East Germany (German Democratic Republic)

A Guide to the United States' History of Recognition, Diplomatic, and Consular Relations, by Country, since 1776: East Germany (German Democratic Republic)


After World War II, Germany was occupied and divided into four zones administered by the main Allied powers. After tensions mounted between the Soviet Union on the one side, and the United States, Great Britain, and France on the other, the Western powers combined their zones and allowed the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Soviets responded by forming the German Democratic Republic (GDR) to govern their occupation zone. The United States refused to recognize the GDR until 1974. The GDR was absorbed by the FRG in 1990 when Germany reunified.


Division of Germany and U.S. Non-Recognition of GDR, 1949.

Following the German surrender to the Allied powers on May 8, 1945, Germany was occupied and divided into four zones. Each of the main Allied powers (the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France) was responsible for the administration of its zone. In 1947, the United States and Great Britain merged their zones. After tensions arose between Soviets and the Western powers, the German Federal Republic (FRG, commonly known as West Germany) was created out of the American, British, and French zones on September 21, 1949. The Soviets then oversaw the creation of the German Democratic Republic (GDR, commonly known as East Germany) out of their zone of occupation on October 7, 1949. The United States responded by stating its position that the GDR was

“without any legal validity,”

and that the United States would

“continue to give full support to the Government of the German Federal Republic at Bonn in its efforts to restore a truly free and democratic Germany.”

As prospects for early reunification of Germany dimmed, the United States established full diplomatic relations with the FRG on May 6, 1955.

Recognition of the German Democratic Republic, and the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations and the American Embassy in Berlin, 1974.

In response to the improvement of relations between the two German governments, representatives of the United States and GDR negotiated arrangements for U.S. recognition of the GDR and the establishment of diplomatic relations, which occurred on September 4, 1974, when the United States and East Germany released a joint communiqué to that effect. Despite this step taken to deal with the reality of the German situation, the United States continued until German reunification in 1990 to view the FRG as the sole legitimate successor government of the historical German state and a future reunified Germany.

Diplomatic Relations

Establishment of Diplomatic Relations with East Germany and the American Embassy in Berlin, 1974.

The American Embassy in Berlin was established on December 9, 1974, with Brandon H. Grove, Jr., as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim. John Sherman Cooper presented his credentials as the first U.S. Ambassador to the GDR on December 20, 1974.

Germany Reunified under Auspices of the FRG, 1990-1991.

Following the collapse of one-party rule in East Germany in late-1989, the signing of a Unification Treaty by East and West German Governments on August 31, 1990, and a series of meetings between the foreign ministers of East and West Germany, the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union in Bonn, Berlin, Paris, and Moscow, a Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany (the so-called “Two Plus Four Agreement”) was signed in Moscow on September 12, 1990.

On September 25, 1990, President George H.W. Bush submitted the treaty for ratification, and the U.S. Senate obliged unanimously on October 10. The treaty finally went into effect on March 15, 1991. Since the five constituent federal states of the German Democratic Republic were technically absorbed by the Federal Republic of Germany under the terms of Article 23 of the “Basic Law” (which was subsequently abolished under the terms of the Unification Treaty so as to limit any further changes to the borders of Germany), there was no reason for the United States to recognize the reunified Germany as a “new state.” The United States maintained its embassy in Bonn; however, it closed its embassy in Berlin on October 2, 1990.