Population of East and West Germany 1950-2016

In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, Germany was split into four zones, each administered by France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union. In 1949, the Soviet-controlled zone formed the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), while the rest became the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). In this time, Berlin was also split into four zones, and the three non-Soviet zones formed West Berlin, which was a part of the Federal Republic.

One population grows, while the other declines

Between 1949 and 1961, an estimated 2.7 million people migrated from East to West Germany. East Germany had a communist government and was a satellite state of the Soviet Union, whereas West Germany was a democracy with a capitalist economy. Because of this difference, West Germany was a much freer society with many more economic opportunities. During the German partition, the population of the west grew, from 51 million in 1950 to 62.7 million in 1989, whereas the population of East Germany declined from 18.4 million to just 16.4 million during this time.

Little change after reunification

In 1989, after four decades of separation, the process of German reunification began. The legal and physical barriers that had split the country were removed, and Germans could freely travel within the entire country. Despite this development, population growth patterns did not change. The population of the 'new states' (East Germany) continued to decline, whereas the population of the west grew, particularly in the 1990s, the first decade after reunification (although there were some changes to the data in 2001, as West Berlin's population was now included in former East Germany's data). The reasons for this continued imbalance between German population in the east and west, is mostly due to a low birth rate and internal migration within Germany. Despite the fact that levels of income and unemployment in the new states have gotten closer to those reported for the west (a major obstacle after reunification), life and opportunities in the west continue to attract young Germans from rural areas in the east with detrimental effect on the economy and demography of the new states.

Population in the former territories of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic from 1950 to 2016

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Release date

June 2017



Survey time period


Supplementary notes

* Population of West Berlin included with West Germany until 2000, and with East Germany from 2001 onwards.

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