The population pyramids of both East Germany and West Germany
have reflected casualties suffered during two world wars, lower
birthrates in the prewar and postwar periods, and the large-scale
movement of population in the ten to fifteen years after World
War II. East Germany, however, has felt these negative effects
more severely than West Germany and has taken a longer time to
recover from them.
The number of German military and civilian deaths resulting
from World War II is estimated at between 3.5 and 4.5 million.
Most of the casualties were in the twenty-to-forty-four age
group, and most of these were men in their thirties. The ratio of
women to men was five to four in 1950. The surplus of females was
especially marked in the twenty-one-to-thirty-five age group,
where women outnumbered men by more than two to one. The net
result was a decline in marriage and birthrates, an increase in
the death rate, and an increase in the proportion of the
population over forty-five years of age.
Compounding the problem was an influx of Germans from Eastern
Europe and the Soviet Union and an equally dramatic flow of
refugees from East Germany to West Germany. An estimated 11.7
million ethnic Germans were expelled from the Soviet Union,
Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Romania
between 1945 and 1960. Most were transferred in the first two
years after the war, and most were channeled initially into the
Soviet zone, although only an estimated 2.2 million finally
settled there. In the late 1940s, the number of expellees offset
the decline in the resident population because of war losses, and
the total population increased by 14 percent.
The inflow, however, was matched by a steady outflow of
refugees from the Soviet occupation zone to the West. The
movement of Germans from east to west consisted primarily of
young people of working age, a fact that accentuated the
prevailing negative demographic trends. By 1950 some 1.6 million
had migrated to the western zones. Between 1950 and 1961, the
refugee flow continued at a rate of 100,000 to 200,000 annually.
Workers were attracted by the economic opportunities open to them
in West Germany, and in the early 1950s, they and their families
formed the majority of emigrants. By the late 1950s, a growing
proportion of those leaving were professional people and students
whose skills were sorely needed for internal development. By 1961
approximately 2.5 million had left. To stop the exodus, the
communist authorities built the Berlin Wall in August 1961.
The Wall effectively sealed off the best escape route open to
disenchanted East Germans, thus halting the mass movement of
people to the West. After its construction, the number of
refugees entering West Berlin and West Germany fell drastically.
In addition controls and restrictions on those allowed to visit
the West were tightened considerably. Although restrictions have
been loosened since the conclusion of the Four Power Agreement on
Berlin (Berlin Agreement) in 1971, pensioners have been the only
group allowed relatively free access to the West. Young people,
professionals, and the technically skilled have been denied
opportunities to visit the West except under the strictest of
Data as of July 1987