Minimum exchange

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The mandatory minimum exchange (unofficially called compulsory exchange or entrance fee ) was the obligation for visitors to the GDR to exchange a certain amount in Marks of the GDR at the official rate (which was well above the market rate) upon entry. This foreign exchange restriction regulation was introduced on December 1, 1964. The amount to be exchanged changed several times. After the fall of the Wall , the minimum exchange rate was abolished on December 24, 1989. With this measure, the GDR government achieved a total income of 4.5 billion DM . The background to this was that, particularly in the case of day visits and visits to relatives, there was no possibility of spending the amounts that were forcibly exchanged due to the shortage economy in the GDR.

There were similar regulations in other countries, especially those of the Comecon .


In the special relationship between the Federal Republic of Germany and the GDR, there was a minimum exchange rate. This refers to the regulation imposed by the government of the GDR, according to which citizens of the so-called NSW (non-socialist economic area, i.e. western, market-economy states) when entering the GDR or East Berlin convertible currency into GDR marks (formerly MDN) , the means of payment of the GDR, had to exchange.

A prescribed amount had to be changed per day of stay and per person. The minimum exchange rate for citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany and West Berlin was recently 25.00 GDR marks at a rate of 1: 1 (one GDR mark = one Deutsche Mark from the Deutsche Bundesbank). Furthermore, foreign currency had to be reported to the customs authorities of the GDR on a form on entry and exit. During day stays in East Berlin and in "small border traffic" in the districts of the GDR near the border, the change took place immediately upon crossing the border from West to East Berlin. The passport control unit of the MfS was responsible for collecting the minimum exchange rate . Therefore, there were branches of the State Bank of the GDR (formerly the German Central Bank) at all inner-city border crossings . In the case of stays of several days, the currency had to be exchanged at any branch of the State Bank of the GDR after entering the country. The residence permit was then issued by the responsible Volkspolizeikreisstelle for the number of days for which one had exchanged. The GDR currency that was possibly not used during the stay could not be exported or exchanged for foreign currency due to the foreign exchange restrictions of the GDR. Excess amounts could, however, be "deposited" at the border branches of the State Bank of the GDR when leaving the GDR and received again when entering the country again via the same border crossing point. In this way, it was also possible to collect and withdraw multiple minimum exchange amounts. For income in the GDR (regular business activities, fees, fees, cash inheritances), an account for so-called non - residents could be set up at the State Bank of the GDR , but the amounts did not earn interest.

Although the value of the currencies in international trade and the exchange rates of the West Berlin exchange offices and banks in the FRG showed clear differences in favor of the D-Mark , the GDR existed when changing from DM to M to a rate in the ratio of 1: 1. If the legal basis for a redemption was given, the "internationally customary" rate was used. Since the export and import of GDR marks was generally forbidden and was punished as a foreign exchange offense, in these special cases a redemption could only be made at the State Bank of the GDR. This rate was even less favorable than a return exchange at western exchange offices and banks.

Nevertheless, there was brisk business dealings with the GDR mark in West Berlin. In almost all branches of the Sparkasse of the city of Berlin West, the GDR mark was exchanged for the Deutsche Mark of the Deutsche Bundesbank, the exchange rate was between 1: 3 and 1: 10 over the years. The clientele consisted mainly of soldiers from the Western Allied forces, which were not checked at the border.


Over the years, the framework conditions, especially the respective daily rates, have changed again and again. These changes were always to be understood as an adjustment to the current political situation in the relationship between the two German states.

Introduced in 1964

On November 25, 1964, the government of the GDR announced that a minimum exchange rate would be introduced with effect from December 1, 1964. As a background for this measure it was assumed that the GDR wanted to distance itself from the Federal Republic after the removal of the Soviet head of state Khrushchev . West Germans had to exchange DM 5.00, West Berliners DM 3.00 per day of visit, pensioners and children were exempt from the minimum exchange.

Change 1973

From November 15, 1973, the new regulations no longer differentiate between West Germans and West Berliners. The regulations now applied uniformly to citizens of capitalist states. However, a distinction has now been made with regard to the travel destination. From then on, the exchange rates for the GDR were DM 20.00, for trips to East Berlin DM 10.00. Children and pensioners were no longer exempt from this rule.

Change in 1974

From November 15, 1974, the rates were lowered again. Now 13.00 DM had to be changed for a stay in the GDR, for a trip to East Berlin 6.50 DM per day and per person. From December 20th, people under the age of 14 and retirees were again exempt from the minimum exchange.

Change in 1980

On October 9, 1980, the GDR announced an amendment that would come into force on October 13. Accordingly, 25.00 DM per person per day had to be exchanged, no distinction was made between the travel destinations (GDR or East Berlin), and pensioners had to exchange the full rate again. For people under 14 years of age, a reduced rate of DM 6.50 had to be changed from now on, children under six were still exempt from the minimum exchange rate.

At that time, the opposition CDU / CSU in the Federal Republic was particularly outraged by the measure taken by the GDR . She suspected that the GDR was helping the GDR to support the social-liberal coalition . In the opinion of the opposition, the GDR had intended to raise the rates for a long time, but deliberately announced this only days after the federal elections held on October 5 , so as not to influence the elections.

Change in 1983

From September 15, children under the age of 14 were again exempt from the regulations.

Change in 1984

The exchange rate for pensioners was reduced to DM 15.00 on August 1st.

Abolished in 1989

As part of the change in the GDR (for the first time with the opening of the Wall on November 9, 1989, it was easier for GDR citizens than for German citizens to travel to the other part of Germany), the minimum exchange regulations were implemented on December 24th by order of the GDR Finance Minister Uta Nickel overridden.

Similar regulations in other countries

Demanding a minimum exchange wasn't just limited to the GDR. Almost all countries of the CMEA made use of this source of foreign exchange. Other countries, particularly Latin American countries, also required a minimum exchange rate (in US $). In some cases, however, hotel vouchers, petrol coupons and food and goods vouchers in a prescribed minimum amount per day of travel could be purchased against foreign currency before the start of the journey. Often the issuing of the entry visa was dependent on proof of a minimum exchange or the purchase of the vouchers. The regulation did not apply to package tours. Here, the tour operators ensured there was a sufficient inflow of foreign currency, which was covered by the travel price.

There were also partly binding exchange regulations (minimum exchange, but also maximum exchange) in traffic between the Comecon countries. This made it possible to better control the amount of money transferred and ultimately also travel. In addition, it offered the possibility of controlling and curbing unwanted meetings between GDR citizens and western relatives and friends in the more liberal socialist “brother countries” .

Legal bases

  • Resolution of the People's Chamber of the German Democratic Republic of June 11, 1968, online
  • Order on the implementation of a binding minimum exchange of means of payment dated June 4, 1972, online
  • Order on the implementation of a binding minimum exchange of means of payment dated November 5, 1973, online
  • Order on the implementation of a binding minimum exchange of means of payment dated November 5, 1974, online
  • Order on the implementation of a binding minimum exchange of means of payment dated October 9, 1980, online
  • Section 5 of the ordinance on the temporary entry of persons with permanent residence in Berlin (West) into the German Democratic Republic of February 23, 1972, online

Individual evidence

  1. Birgit Wolf: Language in the GDR: A dictionary, 2000, ISBN 3-11-016427-2 , keywords "minimum exchange", "compulsory exchange" and "entrance fee", pages 51, 147 and 258
  2. ^ Hans-Peter Schwarz: The Federal Republic of Germany: A balance sheet after 60 years, 2008, ISBN 3412202371 , page 165, online
  3. Birgit Wolf: Language in the GDR: A dictionary, 2000, ISBN 3-11-016427-2 , keyword "Minimum exchange", page 147
  4. Jens Gieseke. State Security and Society: Studies on everyday rule in the GDR, Volume 30 of analyzes and documents, Germany Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the former German Democratic Republic, 2007, ISBN 352535083X , page 144 ff., Online
  5. ^ Journal of the GDR 1972 part II p. 361
  6. ^ Journal of the GDR 1972 part II p. 125