Walled In: Ordinary East Germans' Responses to 13 August 1961 : German Politics and Society Berghahn Journals
German Politics and Society

German Politics and Society

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Editor: Jeffrey J. Anderson, Georgetown University


Volume 34 / 2016, 4 issues per volume (spring, summer, autumn, winter)

Subjects: German Studies, Politics, Sociology, History, Economics, Cultural Studies


A joint publication of the BMW Center for German and European Studies (of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). These centers are represented by their directors on the journal's Editorial Committee.

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Walled In: Ordinary East Germans' Responses to 13 August 1961

Patrick Major

Keywords: BERLIN WALL; GERMAN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC (GDR); SOCIALIST UNITY PARTY (SED); GRENZGANGER; BORDER POLICE; REFUGEES

Abstract

The building of the Berlin Wall on 13 August 1961 had repercussions not only on the international scene, but also for the power relationship between state and society in the German Democratic Republic. This article considers the short-, medium- and long-term reactions of the East German population to the border closure from a personal and political perspective, examining key groups such as educated elites, workers, and young people. The closed society elicited a new deference in the short term, but the author argues for considerable continuities of low-level disruptive behavior before and after 13 August. In the longer term, there was a generation born behind the Wall which by simple habituation rather than a conscious decision was forced to accept the new contours of the geopolitical landscape created by the Wall.

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