"Wall peckers" in Berlin, 10 November 1989. People started tearing down the Berlin Wall on their own. Official demolition began at Potsdamer Platz in November 1989, and continued from 20 February 1990 between the Brandenburg Gate and the border post at Checkpoint Charlie.
Source: Bundesregierung/Uwe Rau

The Battle for "Public Property"

In the GDR the single party, the SED, its mass organisations and the state bloc parties had piled up major assets. In June 1990 the GDR parliament set up an independent commission to investigate these assets; but former party officials managed to secrete away billions by founding companies, making generous loans to party members, giving donations to party-related institutions and using their contacts abroad.

At the beginning of March 1990, on the instigation of the Central Round Table, the GDR government set up the Institute for Trustee Administration of Public Property (Treuhand Agency). At the same time, the whole extent of the GDR's economic bankruptcy became clear. From June 1990 the Treuhand Agency focused on privatising the state-owned GDR enterprises, over ten thousand in number. By October not even two hundred had been sold, for reasons like the need for major restructuring, heavy debt, unresolved ownership issues and rapid collapse of markets.

There were heated debates on settling questions of ownership. In the end, for property expropriated by the communist regime since 1949 the principle of restitution rather than compensation was applied in all but a few cases.

Demonstrators on 10 December 1989 in East Berlin demanded fair distribution of the assets accumulated by the SED; but the new SED-PDS party found ways to prevent this.
Source: Hans-Peter Stiebing
The demand for "people's shares" to give GDR citizens a stake in so-called "public property" was often raised at demonstrations like this SPD election rally in Leipzig on 25 February 1990. Czechoslovakia tried issuing shares, but they lost all their value due to the economic situation.
Source: Johannes Beleites
On 1 June 1990 an independent inspection commission was put in charge of the assets of five parties and 18 mass organisations collected up to August 1989. In its final report, it concluded that the SED-PDS had pursued "a cover-up strategy for its assets".
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/Graphik eckedesign
The Treuhand Agency in Berlin for administering former state-owned property was based in the former House of Ministries (now Detlev-Rohwedder-Haus) from 1990 to 1994. It was criticised for various reasons, including organisational problems, slow processes and favouring investors from the West.
Source: picture-alliance/ZB/Jan Bauer
In the summer of 1990, former East German party and state functionaries stashed away millions of Marks. Cash was smuggled out of the SED-PDS headquaters in this bag in 1990.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/Frank Ebert
The GDR had expropriated landowners and redistributed their property. This real estate was to be given back to its former owners after reunification. The current owners went to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to prevent this, but their claim was rejected in June 2005.
Source: picture-alliance/dpa/dpaweb/Rolf Haid
On 19 October 1990 police searched the headquarters of the PDS, the successor to the SED, the GDR single party. The PDS was suspected of withholding part of the SED assets from trustee administration. Caricature in the West German Kieler Nachrichten newspaper, 27 October 1990.
Source: Horst Haitzinger
On 6 December 1989 GDR Radio reported that members of the GDR security service (Stasi) were trying to transfer money abroad illegally. At least 107 million deutschmarks were illegally transferred abroad.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/BStU-Kopie
On 6 December 1989 GDR Radio reported that members of the GDR security service (Stasi) were trying to transfer money abroad illegally. At least 107 million deutschmarks were illegally transferred abroad.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/BStU-Kopie
In February 1990 representatives of Democracy Now proposed setting up a trust corporation to guarantee GDR citizens' interests in "public property". Many people signed a petition calling for bonds to be issued.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft
Source: Archiv Peter Wensierski/DER SPIEGEL
An internal PDS party memo dated 25 April 1990, from financial strategist Wolfgang Langnitschke to PDS vice-chairman Wolfgang Pohl, revealed the PDS’s central strategy of illegally transferring the assets taken over from the SED.
Source: Archiv Peter Wensierski/DER SPIEGEL
An internal PDS party memo dated 25 April 1990, from the PDS’s financial expert Wolfgang Langnitschke to the party's vice-chairman Wolfgang Pohl, revealed the PDS’s central strategy of illegally transferring the assets taken over from the SED.
Source: Archiv Peter Wensierski/DER SPIEGEL
Source: Archiv Peter Wensierski/DER SPIEGEL
In the summer of 1990, former East German party and state functionaries stashed away millions of Marks. Seven-figure sums were noted on the receipts.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft / Peter Wensierski
[Translate to English:] Im Sommer 1990 schaffen ehemalige Partei- und Staatsfunktionäre der DDR Milliardenbeträge beiseite. Siebenstellige Beträge werden auf den Quittungen vermerkt.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft / Peter Wensierski
Source: Archiv Peter Wensierski/DER SPIEGEL
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