Communists into Capitalists: The Genesis of Eastern German Entrepreneurship after Reunification


The accession of the territory of the former GDR to the Federal Republic of Germany and its constitution was not only followed by the complete introduction of parliamentary democracy in East Germany but also the adoption of the social market economy as a specific form of capitalism. Where, however, should the new entrepreneurs come from, who are so essential to a capitalist system, in a formerly state-socialist country? This search for potential “capitalists” would turn out to be most difficult. The last major wave of nationalization, in which most medium-sized East German companies were assimilated into the system of state ownership, already lay 18 years in the past at the time of German unification. The strength of the West German economy was indeed epitomized by enterprises of that size as part of its post-war “economic miracle”. The privatization of East German state-run companies by the Treuhandanstalt therefore seemed to offer the unique opportunity to apply this seemingly successful model of strong medium-sized companies to East Germany, and in record time. This was a social experiment par excellence, one that is to be investigated at the crossroads of economics and society. How was this idealized culture of medium-sized companies taken into account in the privatization policies of the early 1990s?  What offers of support were available to prospective East German entrepreneurs?

Publications within the project

Max Trecker

Neue Unternehmer braucht das Land.

Studien zur Geschichte der Treuhandanstalt

Berlin 2022


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