Leander Haußmann (Sonnenallee), a theater and film director with East German roots, contributed the documentary Die Durchmacher to the television series Denk ich an Deutschland. In his documentary, Haußmann interviews some of his old friends who in the late 1970s formed a group in East Berlin and presents their stories about the time. This paper explores the image of the German Democratic Republic that is created by the memories of the participants and their presentation through Haußmann. An important element of the memories is the perspective from which they come: out of a subculture that tried to escape East German reality with only limited success. This article also examines how the ambiguity and unreliability of memories are presented in the film. The documentary is put into the context of a debate on the concept of "Ostalgia" (Ostalgie), arguing that this can still be a productive means to communicate East German experiences without idealizing them.
In the years following unification, East German cityscapes have been subject to fierce contention because historic preservation and urban renewal have served as a local allegory of national redemption. Using conflicts over preservation and renewal in the city of Eisenach as a case study, I argue that historic cityscapes have served as the focus of many East Germans' efforts to grapple with the problem of Germanness because they address the past as a material cultural legacy to be retrieved and protected, rather than as a past to be worked through. In Eisenach's conflicts, heritage and Heimat serve as talismans of redemption not just because they symbolize an unspoiled German past, but also because they represent structures of difference that evoke a victimized Germanness—they are above all precious, vulnerable possessions threatened with disruption, pollution, or destruction by agents placed outside the moral boundaries of the hometown by its bourgeois custodians.
The article argues that the films Das kalte Herz (The Cold Heart, 1950) and Der Teufel von Mühlenberg (The Devil of Mill Mountain, 1955) functioned in two ways-as fairy tales and also as new Heimat or “homeland“ tale. Besides Wolfgang Staudte's The Story of Little Mook, these two films were the only two live action fairy tale films that appeared before East Germany's DEFA made its first Grimm feature adaptation in 1956, The Brave Little Tailor. Yet, unlike the Grimm-based films that take place in a generic “forest,“ these first two films take place explicitly in the Black Forest and the Harz Mountains, two locations synonymous with the beauty and timeless nature of past notions of German Heimat. The two films also engaged with the growing monetary and symbolic success of the West's postwar Heimatfilme or homeland films. The article focuses on how The Cold Heart and Mill Mountain contributed to the rearticulation of the emerging Heimat discourse in the early German Democratic Republic, with a particular focus on gender.
Between 1983 and 1989, as the two German pop music industries continued to license one another’s properties, and Amiga continued releasing American and British records, five long-playing records were released by independent labels based in Western Europe that contained music recorded in the German Democratic Republic. They were then smuggled out of the country rather than formally licensed for release abroad. Existing outside the legal framework underlying the East German record industry, and appearing in small pressings with independent labels in West Germany and England, these five tamizdat LPs represent intriguing reports from the margins on the mutual entanglement of the two Germanies’ pop music industries. Closely examining these LPs’ genesis and formal aspects, this article explores how independent East German musicians framed their own artistic itineraries with respect to (or in opposition to) the commercial pop circuit, as they worked across borders to self-release their music.
Without help from the west, the small East German opposition,
such as it was, never would have achieved as much as it did. The
money, moral support, media attention, and protection provided by
western supporters may have made as much of a difference to the
opposition as West German financial support made to the East German
state. Yet this help was often resented and rarely acknowledged
by eastern activists. Between 1988 and 1990, I worked with
Arche, an environmental network created in 1988 by East German
dissidents. During that time, the assistance provided by West Germans,
émigré East Germans, and foreigners met with a level of distrust
that cannot entirely be blamed on secret police intrigue.
Outsiders who tried to help faced a barrage of allegations and criticism
of their work and motives. Dissidents who elected to remain in
East Germany distrusted those who emigrated, and vice versa,
reflecting an unfortunate tendency, even among dissidents, to internalize
elements of East German propaganda. Yet neither the help
and support the East German opposition received from outside nor
the mentalities that stood in its way have been much discussed. This
essay offers a description and analysis of the relationship between
the opposition and its outside supporters, based largely on one person’s
Research on the enterprise transformation in East Germany after unification has focused mostly on the role of the Treuhandanstalt as the central actor in this process who widely determined its outcomes. David Stark and László Bruszt (1998) even suggest that this top-down model of transformation was rooted in the special institutional past of East German state socialism. They argue that the “Weberian home-land” was characterized by weak social networks among firms in comparison, for example, with firms in Hungary or Czechoslovakia, while the planning system and the industrial organization were extraordinarily centralized and hierarchical. Hence, social networks could easily be destroyed after German unification by market shock and by breaking up large enterprises into manageable pieces by the Treuhandanstalt. Moreover, the former, intact centralized planning system could easily be replaced by another centralized and cohesive administrative apparatus, now backed by the strong West German state.
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.
This article engages in a spatial analysis of the link between protest and voting during the Wende, East Germany’s revolution of 1989. Are the same places that protested more also the places that decided the revolution’s fate by supporting CDU’s ticket of quick reunification? The revolution is approached through the conceptual metaphor of Thermidor, a conservative backlash to the revolution’s initial radical impulse. Spatial methods are used to investigate the local-level relationships between protest and voting. The article finds a weak link between protest and voting, which suggests that something akin to Thermidor occurred in East Germany. While certain towns initiated the revolution with their protests, other localities stepped in at a later stage and finished the revolution by voting for reunification, the revolution’s main outcome. The article pays special attention to the divide between East Germany’s north (Berlin, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania) and south (Saxony and Thuringia).
A. James McAdams
The author ponders over the identity of the last self-identifying East German and wonders what he or she will say before leaving memories of the region behind. He distinguishes among three possible candidates for this honor: the ordinary citizen with little aspiration to political or social notoriety; the enthusiast with an interest in perpetuating the old regime's values; and the dissident activist dedicated to transforming that order. After identifying the likely last East German, the author speculates about the message our protagonist will have to share with the leaders of unified Germany. Finally, he provides reasons for why the Federal Republic can benefit from this advice.
The publication of comics from the 1950s onwards in East Germany started as a defensive reaction against Western comics. It did not take long for the medium to be used as an instrument for socialist propaganda. This was especially the case with the historical-political comics in the magazine Atze. This article provides an overview of the representation of the First World War and the German Revolution of 1918–1919 in Atze. It shows that Atze's stories closely followed the historical perspective prescribed by the communist party as well as the concept of the socialist picture story developed in the 1960s. These stories unfolded across series of individual images that generally avoided word balloons and sound effects and were accompanied by detailed text. Using a realistic style, such stories tried to convey a strong sense of authenticity but they remained unable to develop complex characters or stories. However, in refl ecting the changing political climate of their times, these comics provide a rich source of material for studying the portrayal of history in East Germany.