervene in such circumstances? Etc.)

East Germany “fell” because almost no one though it was worth fighting for and even those few that did knew how hopeless and doomed to failure it would be to try.
 

bloody sky

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I know its not your AU but someone else's but I'm not feeling the scenario as highly plausible, the GDR was already facing quite serious unrest, the idea that the people would sit tight as they watched the rest of the Eastern Bloc dissolve around them (especially if the GSFG is pulling out too) and not want to escape to the West at all until the 1990s seems rather far fetched, even getting the GDR tanks on the streets to force the people to be quiet would be an explosive move.
Getting the tanks on the streets like West Korea?
 

lordroel

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I know its not your AU but someone else's but I'm not feeling the scenario as highly plausible, the GDR was already facing quite serious unrest, the idea that the people would sit tight as they watched the rest of the Eastern Bloc dissolve around them (especially if the GSFG is pulling out too) and not want to escape to the West at all until the 1990s seems rather far fetched, even getting the GDR tanks on the streets to force the people to be quiet would be an explosive move.
Getting the tanks on the streets like West Korea?
 

lordroel

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Two – National survival

East Germany wasn’t meant to survive 1989, let alone the following years when the complete fall of the Eastern Bloc everywhere else but in the German Democratic Republic (DDR) occurred. The country was written off time and time again with everyone sure that it would fall like the others did. The doubters were wrong though. While East Germany didn’t thrive following the Revolutions of ‘89, it did survive.

Like dominoes, other communist nations in Eastern Europe collapsed from within. All of them came apart at the seams. It was peaceful in the case of a few, Czechoslovakia, Hungary & Poland, while there was extreme violence in Romania & Yugoslavia. The later spectacular fall of the Soviet Union was something to quite witness. East Germany didn’t outlast the others by going down the China route though. There was no ‘Tiananmen solution’ undertaken. Protesters came out in East Germany, encouraged by media broadcasts coming from the West – West Germany television was freely available to watch across most of the DDR –, to protest but there was no need for a massive crackdown. A little violence came yet it wasn’t much. Instead, the Stasi did what it was good at and worked in the shadows to silence dissent. A few worrying moments came for Honecker and his cohorts where they feared ending up like Romania’s leader when tense situations happened, but people power was never concentrated against them in enough strength. Moreover, the will was never there among enough in the ranks of those who did go out and protest that year to fully overthrow their country. Protest leaders disappeared or were manipulated into doing the state’s bidding. Demonstrations were broken up where necessary, before they really got going too. In the West, they called what protests were seen the Failed Uprising of 1989 but that was wholly inaccurate. Tiananmen was an uprising, so too was Bucharest in December of that same year, but what happened in Dresden, Leipzig & Rostock where people were on the streets before being dispersed was never enough to see East Germany descend into chaos and thus fall apart.

Before he was himself forced out, Mikhail Gorbachev was exceptionally unfriendly towards the DDR just when Honecker felt that he needed the Soviets the most. The economy of East Germany tanked and the West refused to help. East Berlin requested the assistance of Moscow to no avail. Gorbachev gave nothing but lectures though. The Soviet leader sucked up to the Americans and left the DDR to wither on the vine. He even suggested openly that East Germany would be best dissolving itself and reunifying with West Germany! With the cold shoulder from the USSR in its own last days, the DDR entered what became known as the ‘special period’. Foreign trade and economic ties were cut (a similar situation later repeated in Cuba & North Korea) by friends who turned into non-friends. Belts were tightened. There were shortages and financial upheaval. There was a serious drop in living standards and East Germans had a spartan yet healthy diet due to food import restrictions. That brought with it trouble from protest movements who sought to reignite the issue during 1990 where once more they called for democracy and the end of the rule of the authoritarian dictatorship in power. Talking heads in the West claimed that in ‘90, the DDR would fall due to internal and external pressures. Things got very difficult indeed. Honecker struggled to hold it all together as he attempted to force his countrymen to accept the situation they found themselves in and keep the faith. East German identity was played up, an exceptionalism: there was less and less focus on communism. Enemies overseas were blamed for all misfortunes. Nonetheless, the regime endured another year in the face of everything thrown its way including a rapidly decreasing birthrate and an economy that made its currency near worthless too.

Honecker’s Politburo supported the Soviet coup attempt in the summer of 1991. That was a serious mistake. The plotters in Moscow, including among them some of those thought closest to the General Secretary, made promises of support for the DDR. Their own people wouldn’t let them get away with what they tried to do though. Gorbachev regained this throne and, while his crown was mortally weakened, East Germany had made an enemy of him by backing those who had temporarily deposed him with the intention of turning the clock back. Moscow cut off the last remaining aid, including, crucially, military technical assistance. Alas, doing anything more was beyond Gorbachev due to the final fall of the Soviet regime. George Bush, the 41st US President, embarrassed himself – the ‘Chicken Kiev’ speech – in trying to keep the Soviet Union together. The USSR was done for with the ending of that empire right before the year was out. The Soviets had created East Germany yet failed the test which Honecker managed to pass in keeping power at home themselves.

In what outsiders would deem a foolish act, something that the DDR surely had to know would come back to bite it it hard when it was likely to fail, there was strong support in early 1992 for a counter-revolution in Romania provided by East German operatives. The parents of Nicu Ceaușescu had been deposed then shot by a kangaroo court at the end of ‘89 and he, who had been groomed to eventually take over there, had escaped to East Germany in the aftermath. An undertaking was made to see the young drunkard return. It failed, miserably. Romanians wanted nothing to do with the boy Ceaușescu. Stasi efforts to see him installed in Bucharest in a blatant assault on democracy blew up in their faces. Ceaușescu lost his life at the hands of his countrymen while the interference of East Germany was exposed for all the world to see. Erich Mielke barely held onto his post as Minister for State Security during a furious argument during a Politburo session in the aftermath: he got the blame for the disaster more than Honecker who had approved the gamble to see an indebted ‘friend’ put in power there in Eastern Europe. Honecker had critics removed from the leadership council, Egon Krenz & Heinz Kessler foremost among them, to save Mielke’s job: losing the Stasi boss might have cost him his own position due to their mutual support of one another. That meeting did the nation’s head of state no end of good health-wise. Two days later, already gravely ill, Honecker had a stroke. It was mild and he recovered yet it left him weakened. None of that was in the public domain but it was known at the top.

Margot Honecker took an increasing role in the Politburo following her husband’s further ill health. She was no ordinary wife of an authoritarian leader. Once a political force in her own right before she met the already married Honecker to have a child with him out of wedlock, Margot had continued to be a political figure after they subsequently married. She cultivated professional relationships and had a power base of her own, one which dramatically increased during East Germany’s special period and the tensions her husband was under. From overseas, there came diplomatic repercussions to what the DDR had done in Romania. The West imposed economic sanctions. There was personal targeting of regime figures within East Germany but more than that, the whole country was lined up for collective punishment. In Bonn, Chancellor Helmet Kohl was replaced by Wolfgang Schäuble due to a different internal political matter and the latter was very sceptical about efforts by European partners and the Americans to cripple East Germany financially so that the regime would fall. West Germany would inherit the mess! Fellow countrymen of Schäuble were amenable to the idea of German reunification, as he too had been before he became leader, but the practicalities had been studied and alarm caused. The cost – in every way – was thought to be immense. Moreover, Schäuble had no desire to see fellow Germans, innocent of the actions of Honecker overseas, gravely suffer. The West Germans limited the sanctions imposed by others. Shortages in the DDR would continue and the economy there took a beating, but the country wouldn’t fall apart with the people left to starve as long as Bonn had any say in the matter. Schäuble successfully put his foot down on that, which angered allies but also fellow West Germans who remained committed to reunification despite the anticipated costs.

Across the Atlantic, Mario Cuomo ran against and defeated the incumbent in that year’s US Presidential Election. It was quite a victory for the Governor of New York, quite a defeat for President Bush. Francois Mitterrand died that same year while in office as the President of France. His long-concealed cancer was announced months before his untimely end. A former prime minister, the young Laurent Fabius, would succeed Mitterrand in the hot seat within Paris to lead France. John Major won his election in the UK to remain British Prime Minister. Boris Yeltsin had also assumed the presidency of the new-born Russian Federation as well. These leadership matters at the top of several of the most influential powers whose foreign policy often was of concern to East Germany changed the landscape for the DDR. Cuomo’s election took place late in the year and he wouldn’t take office until early-’93 but nonetheless, 1992 was a year of so many changes and it all mattered. Britain, France, Russia and the United States were the Allied Powers who had been victorious in World War Two where they had defeated and occupied then-united Germany. East Germany was the result of the former Soviet Union’s occupation zone. Both Germany’s had sovereignty but there were legal technicalities about that which meant that those four countries had a say in the fate of the DDR… or so they thought. Honecker saw things differently and wouldn’t stand for any hint of external interference. In his last years (he had liver failure) he was increasingly hostile towards all of them no matter who was leading each. Yeltsin, even more than Gorbachev, cared nothing for the surviving DDR. He continued the frosty relations and troop pull-out started by Gorbachev. On the issue of foreign soldiers, the three countries in the West had troops in West Berlin – somewhere due to the WW2 hold-over not actually part of West Germany – while the Russians had theirs in East Berlin too. Yeltsin moved troops out of the wider DDR and significantly reduced those in East Berlin yet didn’t withdraw the last of them in that divided city just as the West didn’t fully leave West Berlin despite their own drawdowns. Honecker would call the militarised Berlin – both sides of the city – a thumb in the eye of his country and raged against the continued foreign military presence there more than its actual existence as two separate pieces.

Throughout 1992 & ‘93, suffering under the effects of sanctions, East Germany would involve itself in extensive smuggling to mitigate their effects. Back in the Eighties, the Stasi had been heavily involved in weapons smuggling with the excuse that was it did was to aid foreign liberation movements among oppressed people. That was really about access to foreign currency reserves as well as luxuries for the leadership. During the Nineties, what was done was on a much bigger scale and was about national survival of the DDR itself. Access to the international banking system dominated by the West was cut off as punishment for what had happened in Romania. That really hurt. East Germany struggled to import and export necessities and had to operate outside of that. The smuggling of weapons and illicit goods was more than necessities. There was a lot of ruthlessness involved in it too. Stasi long-term foreign contacts including a very rich Austrian financial magnate and a wealthy Greek businessman were exploited along with new opportunities. The Bulgarian mafia had exploded in size and influence, so too on an even greater scale the more-fractured Russian mafia. There was the Brother’s Circle as well, a transnational group. Only because the agents of the Stasi had the power of a state behind them could they operate with safety among such people in a very cut throat world. Their contacts got what they wanted in exchange, what a nation state could provide too in terms of passports, safe ground & even fool-proof export licenses. The DDR was able to import fuel and foodstuffs. There were shipments of medicines too. The country needed all of that more than it needed the weapons. All across the collapsed Eastern Bloc, there was quite the buyer’s market out there for some quite fancy equipment to be stolen in every conceivable manner. East Germany went shopping, being fussy with what they wanted. The fate of Iraq in 1991 when it had stood up to the West was noted. In East Berlin, there was a fear that one day the Americans and their allies might make war on the DDR. If that happened, East Germany wouldn’t go down in humiliation like Iraq had done. As to Iraq, there were ties aplenty with that country. East Germany had supported Iraq during Desert Storm as part of its long-standing commitment to the PLO and the Palestinian cause. Saddam Hussein had declared himself acting on behalf of Palestine, pretending he wasn’t engaging in grand larceny on the biggest scale when he took Kuwait, and that the DDR was with Baghdad on. Diplomatic support from East Germany didn’t help much though to stop what had happened. The ties were nonetheless maintained post-’91.

Those were put right in the forefront of the mind of Cuomo and the American people when Former President Bush was assassinated during a visit to Kuwait not long after leaving the White House. Saddam blamed the Kuwaitis, the Israelis too. Cuomo refused to do nothing, not when his immediate predecessor had been slain in such a manner by a hostile foreign power. Killing Bush had been an attack against the United States. He authorised air and missile strikes against Iraq which went on for a week. In addition, an undeclared state of war then followed where Cuomo and Saddam were at each other’s throats. East Germany sided with Iraq once more diplomatically. The further ties where missile technology was exchanged was exposed too. Cuomo saw to it that those links, profitable in various ways for each notion, came under extreme pressure. When an East German flagged ship was sunk leaving Aqaba (Jordan’s only port, with Jordan looking the other way to what Baghdad was doing), it was Margot Honecker who spoke to the world to condemn it. Rumours were abound that her husband was gravely ill with everyone sure that his death would see the regime fall. Her public denouncements and presented evidence of American complicity in that attack against an unarmed merchant ship in international waters caused quite the stir. Britain and France were also looking into those East German-Iraqi smuggling links and joint sanction busting in the aftermath. Some of what was going on was uncovered. There were also revelations about how the DDR had links to further instances of international law being violated when Stasi operations with the Bosnian Serbs had a torch shone upon them.

The Bosnian war raged throughout ‘93. Cuomo wanted to intervene with military force against the Bosnia-Serbs, even Belgrade as well. His European partners refused. No one in Western Europe nor NATO wanted to see the conflict continue with genocide right in the heart of the continent continue but the idea of military force being used by outsiders was rejected in Bonn, London, Paris and Brussels too. When the US Secretary of State came over to Europe, she called the desired policy of dealing with the issue of the catastrophe in Bosnia ‘lift and strike’. Arms sanctions against the Croats and the Bosniaks would be lifted and American-led NATO air strikes would be made. There was rejection to that. The Croats and Bosniaks didn’t have clean hands either. A wider war was feared, one that would threaten the peace on the continent outside of just where it had broken down within the backwater which was Bosnia. The trans-Atlantic divide on that issue was pretty strong and wouldn’t break. However, there was agreement on combatting East German activities with regard to the Bosnian Serbs. What was achieved wasn’t much yet the effort was made to forestall the DDR in making something for themselves out of the suffering.

East German borders were never fully sealed. There were ways across the Iron Curtain that the DDR had moved to expand not just facing West Germany but also around all of its long borders too. There were legitimate crossings as well as illegal ones. From out of the country went refugees and defectors as well. The latter departed with tales, even evidence to be presented to intelligence services in the West, of all that the Stasi was up to internationally. Targeted killings of dissents aboard were revealed. For many long years, the DDR had been suspected of doing such things, yet during the special period where the country was effectively embargoed by so much of the outside world, there was finally some proof. Stories about domestic oppression at home were also made public where the regime played it smart in that rather than shooting demonstrators. There was a lot of scepticism when ‘Zersetzung’ was exposed for public scrutiny. It fascinated many in the West though sounded far too fanciful for most people to believe. The reality was proved though. So too did defectors further reveal all that the regime was doing to keep East Germany standing with its illegal activities far afield. Suspicions were confirmed about the acquisition of high-tech weaponry from dubious sources. There were even rumours, though unconfirmed, that the DDR was working to make itself a nuclear power. None of that could be proved nor was there enough strong evidence to give the West the shove to really look hard into that, but the tales were told of East Germany seeking to give itself the ultimate weapon so that the defence of that regime could be made with threats of the employment of such in a worst case scenario.

In October 1993, trouble once more exploded on the streets of Moscow. Yeltsin’s dispute with the communists in the Russian Parliament turned deadly. It wasn’t a coup like two years beforehand but something different indeed. International media coverage was on-hand to see tanks sent by Yeltsin to fire on the Russian White House. Comparisons were made to Sarajevo despite the wholly different circumstances of what happened there. Yeltsin looked certain to win early on though in London, Paris and Washington there were a lot of nerves about the whole situation. The worry was that the clock would be turned back to the Bad Old Days of the Cold War once again if Yeltsin should fail to bring the opposition in the new country which was Russia to heel. Those were misplaced. Yeltsin crushed the parliamentarians. Relief swept the West at that outcome. That only lasted a day though. The story which came out of Moscow afterwards was that Yeltsin, a known heavy drinker, had had one too many and taken a tumble down a flight of stairs in the Kremlin while celebrating victory. He’d hit his head and died as a result. He was pushed as far as many people were concerned… if there had actually been a fall/push and not a death via some other means. Vice President Alexander Rutskoy had been behind the attempt to depose Yeltsin via parliamentary means and had been imprisoned when the siege of the Russian White House was over with. Yeltsin had dismissed Rutskoy right beforehand anyway, leaving the presidency without a clear successor when Yeltsin apparently took his tumble. Several contenders emerged as a possible new president leading to worries abroad that the country might descend into a civil war which would have made that attack on the parliament look trivial in comparison. That wasn’t to be though. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin took charge. He’d stood by Yeltsin though there were rumours that the two of them might have been at odds. That in turn led to later suspicion that it was Chernomyrdin who saw to it that Yeltsin lost his life.

Corruption allegations had long followed Chernomyrdin about. He was sworn in as President of Russia with those hanging over him as far as non-Russians were concerned yet without many Russians troubling themselves about such things. In post-Soviet Russia, that was expected: everyone in power was corrupt and in it for themselves. The people, the state mattered for nought when compared to personal enrichment among their leaders. Off in distant East Berlin, the accession of of Chernomyrdin was welcomed, especially by Mielke. The head of the Stasi and the new Russian leader had a ‘relationship’. It wasn’t one of friendship nor shared ideology. Instead, the leadership of Russia by Chernomyrdin was believed to be only of beneficial to the survival of the East German regime because he had been intimately involved in allowing for the illegal activities of the DDR during sanction busting and weapons smuggling to go on. Chernomyrdin, having taken a cut where he could, wasn’t opposed to East Germany doing what it must to stay standing. A new lease of life was thrown to the Honecker regime with Chernomyrdin gaining power even if Honecker personally still had ill feelings towards Moscow. Events the following year, where changes happened in other countries that East Germany would benefit from too, would only add to that reason to be hopeful that the DDR would stay afloat.
 

uk 75

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The basic flaw in the scenario is that the Politburo knew that Honecker was no longer well enough to rule them.
His heir apparent had long been known to be Egon Krenz, though sources in Moscow and elsewhere let it be known that Hans Modrow, Party Secretary for Dresden, was the prefered candidate.
Stasi boss Mielke and Economics boss Mittag supported Krenz's move to replace Honecker.
Paradoxically the GDR might have survived if Modrow instead of Krenz had taken over earlier.
Unlike Solidarity in Poland most of the opposition groups in East Germany wanted a reformed socialist GDR in the spirit of Dubcek's 1968 reforms in Czechoslovakia.
A reformist Modrow government in 1988-9 might just have avoided the exodus of young East Germans.
It was the collapse of the Politburo rather than the demonstrations which killed the GDR. The West Germans would only have been too relieved to have a stable Modrow led government in East Berlin.
So no excuse for all the nonsense that follows in "Peoples War"
 

uk 75

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So no excuse for all the nonsense that follows in "Peoples War"
That is why it is fiction, everthing can happen.

Also was a Leonid Brezhnev in his last years unable to rule.
There is a difference between alternate history and fantasy. "Peoples War" goes too far in its changes from actual history. There are probably political motives behind this. A bit like my English Civil War thread this one does not belong here.
 

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Worth reading what actually happened. Truth is sometimes stranger than any counterfactual


 
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