Drawing widely on archive material and recently published documents from both German states on the 1980s, the article examines the impact on a divided Germany of the nuclear arms spiral, from the end of the 1970s up to the collapse of socialist states East Germany and the Soviet Union. Drawing on personal reflections and talks with witnesses, the author describes contradictory attitudes in the World Peace Council and its East German counterpart towards the new European nuclear disarmament movement around the European Nuclear Disarmament Campaign (END). The Cold War dictated rules and defined the scope for the fight to end the nuclear arms race and avert the constant threat of an atomic inferno. In the state-socialist system centred on the USSR, ideology determined the struggle for nuclear disarmament and, in turn, the foreign and security policy principles of the Soviet system. This objective and subjective framework imposed limits of its own, was influenced by the hegemonic objectives of the Soviet system, and contradictory in itself. Inevitably, therefore, East German attempts at containing damage after the double-track decision were restricted.