During the first 12 years of its existence, the GDR’s greatest export was its people. By the time the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, 2.68 million citizens — most of them young workers and peasants — had fled the ‘Workers’ and Peasants’ State’. Its population in 1949 was only 18.79 million, so that represented an average loss of more than 200,000 inhabitants per year [197: 214]. Since its borders with the FRG were closed in 1952, most absconded through the open border in Berlin, a bleeding wound in the East German body politic. They left for a variety of reasons, although ‘material motives were undoubtedly paramount’ [189: 30]. As Mark Landsman demonstrates, the Cold War was as much about consumption as ideological propaganda, spying, and the nuclear arms race. The SED was torn between its devotion to the Soviet model, which favoured heavy industry, and the need to keep pace with West German consumerism [118: 2, 13]. Apart from the pull of the increasingly magnetic Federal Republic, there were ‘push’ factors from within the GDR itself. The more repressive SED policies became, the greater the refugee outflow. Construction of the Berlin Wall, code-named ‘Operation Rose’, commenced on 13 August 1961. It was organized and overseen by Ulbricht’s deputy, Erich Honecker. By 1970 there were ‘165 km of concrete slabs or metal fence, 3.5–4.2 m in height combined with ditches, anti-tank obstacles, watchtowers, floodlights, [and] dog kennels’ [107: 58].
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