GDR Dissent - The Evergreen State College

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Dissent in East Germany
(German Democratic Republic, GDR)
Dr. Zoltán Grossman
The Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington
http://academic.evergreen.edu/g/grossmaz
Options in East Germany
REVOLT:
East Berlin Uprising crushed
by Soviet tanks, 1953
ESCAPE:
Berlin Wall and Wall with Federal
Republic of Germany (FRG)
blocks emigration, 1961
Stasi secret
police
Communist leader
Erich Honecker
Dissent from Left
• Birthplace of Marxism
• Industrial working class
• Large CP before WWII
• Nationalism tainted
• Powerful critique that Party
betrayed socialism
Dissent from Left
• Robert Havemann (1910-82)
– Ex-Resistance leader accused
SED of betraying socialism
• Wolf Biermann (1936-)
– Singer stripped of citizenship,
1976
• Rudolf Bahro (1935-97)
– The Alternative in Eastern
Europe (Manuscript smuggled
to West, 1977)
Dissent from Left
• Christa Wolf (1929-2011)
– Most famous East German writer,
best known for Cassandra.
– Informed for Stasi (3 years),
which rejected her as “reticient.”
– Stasi spied on her for 30 years; she
supported Biermann, other activists
– Refused to leave GDR, participated
in 1989 revolution but opposed
1990 reunification.
– Revealed her own Stasi files.
Opposition to Nuclear Missiles
• Western movement vs. US
medium-range missiles in
West Germany, UK;
GDR/USSR oppose US
missiles
• Dialogue with East German
activists who opposed US &
Soviet missiles
• “Swords to Ploughshares”
church-based independent
Hungary
Opens
Western
Border,
Aug. 1989
Pan-European
Picnic
“Tourists” cross
border to Austria
Monday Walks
• Begins at Protestant services in Leipzig, Sept. 4
– Led by leftist, Green youth activists
– Crowds grow from 120,000 to 320,000
Fears of Crackdown
• GDR leader Honecker
admired China’s
crushing of Tienanmen
Square protests
• Stasi shoot-to-kill order,
tries to provoke riots
• Moscow opposed
violence
Gorbachev ends Brezhnev Doctrine
• No more threat of Soviet intervention
– Czechoslovakia, 1968
• Warsaw Pact satellite states more
hardline than Mother Ship USSR
“Gorbachev help us!”
Peaceful Revolution
500,000 in East Berlin by Nov. 4
Berlin Wall, • Minister on TV ends
travel restrictions
Nov. 9
• Berlin Wall falls overnight
after 28 years
• East Berliners visit West
Drive to Reunification
• Exposed to Western consumerism
• Dream of One Nation
• Rise of Conservatives
Reunification,
1990
• Helmut Kohl’s CDU
wins GDR election,
March
• FRG (West) annexes
GDR (East), Oct.
• Die Wende
(Change/Turning
Point)
Effects on Left
• State socialism discredited among
masses in 1990s
– Even “Socialism with a Human Face”
• “Third Way” (social democratic or
Green) alternative not followed
• Leftists did not predict rise of ethnic
nationalism, religious identity
• “Dissidents” won in 1989, lost in 1990
Effects on Right
• Gorbachev not just Communist trick;
reform was possible
• Totalitarian regime could be abolished
from within, like authoritarian regime
(countered Kirkpatrick Theory)
• Conservatives did not predict end of Cold
War—how to justify military spending?
• Conservatives won in 1990, but now….?
Filmgruppe
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