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Report by the SED Factory Party Organization at the VEB Bergmann-Borsig (1955)

The poor supply situation in the 1950s was a constant topic of conversation among East Germans, who often evoked West Germany as a direct point of comparison. This report by the SED party organization at the nationally-owned enterprise Bergmann-Borsig mentions various criticisms raised by workers – high prices, low quality, and the shortage of food and consumer products.

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SED Factory Party Organization
VEB Bergmann – Borsig

Bln.-Wilhelmsruh, December 1, 1955

Report on the General Mood

On Monday, November 28, 1955, early in the morning, the full-time secretaries and members of the secretariat, as well as the party leadership, were instructed by comrade C. The argumentation for this week includes the following points:

1. Secret letter from Dulles to Adenauer in connection with the coalition crisis and the social struggles in West Germany.
2. Questions about provisions. Has the standard of living in the GDR improved?
3. Sale of profiteering goods in the workplace (chocolate, cigarettes).
4. Christmas bonuses.

Through the secretaries of the basic party organizations [Grundorganisationen], a total of 104 agitators were instructed during the breakfast break by the above-mentioned comrades.

Through the work of our party agitators, we have received the following information:
In boilermaking, the Republikflucht [flight from the republic] of some of our colleagues from the enterprise was discussed. Here, one colleague from the Heese brigade spoke about the Republikflucht of colleague NNNN. He said that Fahr earned good money here. His wife was also working. Something must not be quite right. They had a good living in our GDR.

But there are also a number of false views, as for example in scaffold-making. A colleague there said that there would be no reunification of Germany for the time being, and that it would be better if I went to the West.

In Hall 12, another colleague stated that if the situation in this hall with regards to work does not change, he’ll head for the West. Today an entire brigade from this section bought margarine from our factory HO because there is supposedly none to be had in Bergfelde. In general, the workers of Section 165, boilermaking, are trying earnestly to fulfill the plan quotas by the end of the year. But they were very angry about the production snags in their section. They declare: we want to work. But they have to create the conditions for us to do so.

In the Section General Enterprises, a colleague stated that the Geneva Conference did not produce what we were expecting. We can change the situation only if Adenauer is forced to step down. In the Section Energy, General Secretary Beer had an intense discussion with a colleague, who said the following:

Don’t talk to me about your German unity. The GDR and the SU rejected everything. But a large segment of our colleagues in this section also recognize the political tasks we are facing and reject the inclusion of all of Germany in the NATO pact. They are ready to defend the achievements of the GDR. This is expressed by the fact that we recruited the most candidates for our party in General Enterprises and that some of them signed up for the honorary service of the VP [Volkspolizei or People’s Police]. One colleague cannot understand why the administrative apparatus at Bergmann-Borsig is so bloated. This state of affairs should be changed. An intense discussion developed over the sale of profiteering goods. They criticized that the price for chocolate (4.50 DM) and cigarettes (6-24 Pfennigs) is too high. This should be sold in the currency 1:1. The goods are no longer of good quality because the storage times are too long. Or one should not smuggle them into the enterprise in the first place, but give them to the orphanages right away.

In Generator Construction, 11 comrades were present to evaluate the agitation work. Four comrades did not engage in discussions this week because they said that they were swamped with work and therefore did not have the time.

Primarily the supply situation was discussed there.

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