Geschiedenis east germany

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Geschiedenis east germany

  1. 1. HI136 The History of Germany Lecture 17 East Germany
  2. 2. Introduction <ul><li>Debates over the history of the GDR – objective assessments are still difficult to arrive at. </li></ul><ul><li>Continuity with German history (especially with the Nazi period)? </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Periodization’ of East German history: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Direct occupation by Soviet forces (1945-49) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>From establishment of the GDR to the building of the Wall (1949-61) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Golden Age’ of consolidation & economic liberalization (1961-71) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Honecker Period (1971-89) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Disintegration & Collapse (1989-90) </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. The Socialist Unity Party (SED) <ul><li>June 1945: Soviets legalise political parties. </li></ul><ul><li>Poor performance of Communists elsewhere in Poland & Hungary leads to pressure for ‘socialist unity’. </li></ul><ul><li>April 1946: Merger of SPD & KPD in the Soviet Zone to form the SED. </li></ul><ul><li>1946 free elections: SED polls 48% </li></ul><ul><li>SED functions as hub of ‘Antifascist Bloc’ including Christian Democrats and Liberal Democrats, and later National Democrats and Farmers; elections also fought as single Bloc list (aka National Front). </li></ul><ul><li>1948-51: SED Stalinised into ‘New-Type Party’; purge of former Social Democrats & loss of parity principle. </li></ul><ul><li>SED membership: rose from 1.3 (1946) to 2.3 million (1986), including many careerist members. </li></ul><ul><li>Functionaries (i.e. officials) liked to list themselves as ‘workers’ but had they really become middle-class? </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Politbureaucracy’ lived sheltered existence in Wandlitz compound, including all mod cons. </li></ul>Wilhelm Pieck (KPD) shakes hands with Otto Grotewohl (SPD) on formation of SED, April 1946.
  4. 4. Politics <ul><li>1949 Constitution = ‘People’s Democracy’: bi-cameral parliament elected every 4 years, Prime Minister & President. Guarantee of fundamental human rights. In reality people just asked to approve or reject pre-determined distribution of seats, ministries controlled by SED. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Walter Ulbricht (1893-1973) <ul><li>Born in Leipzig, joined the Spartacist League in 1918. </li></ul><ul><li>Co-founder of the KPD, elected as a Reichstag Deputy in 1928. </li></ul><ul><li>1933-45: In exile in the USSR. </li></ul><ul><li>1949: Appointed Deputy Prime Minister of the GDR. </li></ul><ul><li>1950: Became General Secretary of the SED. </li></ul><ul><li>1960: Became Chairman of the Council of State. </li></ul><ul><li>Favoured ‘hard line’ of constructing socialism in half a country rather than pursuing reunification; in 1953 under heavy fire from Politburo colleagues, but ‘saved’ by 17 June uprising. </li></ul><ul><li>1960s: Limited economic reforms, but unable to change with the times. </li></ul><ul><li>1971: Ousted by ‘palace coup’ by Honecker, with Soviet backing. </li></ul>
  6. 6. June 1953 Uprising <ul><li>Growing unrest due to high demands placed on workers and poor living standards. </li></ul><ul><li>16 June: building workers on Berlin’s Stalinallee strike for economistic reasons. </li></ul><ul><li>17 June am: spontaneous strikes in cities; Berlin strikers march on ministerial district. </li></ul><ul><li>17 June pm: more political demands (free elections, national unity); late afternoon Soviet tanks impose martial law. </li></ul><ul><li>East German explanation: CIA-organised putsch (‘Tag X’) using teenager thugs. </li></ul><ul><li>West German explanation: people’s revolt against Soviet tyranny. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Politics <ul><li>1949 Constitution = ‘People’s Democracy’: bi-cameral parliament elected every 4 years, Prime Minister & President. Guarantee of fundamental human rights. In reality people just asked to approve or reject pre-determined distribution of seats, ministries controlled by SED. </li></ul><ul><li>1954: Return of full sovereignty to the GDR. </li></ul><ul><li>1955: Formation of an East German army, foundation of the Warsaw Pact. </li></ul><ul><li>1960: President Wilhelm Pieck died – the office of President abolished & replaced by a Council of State ( Staatsrat ) dominated by the SED. </li></ul><ul><li>1968 Constitution = Declared the GDR a ‘socialist state’ & acknowledges the ‘leading role’ of the SED. </li></ul><ul><li>1971: Ulbricht replaced by Erich Honecker (1912-94). Hopes for a more liberal regime, but Honecker unwilling to give up the SED’s monopoly on power & politics stagnated under his rule. </li></ul>
  8. 8. The Economy <ul><li>1945-46: Wide-ranging land reform, expropriation of businesses & nationalization of key industries: 40% of industry under state control; 100 hectares (247 acres) of land redistributed to peasants & refugees. </li></ul><ul><li>GDR at an economic disadvantage compared to the West – had only 30% of industrial capacity, few natural resources & a smaller population. </li></ul><ul><li>Planned economy focusing on building up heavy industry at the expense of essentials & consumer goods – meat, butter & sugar rationed until 1958, luxury goods like chocolate almost unobtainable. </li></ul><ul><li>Growth fell from 8% in 1950 to 2.3% between 1960 & 1962. </li></ul><ul><li>1963: ‘New Economic System’ – more freedom for producers & consumers = better living standards. </li></ul><ul><li>1961-70: Improved growth – the GDR became the strongest economy in the Eastern Bloc. </li></ul><ul><li>1980s: Economic stagnation & financial crisis. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Emigration <ul><li>Republikflucht (flight from the Republic):500,000 people left for the West between 1949 & 1955. </li></ul><ul><li>By 1961 1.65 million people had defected. 50% were under the age of 25, most were skilled workers & professionals. </li></ul><ul><li>1952: border between East & West closed & fortified. </li></ul><ul><li>1961: Berlin Wall built. </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Shoot to kill’: around 1,000 East Germans killed while trying to escape to the West. </li></ul><ul><li>Visits to the West strictly controlled. Some liberalization in the 1970s. </li></ul><ul><li>The Wall led to a more stable labour market & resignation to the way things were. </li></ul>
  10. 10. The Police State <ul><li>Ministerium für Staatssiicherheit (Ministry of State Security, Stasi) founded as clone of KGB under Soviet occupation. </li></ul><ul><li>Early on used mainly for counter-intelligence (to keep out or kidnap western spies). </li></ul><ul><li>Markus Wolf’s Foreign Section scored notable successes in planting moles with West German Chancellor Willy Brandt in 1970s. </li></ul><ul><li>1952 Stasi given control of border; later policed the border troops. </li></ul><ul><li>Poor early warning for 1953 uprising & temporarily demoted from ministerial status. </li></ul><ul><li>Central Evaluation & Information Group (ZAIG) monitored popular mood. </li></ul><ul><li>Self-image as pro-active ‘social workers’ or agents of the ‘invisible frontier’; ‘operative missions’ included infiltration & decomposition from within of suspected dissident groups. </li></ul><ul><li>1960s: MfS adopts more sophisticated techniques & ‘total surveillance’. </li></ul><ul><li>Informelle Mitarbeiter (IMs) (‘informal collaborators’ or informants: growing reliance for ‘total surveillance’ on coopted members of public. </li></ul><ul><li>By the 1980s had as many as 91,000 agents, plus as many as 300,000 civilians informants. </li></ul>Stasi HQ in Berlin-Lichtenberg. Ulrich M ühe as Stasi agent Weisler in Das Leben der Anderen ( The Lives of Others , 2006).
  11. 11. Society & Culture <ul><li>Mass organizations extended the reach of the Party into everyday life: Free German Trades Union Federation (FDGB), Free German Youth (FDJ) and Democratic Women’s Association (DFD). </li></ul><ul><li>Membership not strictly speaking compulsory, but failure to join could hamper employment prospects etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Religious education banned in schools & replaced with compulsory classes in Marxism-Leninism. Schools & Universities teach history, economics etc. from a Marxist viewpoint. </li></ul><ul><li>Jugendweihe – ‘coming of age’ ceremony in which children pledged themselves to the Party and the socialist state. </li></ul><ul><li>1962: Compulsory 18 months military service for all young men introduced. </li></ul><ul><li>Strict control of cultural life – ‘Socialist Realism’ – art has an ideological message. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Anti-Fascism <ul><li>Marxist-Leninist doctrine always interpreted fascism as an outgrowth of capitalism; therefore antifascism linked to anti-capitalism (big business as Hitler’s stringpullers). </li></ul><ul><li>Fascism also interpreted as a political class war (mainly v. KPD), rather than racial war (v. Jews); GDR paid no reparations to Israel & anti-Semitic attacks on graveyards persisted. </li></ul><ul><li>West German Federal Republic viewed as haven of former Nazis, protected by Anglo-Americans (especially in 1950s/60s); antifascism thus had contemporaneous function of anti-westernism (e.g. Berlin Wall officially labelled ‘Antifascist Defence Rampart’). </li></ul><ul><li>SED leadership (mainly Soviet exiles) had ambivalent attitude to ‘real’ antifascist veterans (marginalised ‘inland’ resisters, dissolved veterans’ organisations). </li></ul><ul><li>Antifascism an affective moral argument for wartime generation; but younger generations increasingly indifferent to abstract antifascism. </li></ul>Buchenwald memorial: unveiled in 1958, this group represents the KPD’s leading role in the resistance, with a (historically dubious) myth of the camp’s self-liberation. Buchenwald was the GDR’s main memorial site for school visits & veterans’ meetings.
  13. 13. Support for the Regime <ul><li>Initial support for the regime – many welcomed an anti-fascist and/or socialist state, land reform & nationalization popular, many optimistic for the future. </li></ul><ul><li>However, problems of identity: Germans or East Germans? </li></ul><ul><li>In the 1960s increased acceptance/tolerance of the regime, but little enthusiasm for it. </li></ul><ul><li>Most people joined the Party in order to get on rather than because they were committed Communists. </li></ul><ul><li>Increased dissatisfaction in the 1970s & 80s – Churches (one of the few organizations which remained outside SED control) acted as focus & sanctuary for opposition groups; growing environmental movement; liberalization in USSR after 1985 had knock-on effect (but not at state level). </li></ul>
  14. 14. Historiography <ul><li>Totalitarian Interpretations </li></ul><ul><li>A Modernising Dictatorship? </li></ul><ul><li>Collective Biographies </li></ul>
  15. 15. Totalitarian Explanations <ul><li>Popular in 1950s West German interpretations; revival post-1989 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Comparisons drawn with brown dictatorship of NS </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Stress illegitimacy of Soviet occupation & East German ‘puppets’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>State ideology of ‘socialist personality’ within collective </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Leading role’ of ruling party enshrined in constitution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Stasi secret police </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>State control of economy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Control of media </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Control of economy </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Berlin Wall as epitome of state control of individual </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Breached UN human rights on freedom of travel </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Also popular with many former GDR citizens; but is this because it denies personal responsibility? </li></ul><ul><li>Authors: Klaus Schroeder, Der SED-Staat (1998), Eckard Jesse (ed.), Totalitarismus im 20. Jahrhundert (1998), Anthony Glees, The Stasi Files (2003) </li></ul>
  16. 16. A Modernising Dictatorship? <ul><li>Complex industrial economy required ‘rational’ not ‘ideological’ elite </li></ul><ul><ul><li>More university graduates enter party apparatus from 1960s </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Peter C. Ludz, The Changing Party Elite in East Germany (1968/72) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Economic reforms of 1960s (New Economic System) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Attempt at decentralisation and incentivisation of economy </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Technological revolution </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Special role of intelligentsia in GDR (see dividers on state emblem) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Precision engineering from Dresden & Leipzig </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1980s gamble on microchip technology (too high investment costs) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Welfare dictatorship (Konrad Jarausch) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Indirect use of ‘social power’ to predispose groups to choose socialism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Full employment, hospitals, education system > fond memories </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Educational dictatorship (Erziehungsdiktatur)? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Party ‘in loco parentis’, knowing what was good for the people </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rolf Henrich, The Guardian State (1989); party man turned dissident </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Collective Biographies <ul><li>GDR lasted more than one generation; post-1949 generation ‘born into’ socialism. </li></ul><ul><li>Are we patronising GDR citizens by treating them all as ‘released prisoners’ & victims? </li></ul><ul><li>Gaus, Locating Germany (1983): ‘niche society’, relatively normal private life possible behind public conformity. </li></ul><ul><li>Material culture: 1990s growing interest in popular culture of GDR. </li></ul><ul><li>Ostalgie/’Eastalgia’: re-issuing of GDR brands (see the Spreewald gherkin episode in Goodbye Lenin ); fight to preserve minor symbols of difference (traffic light man). </li></ul><ul><li>Danger of ‘commodifying’ the GDR past & relativising idealistic motivations. </li></ul>Goodbye Lenin (2003): Alex with his allegorical mother/motherland who cannot survive the fall of the Wall. The GDR green man.

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