The Russians ran the eastern parts of Germany directly until the German Democratic Republic was established as a satellite state of the USSR in 1949. Production was nationalised, factories and property turned over to the state, health care, rent and food were subsidised. One-party rule was established with an all-powerful secret service to back it up. And the Russians, having refused the offer of American capital, plundered East German production for themselves.
They stripped factories of plant and equipment which they sent back to the USSR. At the same time, they required a rhetoric of ‘Communist brotherhood’ from the East Germans whom they had ‘liberated’ from fascism. Whatever their personal histories and private allegiances, the people living in this zone had to switch from being (rhetorically, at the very least) Nazis one day to being Communists and brothers with their former enemies the next.
And almost overnight the Germans in the eastern states were made, or made themselves, innocent of Nazism. It seemed as if they actually believed that Nazis had come from and returned to the western parts of Germany, and were somehow separate from them—which was in no way true. History was so quickly remade, and so successfully, that it can truly be said that the easterners did not feel then, and do not feel now, that they were the same Germans as those responsible for Hitler’s regime. This sleight-of-history must rank as one of the most extraordinary innocence manoeuvres of the century.
Anna Funder, Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall, New York, 2002, p. 161