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Digital Archive International History Declassified

May 18, 1953

MEMORANDUM FROM GENERAL VASILII CHUIKOV, PAVEL YUDIN, AND IVAN IL'ICHEV TO GEORGII MALENKOV CRITICALLY ASSESSING THE SITUATION IN THE GDR

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    The Soviet Control Commission in Germany reports statistics and a detailed assessment to Malenkov, analyzing the migration of the East German population to West Germany. It also includes proposals for implementing measures to prevent further departure from the GDR.
    "Memorandum from General Vasilii Chuikov, Pavel Yudin, and Ivan Il'ichev to Georgii Malenkov Critically Assessing the Situation in the GDR," May 18, 1953, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, AP RF, f. 3, op. 64, d. 802, ll. 124-144. Provided by Leonid Reshin (Moscow). Translated by Benjamin Aldrich-Moodie. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/111336
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Soviet Control Commission in Germany

18 May 1953
pg. 00195

In the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

to Comrade G.M. Malenkov

In accordance with instructions from the CPSU CC, the Soviet Control Commission in Germany presents this report on the reasons for the departure of the population from the German Democratic Republic to West Germany, and also on proposals to end these departures.

In its note to the CPSU CC of 15 March 1953, the Soviet Control Commission in Germany delivered a detailed analysis of the economic and political situation of the German Democratic Republic.

Despite the general economic improvements and political strengthening of the GDR, the departure of the population from the GDR to West Germany is growing, as is confirmed by the data furnished below:

1951 1952 4 mo. of 1953
1. In all, number who left the GDR 160,560 165,571 120,531
Left illegally 99,797 136,065 120,109
Moved with permission 60,763 29,506 422
2. Arrived in the GDR from West Germany 27,372 24,012 3,589

By their social composition, those who have left the GDR fall into the following categories:

1951 1952 4 mo. of 1953
Workers 27,173 35,300 17,784
White-collar workers 12,098 22,022 13,156
Peasants 1,250 4,022 7,555
Intelligentsia 2,062 3,044 2,498
Students No data 1,064 814
Other categories and family members 57,214 70,613 78,302

Detailed data on social and age composition are contained in Appendix No. 1.
Of this number, 320 persons exited across maritime and zonal borders during the [first] four months of 1953; the rest left through Berlin.
The increase in the number of persons moving from the GDR to West Germany can be explained by an intensification of the class struggle in the city and the countryside, and also by the fact that in the practical work of implementing major economic and political measures, administration often is substituted for political mass work, and certain ministries [and] local party and state organs commit gross errors and excesses in regard to different strata of the population.
After the Second Conference of the SED [in 1952], the government of the GDR and the SED CC took a number of important decisions aimed at limiting capitalist elements in industry and trade, as well as the kulak class in the countryside.
The most important measures on limiting capitalist elements in the city are:

- limiting the supply of raw materials, electric power, and fuel to private industrial enterprises, and goods to private commerce, as well as ending the sale of new industrial equipment, freight vehicles, vessels, and transport and fishing fleets to private enterprises;
- liquidating the majority of large private wholesale firms by administrative procedure under the pretext that they were violating the laws of the GDR;
- implementing special measures to combat speculation and [cutting off] links between private entrepreneurs and firms in West Berlin and West Germany, as well as forcibly closing the branches of West German and West Berlin firms in the democratic sector of Berlin and the GDR;
- canceling some tax advantages earlier granted to large private industrial enterprises on the basis of laws enacted before 1945, as well as intensifying the recovery of [tax] arrears;
- transferring the owners of enterprises employing more than five workers, rather than the existing [cut-off point of] 10 workers, from the category of artisans to the category of industrial enterprises, which has led to a significant increase in the tax burden on this group and to their exclusion from membership in the artisan guilds.

The most important measures to limit capitalist elements in the countryside are:

- raising the norms on compulsory supplies of meat as compared to 1952 and sharply increasing measures on forcible collections of all arrears, going as far as criminal indictments and the confiscation of property;
- kulak farms are the last to be given access to MTS vehicles, and tariffs on them are raised to the level of actual cost of the service [uroven' sebestoimosti], which is twice what is paid by farms of under 20 hectares;
- supplying mineral fertilizers to kulak farms only after the needs of agricultural cooperatives and the working peasantry have been met in full, which in practice has led to a sharp reduction in the supply of phosphorous fertilizer to these farms;
- ending grants of long-term credits to kulaks and limiting grants of short-term credits;
- farms having 20 or more acres of land and two or more full-time workers are not accepted as members of agricultural production cooperatives.

In 1953, the compulsory use through MTSs of kulak farms' tractors and agricultural machines (after they had finished their work in the fields) on other peasant farms, which has deprived large farms of the opportunity to lease their tractors and agricultural machines on terms that are profitable for them.
Excluding kulaks from the governing board[s] of peasant mutual-aid committees and agriculture trade cooperatives, where they had significant economic and political influence.
The Politburo of the SED CC passed a resolution on accepting land from kulak farmers who wish to give it to the state, while leaving 6-7 hectares at their [i.e. the farmers'] disposal, if these peasants so desire. This resolution, announced by Ulbricht at a congress of peasants at the beginning of February this year, was taken as an indication of increased pressure on the kulak class.
All of this led a portion of the peasantry, chiefly large [peasants], to begin to give up their land. On 1 April 1953, 442,8 thousand ha., or 7.3% of the entire arable agricultural area of all peasant farms, including 393,0 thousand ha. from farms having over 20 ha. land, or 26% of the agricultural area of these sorts of farms, were abandoned and vacant.
It should be noted that the measures to limit capitalist elements in the city and the countryside in many cases are implemented without sufficient political and economic preparation, as a result of which some party and governmental measures have found insufficient support among a significant portion of the populace.

II.

With the general rise in the standard of living of the populace, a disjunction between the growth of the populace's money income and the growth of commodity circulation developed toward the beginning of 1953. The fund of wages paid out in the first quarter of 1953 was 17.3% greater than that of the first quarter of the previous year; the volume of commodity circulation over this period rose by only 10% at comparable prices, while commodity circulation in the first quarter of 1953 compared with the fourth quarter of 1952 shrank and consisted of 6.030 million marks against 7.361 million marks in the fourth quarter of 1952.
The under-fulfillment of the production plan for consumer goods in the absence of corresponding reserves and the non-fulfillment of the export-import plan, led to an acute shortage of goods in the commercial network. In this way, the elevated requirements of the population were not wholly satisfied.
Data about the fulfillment of the plan by industry in the first quarter is shown in Appendix No.2.
The autumn and winter of 1952-1953, which were difficult for the GDR, and the weak organization of harvest work led to a significant drop in the harvest of sugar beets, oil crops, potatoes and vegetables. Besides this, the unsatisfactory fulfillment of the plan for stockpiles and purchases of agricultural goods in 1952 led to difficulties in the supply of food to the populace.
This made it necessary to halt commercial sales of fats and sugar in the first quarter of 1953, to substitute partially rationed fats and sugar with other goods, to abolish ration cards for private-capitalist elements and persons of free professions (this affected about 500,000 people), to abolish some additional ration cards for the intelligentsia, and also to raise the prices for meat given out through ration cards by 10-15%, and for commercially sold confectioneries by 12-50%.
With the cancellation of ration cards for footwear and for knitted goods, the fixed price level [uroven' edinykh tsen] was left close to the previously effective commercial prices. Prices were raised on a significant portion of imported consumer goods.
In the course of the entire winter period, interruptions in the supply of coal and electricity to the populace in the republic occurred, as a result of which many schools, residential buildings, and socio-cultural [kul'turno-bytovye] establishments often went unheated.

III.

Recently the government of the GDR made a series of decisions on strengthening punitive policies in the struggle against the theft of people's property, on criminal sanctions for evading state agricultural quotas and taxes, on limiting the activity of private wholesale firms, and on purging certain regions of dubious elements of questionable class. These decisions are basically correct. However, during the implementation of these decisions manifold excesses are being committed, as is expressed in the intensification of different sorts of repressive measures in relation to the populace. As a result of [these actions] the number of arrests of citizens and convicted persons significantly increased: if in the first half-year of 1952, 11,346 arrests were carried out, [and] in the second half-year 17,471, then during just the first quarter of 1953, 14,348 arrests were carried out.
Detailed data are provided in Appendices No. 3, 4, and 5.
By the directive adopted by the GEC on 23 September 1948, On punishments for violations of economic order, which is currently in effect, the police are given the right broadly to carry out arrests and searches on the grounds of only suspicion of economic crimes. On the basis of this directive, in 1952, 16,482 proceedings were instituted and 4,185 persons were arrested. In 1953, in only the first quarter, 5,094 proceedings were instituted and 2,548 persons were arrested.
There are many cases of incorrect arrests, unlawful and groundless searches in apartments and offices, [and] violations of the established arrest and custody procedure.
On 1 April 1953, there were 54,876 persons in the jails of the GDR; of these, up to 13,141 had not yet had their cases reviewed by the courts.

IV.

Within the SED CC and in local party organs, there is an underestimation of the political significance of the populace's departure from the GDR to West Germany. This underestimation has manifested itself, in particular, in the directives of the SED CC. Thus, in letters from 6 January and 30 April of this year, no political evaluation was made of the issue and no measures are planned which would help bring about a fundamental change in the situation. In CC directives, the departure of party members from the GDR is not characterized as a party crime. Meanwhile, 2,718 members and candidates of the SED, and of these, 175 functionaries, were counted among those who left the GDR during the [first] four months of 1953. In addition, over that period, 2,610 members of the Union of Youth [FDJ] left.
Party organs exert almost no influence over the mass democratic organs--labor unions, the Union of Youth, and the Women's League--in inducing them to carry out work to prevent the departure of the population from the GDR.
The press and radio of the GDR weakly expose the slanderous propaganda emanating from West Germany about the refugees, weakly publicize the measures taken by the government of the GDR to accommodate refugees who have returned to the Republic, by giving them work [and] living quarters, and guaranteeing other rights to them, [and they] rarely organize statements by persons who have returned from West Germany. Newspapers, as a rule, remain silent about the facts of the migration of residents of West Germany to the GDR, and do not use their statements for propaganda purposes.
Party and governmental organs commit serious distortions in the implementation of the SED's policy with regard to the intelligentsia.
In the second half of 1952, the SED CC and the GDR government undertook a series of economic and political measures aimed at drawing the intelligentsia into active participation in cultural and economic construction. From 1 July 1952, the pay for engineering-technical and scientific workers was significantly increased, and for the most outstanding scientific and technical personnel, high personal salaries of up to 15,000 marks a month were established.
Despite this, the role of the intelligentsia in building the Republic and the necessity of involving the old intelligentsia is still underestimated within the party and the country. In a significant portion of enterprises, a sectarian relationship to the intelligentsia has still not been overcome. The intelligentsia is not drawn into active participation in the productive and social life of the enterprise.
There are serious drawbacks in the way ideological work with the intelligentsia is handled. In a crude and clumsy manner, demands are made for the reconstruction of all scientific work on the basis of Marxism-Leninism. Due to this, scholars of the old school consider that, insofar as they are not Marxists, they have no prospects in the GDR.
Little attention is paid by the SED to organizing scientific discussions, to the free exchange of opinions, [and] the discussion of different problems in advanced science and practice, in the intelligentsia's milieu.
To date, the linking and exchange of scientific activity between scientists of the GDR and scientists of the Soviet Union and social democratic countries is still insufficiently developed.
A feeling of anxiety for their personal safety is evident among broad circles of the intelligentsia and most of all among the technical intelligentsia. The instances of groundless accusations of sabotage constitute the reason for this sort of mood. The absence of the necessary explanatory work on this issue creates favorable conditions for the activity of enemies and the broad dissemination of all sorts of slanders.

V.

West German and Anglo-American authorities are carrying out economic and political diversions aimed at disrupting the five-year plan and at discrediting the policy of the GDR government before the populace. They have worked out a system of measures to entice engineering-technical, scientific and highly-qualified workers from the enterprises and establishments of the GDR.
In West Berlin, a high exchange rate of the Western mark in relation to the Eastern mark is being artificially maintained, making it profitable for the West Berlin population to buy food in the GDR. On the other hand, the acute shortage of high-quality consumer goods in the GDR and their presence in West Berlin attracts a large mass of the residents of the GDR into the Western sector[s] of Berlin. Providing West Berlin with a high level of supply of every imaginable good and lower prices for goods compared to the rest of West Germany has the aim of creating the impression among the population that a high standard of living in West Germany exists in comparison with the GDR.
One of the methods of enemy activity is to dispatch special recruiters to the GDR who entice qualified workers, engineers and technicians, and teachers of secondary and higher schools, to the West.
The West German authorities, the Americans, English, and French, systematically conduct propaganda on the radio in favor of the GDR population's departure for the West, send large quantities of provocative letters, and give provocative telephone warnings of allegedly imminent arrests of GDR citizens.

VI.

The church, especially of late, is displaying an active role in enemy propaganda against the GDR. The leaders of the Protestant and Catholic Churches located in West Germany have taken the path of open struggle against the GDR; in sermons and in multiple letters, the clergy calls upon the populace to flee to the West.
The SED CC is committing some mistakes in its relations with the church.
On 27 January 1953, the SED CC made a decision on exposing the anti-democratic activity of the church youth organization Junge Gemeinde. It was proposed not to begin to expose the reactionary activity of Junge Gemeinde through broad propaganda work among the populace, but through the organization of trials. In connection with this instruction, the organs of the MfS [Stasi] carried out the arrests of some clergymen and members of Junge Gemeinde in February and March. Due to the inadequacy and unconvincing character of the material, however, the trials have not yet been held. Then the SED CC gave an order to begin unmasking Junge Gemeinde in the youth press. During the implementation of these instructions, the accusation was made across the board that all of the members of Junge Gemeinde were members of the terrorist West German youth organization (BDJ). As a result of this the campaign to expose the reactionary activity of Junge Gemeinde has currently exacerbated relations between the church and the state.
At one of the meetings with the first secretaries of the SED district committees, W. Ulbricht gave the order that open meetings were to be held in all institutions of higher learning and 12-grade schools of the League of FDJ to expose the Junge Gemeinde, in the course of which the expulsion of the leaders and most active members of Junge Gemeinde from schools and educational institutions was to be demanded. In certain schools the number of those expelled reaches 20-30 persons, and in each institution of higher education, the number of expelled students ranges from 5 to 20 persons; this in particular, has led to the fact that in March and April of this year alone, 250 people from 39 12-grade schools have fled to the West.

VII.

In the interest of halting the departure of the population to West Germany, it seems expedient to recommend the implementation of the following measures to the leadership of the GDR:

On economic issues:

1. To take measures toward the unconditional fulfillment of the industrial production plan for 1953, which is decisive for the fulfillment of the five-year plan. To liquidate the lag which took place from the beginning of the year and especially to devote attention to assuring the fulfillment of the plan for machine-building [industry], the introduction of electric power, and the development of [the] metallurgy [industry].
2. Over the course of a month, to work out measures to increase the 1953 consumer goods production plan and the development of commodity circulation.
For this purpose, the government of the GDR must take additional measures to import necessary raw materials: cotton--15-20,000 tons, wool--3,000 tons, heavy leather 2,500 tons. To increase imports of food stuffs (fats, fruits, and others) and some high-quality manufactured consumer goods. For this purpose, to assign additional output of high-quality production for export, in particular to capitalist countries, having found the necessary raw materials locally, using the free [industrial] capacities at hand, especially in precision mechanics and optics.
The GDR Ministry of Foreign Trade makes insufficient use of the possibilities of trade with capitalist countries. It is desirable to render necessary aid to the GDR Ministry of Foreign Trade through the trade representatives of the USSR and the people's democracies in capitalist countries.
3. To oblige local organs of power to improve the leadership of local industry significantly. To oblige the GDR Gosplan [State Planning Commission] to re-examine within a month the 1953 production plans for local industry with a view to expanding them significantly.
4. In noting the underestimation of the role of manufacture in supplying the population with consumer goods, it is necessary to take governmental measures in support of crafts production. It is expedient, in keeping with the realization of artisans' cooperatives, to organize supplies of raw materials for them on a contractual basis on the condition that they hand over their completed products to the state commercial network; to work out measures to offer artisans tax and credit advantages, and also to equip artisans' cooperatives and individual enterprises with industrial equipment.
5. Considering that one of the reasons for the departure of peasants from the GDR to West Germany is the high norms for quotas of agricultural deliveries to the state, to reduce by 5-10% the differentiated norms in effect in 1953 for compulsory supplies of grain crops and meat by peasant farms.
6. To cancel ration cards for meat, fats and sugar from the autumn of 1953, thereby completing the elimination of the rationing system in the GDR, keeping in mind that the per-capita consumption norms that have been attained furnish the possibility of a transition to free commerce.
7. To work out a three-year plan on mechanizing agriculture, developing the MTS network, and equipping it with tractors and agricultural machinery in order to have the possibility of fulfilling the needs for mechanized cultivation of the land not only of agricultural cooperatives, but also of individual peasant farms.
8. To halt the practice of using tractors and agricultural machines from private cultivators through the MTS for work on other farms.
9. To work out a three-year plan to develop animal husbandry and to create a fodder base, assuming the need for future improvements in supplies to the populace from their own resources.
10. To work out a production plan for fertilizer in quantities that will meet in full the needs of agriculture, including large private farms.
11. To concentrate the attention of state and party organs on the organizational-economic strengthening of the agricultural production cooperatives which have been created in order to ensure, even this year, a harvest in the cooperatives that is larger than that of the best individual agricultural farms, and an income for cooperative members [that] exceeds the incomes of individual peasant farms.
12. In carrying out measures on limiting private-capitalist elements, to differentiate between attitudes toward large and small retailers and other small entrepreneurs (proprietors of small restaurants, hairdressers, bakers, and so on) with regard to taxes, credits, issuing food ration cards, supplying goods to merchants; and to use private commerce in the capacity of a commodity distribution network to serve the population.
13. Considering the populace's great demand for construction materials, [as well as] agricultural and gardening equipment, to organize a broad trade in them, both in the city and the countryside, having ensured a portion of additional funds for cement, saw-timber, tiles and machine-manufactured articles; to increase the production of agricultural and gardening equipment.

On administrative issues:

1. In the near future, to carry out a broad amnesty both with regard to persons convicted in the first period for Nazi crimes, and, in particular, persons convicted in the most recent period, with the exception of persons convicted for espionage, terrorist acts, diversions, premeditated murder and for large thefts of the people's property. 15-17,000 persons could be freed from prisons by the amnesty.
2. To take measures quickly toward the introduction of strict order and the observance of lawfulness in procedures for arresting and detaining citizens.
3. To organize expediently social courts [obshchestvennye sudy] in enterprises, in institutions, and at people's estates [narodnye imeniia] to examine minor economic and administrative violations.
4. To re-examine the current criminal code to remove those articles of criminal law which permit their application to even the most inconsequential violations.
5. To cancel all criminal-legal orders containing the directives and circulars of separate ministries. Henceforward, to establish a procedure by which criminal-legal sanctions can be stipulated only in laws of the People's Chamber, and in exceptional cases, in a decree by the government of the GDR.
6. To consider it crucial to carry out a reorganization of the communities [obshchiny] in the direction of enlarging and strengthening local authorities.
7. To carry out, in 1953, an exchange of passports for the entire population of the GDR and, first and foremost, for the population of the democratic sector of Berlin and its surrounding districts.
8. To re-examine the GDR government's decree of 5 March 1953 on mass criminal indictments for the non-fulfillment of supply quotas [postavki] [to the state] and taxes.
9. In view of the fact that the migration of the population from the GDR to the West is taking place through Berlin, to consider it expedient to require GDR citizens to have passes [spravki] and business travel papers [komandirovochnye udostovereniia] from local institutions or organs of power upon entry into Berlin.

On political questions:

1. To end the political underestimation of the significance of the issue surrounding the departure of GDR citizens to West Germany that currently exists in party and state organs and among party workers. To oblige party organs and primary party organizations to analyze with care and to study all cases of departure and to take effective measures to ascertain the reasons influencing the population's migration to West Germany.
To view the departure of members of the SED as a betrayal of the party. To investigate according to party procedure each case of departure by members of the SED to the West and to discuss [these cases] at general meetings of the party organizations and regional committees of the SED.
2. To commit the party and the mass democratic organizations of the GDR to conduct systematic explanatory work among the GDR populace against leaving for West Germany, exposing with concrete examples the slanderous fabrications, [and] the essence and methods of the subversive work which is being carried out by West German agents.
3. To take concrete measures to strengthen counter-propaganda, organizing it in such ways that the press and radio of the GDR systematically expose the mendacious Western propaganda on the issue of refugees from the GDR. To set aside the necessary resources for this.
4. In the interests of an effective struggle against the reactionary broadcasts of RIAS, to ensure the completion in 1953 of the construction of powerful radio stations in Magdeburg, Schwerin, and Dresden. To build 15 medium-wave low-power radio stations with up to 5 kilowatts of power and 10 short wave stations each with up to 2-3 kilowatts of power. To manufacture and deploy 400-600 Gebor radio sets.
5. In the interests of strengthening counter-propaganda, to organize through the KPD the systematic collection of information about the refugees' difficult conditions and the poor material and legal conditions of different strata of the West German populace.
6. In order to expose the reactionary propaganda of the church, to explain in a detailed and systematic way through the press and in oral propaganda that the government of the GDR unswervingly observes freedom of conscience, of religion, and of religious observance, as provided for in the GDR constitution. To explain that the actions of the authorities are directed only against those church officials and leaders of Junge Gemeinde who conduct hostile subversive work against the democratic tradition of the GDR.
7. To take measures to correct the excesses which have been committed with regard to students expelled from school and from institutions of higher learning for belonging to the Junge Gemeinde.
8. For the SED CC to examine in particular the issue of improving work among the intelligentsia and to correct the mistakes that have been committed.
9. To take measures to improve scientific and cultural links between scholars in the GDR and in the Soviet Union and the people's democracies, as well as to supply the GDR intelligentsia with foreign scientific and technical literature.

V. Chuikov
P. Yudin
I. Il'ichev

18 May 1953.
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