Eastern German News

Newsletter of the Eastern German Studies Group
#15/April 1994


I'm contemplating email dissemination of the newsier newsletter material. Let me know if you have an email address. If enough people are interested to make it worth the bother, I will set up a list to pass along time-sensitive information. The printed version of the newsletter will include any material previously distributed over the net, for those not connected.

by Henry Krisch

Many of us have used the archives of the SED (and KPD). This resource has been absorbed by the Bundesarchiv, and is now the Stiftung Archive der Parteien und Massenorganisationen der DDR im Bundesarchiv (SAPMO). The address remains the same (at least until a decision is reached on re-naming Wilhelm Pieck Strasse): Wilhelm Pieck Str. 1, 10119 Berlin. (Tel. 49-30-442-6837.) The Director is Dr. Konrad Reiser, the person to contact to arrange a study visit is Frau Simone Walter. There is also a support organization, the Foerderkreis Archive und Bibliotheken zur Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung (same address as the archives.) It has over 250 members, of whom about a quarter are from outside Germany. This group sought to have a representative named to the Kuratorium of the SAPMO but was turned down on legal(istic?) grounds. Nonetheless, two members were named in other capacities. Hermann Weber as SPD representative and the support group's current head, Guenter Benser, as a substitute for Klaus Hoepke (representing the PDS as a "depositing agent.") The group's former head, Henryk Skrzypczak, has been recommended for membership in the Wissenschaftlicher Beirat. What this group will do in the future is unclear. It is entitled to use premises and office facilities in the archives building, and was involved in lengthy and unsuccessful discussions as to the disposition of Pieck's study (in part because of "differing assessments" among the group's members regarding Pieck!) It is committed to pressing for user-friendly reading room hours and fees; it encourages persons holding documentary materials to deposit them in these archives; it supports the archives remaining in Berlin. It seems (in my murky understanding of these issues) that persons and organizations holding documents have legal and financial concerns regarding the intentions of the Treuhand as well as the commission that administers property of former DDR parties. As of March 1994, the archives of the former bloc parties--CDU, LDPD, NPD, and DBD--have not been placed in the SAPMO archives. Moreover, LDPD archives are presently housed at the Adenauer and Naumann Stiftungen respectively, possibly bibliographical aids may be deposited at the archives in Berlin. The February 1994 issue of Deutschland Archiv includes a letter from Walentin Falin to the Soviet Communist Party office reporting a conversation with Gregor Gysi on the contents of the archive. Gysi urged the Soviets to do everything possible to see that the archives were either returned to the PDS or destroyed. Gysi claimed that opening the archives would be "a genuine catastrophe," since they contained sensitive and embarrassing information.


Barton Byg announces formation of the DEFA Film Library Project at the University of Massachusetts. The project "seeks to create a lending archive and study center for GDR cinema." It will be the sole North American distributor of the film Geteilter Himmel.
Professor Byg (an EGSG member) may be reached at the Dept. of Germanic Languages and Literature, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003.

     Phone: (413) 545-6671
     Fax: (413) 545-6137
     Email: byg@titan.ucs.umass.edu


The University of Nottingham has decided to "redefine the role" of the Institute of German Affairs. The position of Director has been abolished, the right to hold conferences and publish proceedings has been withdrawn, the Insitute's library and archives have been folded into the University library, and the Institute's building will be taken over by the University.

by A. James McAdams

Later this year the Hoover Institution for War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University will open a major new archive of over eighty oral histories of leading politicians and policymakers from the GDR. Directed by A. James McAdams of the University of Notre Dame, the GDR Oral History Project aims to record the still vivid memories of many of the former leaders of East Germany, so that future students can examine the motivations of those who once made up Germany's dominant political culture.

The Project concentrates on four types of politically significant individuals: representatives of the SED, members of the party and state apparatus, policymaking intellectuals, and new eastern German politicians who have emerged in the transition from the GDR to unified Germany.
The Project used a consistent set of concrete core questions in all of the interviews. Nearly everyone interviewed was asked about their family background and social class, path to political engagement, views on the German national question, perceptions of the outside world, and personal experience with policymaking in the GDR. In addition, question were tailored to the individual's own experiences. Some had worked closely with major figures like Walter Ulbricht, others had unique perspectives on major events, such as the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Interviews were initially approached with some preconceptions. We expected that most senior SED officials would be reluctant to talk openly about their past. Yet most seemed to speak freely about their experiences, particularly when we assured them that we were not interested in "sensationalist journalism." With only a few exceptions--primarily, those facing criminal prosecution--it was easy to gain access to former leaders, even those who had granted no other interviews to westerners. Most interviewers were Americans, and were welcomed into the living rooms of those interviewed.

Future scholars will come to their own conclusions about the honesty and sincerity of each interview, but we were often struck by the candor of the interviewees, especially on such potentially embarrassing issues as the Berlin Wall, which was nearly always defended in animated terms. Leading representatives of the SED elite recognized and accepted that they had lost the battle with the West, and some even expressed respect for their former opponents. There was none of the crazed rambling and denial found in previously published interviews with Erich Honecker.

A second preconception was that the interviews would uncover new facts about the GDR. The hundreds of hours of tapes do shed light on some events in the East German past (for example, the mysterious death of planning minister Erich Apel in 1965, the lack of direct East German military involvement in the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, and the banning of the Soviet publication, Sputnick, in 1988). And the interviews do serve to undermine stereotypes about some of East Germany's best-known politicians. Yet, one of the most interesting findings is how little most policymakers, including many members of the SED's highest circles, actually knew about the most important events and controversies of the east German past. Politically significant information was restricted to very few people. At Politburo meetings leaders discussed very little of substance. Important decisions were frequently made by two or three individuals walking in the woods on a weekend, and expertise rarely played a major role.

A related expectation was that more would be learned about policy- makingprocesses in the GDR. This turned out to be true, although not for the reasons we envisioned. We thought that by interviewing individuals at different levels of the decision-making apparatus of the SED, we would be able to construct a rough flow chart of authority. Not only did we never encounter such structures, but we received constant affirmation that, by the 1980s, no well-established hierarchies existed at all. Power was concentrated in very few hands, and the SED Politburo was a rubber stamp.

Yet there was provocative agreement in many interviews that politics in the GDR had not always been so uniform and that it had changed, particularly since the 1950s. Individuals who were politically active in East Germany's first decade were practically unanimous in describing a more collegial image of policymaking than anything experienced later in the GDR.

We came closest to meeting our fourth preconception: that we could record our interviewees' views on the great issues and great debates of the GDR past. Many spoke passionately about matters that had once been life or death questions for their country. Above all, this was true of the long-disputed German national question. In contrast to some Western scholarship which has presented the GDR's national policy as little more than a tactical diversion, all of the interviews conveyed a strong sense that, at least until the early 1960s, the SED leadership really believed it was offering a valid German path to socialism. The Oral History Project also offers a nuanced perspective on the complex relations that existed between the GDR and the Soviet Union, and a clear picture of East Berlin's evolving relations with the Federal Republic of Germany. It depicts a close relationship between the two German states, in fact, one which defies many current assumptions about the nature of West Germany policy. With German reunification now a fact, scholars may be intrigued to hear, from the eastern German perspective, how seriously Bonn took the leaders of the GDR and how much of West German policy was based upon the assumption that the Berlin Wall would remain in place for "50 or even 100 years."

The GDR Oral History Project does not offer a complete or unbiased perspective on East Germany's history, but it will be a useful source of information for scholarly research and debate. When the archive is opened (September 1994 is the target), all of its interviews will be accessible to interested scholars. For information, contact Dr. Elena Danielson, Hoover Institution for War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-6010, phone (415) 723-3428, fax (415) 723-1687, e-mail: danielson@hoover; or Professor A. James McAdams, Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556, phone (219) 631-7119, fax (219) 631-6717, e-mail: a.j.mcadams.5@nd.edu. [Reprinted with the permission of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies from AAASS/NewsNet (March 1994)]


This section depends on help from the newsletter's readers. If you publish something relevant, or come across an interesting publication, send me the details.

Baylis, Thomas A. The West and Eastern Europe. Economic Statecraft and Political Change (20th Century Fund Book) Westport CT: Praeger, 1994.
Gerber, Margy & Roger Woods. Understanding the Past--Managing the Future: The Integration of the Five New Länder into the Federal Republic of Germany (Studies in GDR Culture and Society 13).
Hancock, M. Donald and Helga A. Welsh, eds. German Unification. Process and Outcomes. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994.
Kaufmann, Christoph, et al. Sorget nicht, was ihr reden werdet: Kirche und Staat in Leipzig im Spiegel kirchlicher Gesprächprotokolle 1977-1989. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1993.
Meador, Daniel J. "Transition in the German Legal Order: East Back to West, 1990-91," Boston College International and Comparative Law Review, 15 (1992).
Rueschemeyer, Marilyn. "East Germany's New Towns in Transition: A Grassroots View of the Impact of Unification." Urban Studies 30 (1993), 495-506.
Rueschemeyer, Marilyn, ed. Women in the Politics of Postcommunist Eastern Europe, Armonk NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1994.
Welsh, Helga A. "The Divided Past and the Difficulties of German Unification," German Politics and Society, 30 (Fall 1993), 76- 86.


Allen, Pam. "Heiner Mueller's Wolokolamsker Chaussee: Confronting the Past with Poetic Counter-Strategies," Indiana, 1990.
Armstrong, Anthony Michael. "Breaking the Ice: Initiative to Improve Relations with a National Adversary" Washington, Seattle, 1990.
Ashwill, Mark A. "Upper Secondary Completion Examinations in East and West Germany," Buffalo, 1991.
Berger, Huberta Maria. "Vom `Wirklischen Blau' zum `Blauen Licht': Aspekte der Romantik-Rezeption in der Neueren DDR-Literatur," California, Davis, 1990.
Braunbeck, Helga Gerlinde. "Autorschaft und Subjektgenese: Christa Wolfs `Kein Ort, Nirgends'," California, Santa Barbara, 1990.
Cleary, Donald L., Jr. "Effects of Dialictic Materialism on Selected Works by Bertolt Brecht and Theodor W. Adorno," Ohio University, 1990.
Cohen-Pfister, Laurel Ann. "Literary Scholarship in the German Democratic Republic in the Eighties: The Conflict with 'Young' Literature," UCLA, 1990.
Gedmin, Victor Jeffrey. "Sprache und Politsch-Ideologische Erziehung in der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik," Georgetown, 1990.
Granlund, Christopher. "Regimes of Truth: The Reconstruction of the Press in the Soviet and United States Sectors of Postwar Berlin, 1945-1947," Cardiff, 1988.
Guenther, Christina Eiko. "Sexual and Textual Politics Reconsidered: Heinrich von Kleist's 'Amphitryon' and 'Marquise von Ovs.' Their adaptions in the 1960's," Wisconsin, 1990.
Laabs, Theodore R. "The History and Development of Karl Marx University at Leipzig," North Texas, 1990.
Ladd, Cornelie. "Fictions of Power, Powers of Fictions: Critical Representations of European Thought by Marx, Conrad and Brecht," Columbia, 1991.
Larson, David Ward. "The Galileo Plays of Bertolt Brecht and Barrie Stavis," Illinois, 1989.
Lee, In Sung. "Elite Structure and Economic Reform: A Political Analysis of Economic Transitions in Socialist Systems, 1956-1988," Texas, 1990.
Leighton, Hera T. "The Modern Fantastic in GDR Short Prose," Illinois, 1990.
Mathias, Alexander. "Rezeption und Ideologie: Martin Walser's Narrative Prosa in der BRD und DDR," Texas, 1990.
Paul, G. L. B. "'Subjective Authenticity' --Contemporaneity and Commitment in the Works of Christa Wolf," Oxford, 1990.
Pickel, Andreas. "Between Ideology and Pragmatism: The Survival and Revival of Private Entrepeneurship in the German Democratic Republic," York, 1990.
Riley, Kerry Kathleen. "The East German Revolution: The Interplay of Populist and Elite Influence," Texas, 1993.
Sheldon, Constance Joanna. "Dread Amusement: Studies in the Melancholic Absurd (Buechner, Brecht, Beckett and Artaud)," Johns Hopkins, 1990.
Sutcliffe, Peter Wilfred. "The Structure and Political Significance of Sport in the German Democratic Republic: A Socio-Historical Study of the Development of Sport in Germany Prior to 1945 and Its Subsequent Political Instrumentalisation in the German Democratic Republic," Bradford, 1987.
Von Ankum, Katherine Elisabeth. "Die Rezeption von Christa Wolf in Ost und West: 'Moskauer Novelle' bis 'Selbstversuch,'" Massachusetts, 1990. [Reprinted with permission from Slavic Review 51 (Winter 1992): 876-879]


Gert-Joachim Glaessner spoke at a conference on "Reassessing the GDR," held at the Institute of German, Austrian and Swiss Affairs, University of Nottingham, January 1994.
Glaessner, Volker Gransow, and Hans Misselwitz spoke at a conference arranged by the Brandenburgische Landeszentrale für politische Bildung, held in Potsdam 14-16 December 1993 under the title "Die real-existierende postsozialistische Gesellschaft."


Baylis, Thomas (505 Westlake Drive, Austin, TX 78746). "Elite Re-(Dis)Placement in the former GDR in East European Perspective."
Bednarz, Daniel (1400 Smokey Wood Dr., Suite 304, Pittsburgh, PA 15218. "Dis-Utopia Lost: The Intelligentsia of East Berlin after Unification."
Goeckel, Robert (Dept. of Political Science, SUNY at Geneseo, Geneseo, NY 14454-1401). "Soviet Policy toward the Baltic Lutheran Churches," and other work on the legacy of the Evangelical Church in the GDR.
Pitkin, Donald S. (Dept. of Anthropology/Sociology, Box 2226, Amherst College, P. O. Box 5000, Amherst, MA 01002-5000). "A Study of a Three-Generation Farm Family in Göttern, Kreis Weimar."


The Twentieth New Hampshire Symposium will take place on June 22-29, 1994 at the World Fellowship Center, Conway, New Hampshire. The theme is: Issues of Integration--Issues of Segregation: Progress and Obstacles on the Way to Real Unity in the New German States.
The symposium will be devoted to a temperature taking in the new Bundesländer, an analysis of the political, economic, social, and cultural situation of the East Germans during this important election year. In addition, one day of the conference will be set aside for a critical review of past GDR research and discussion of present and future directions.
Economist, political scientists, sociologists, historians, and other social scientists, as well as Germanists and specialists in the arts and media are invited to participate. As in the past, the seminars will be multi-disciplinary. Ideally, all topics will be treated from a variety of points of view, including their representation in literature and other art forms.
The following seminars are planned:
Seminar I: Issues of Identity--Roger Woods (Department of Modern Languages, Aston University, Aston Triangle, Birmingham, GB B47ET), Lothar Probst (Institut für kulturwissenschaftliche Deutschlandstudien, Universität Bremen, Postfach 330440, 28334 Bremen).
Seminar II: Quality of Life in the New German States: Michael Hofmann (Senderforschungsbereich 333, Universität Leipzig, RitterstraŠe 16b, 04109 Leipzig), Margy Gerber (Department of German, Russian, E. Asian Languages, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403).
Seminar III: Political Culture and Political Behavior--Mike Dennis (School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Wolverhampton, Castle View, Dudley GB DY1 3HR), Gero Neugebauer (Zentralinstitut für sozialwissenschaftliche Forschung der FU Berlin, Malteserstr. 74- 100, 12249 Berlin).
Seminar IV: Cultural Institutions, the Media, Communication--Klaus Michael (Lychener StraŠe 6, 10437 Berlin), Margy Gerber (Seminar II).
Seminar V: Literature and the Arts--Christiane Zehl Romero (Department of German, Russian, E. Asian Languages, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155), Nancy A. Lauckner (Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996).
Seminar VI: Review of GDR Research and Methodology--Patricia Herminghouse (Department of Foreign Languages, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14627), Volker Gransow (Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto, 18 Madison, Toronto, Ontario, CN M5R 2S1.
For further information contact Professor Margy Gerber, Department of German, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403 (Tel. (419) 372-2260; fax (419) 372-2571).

Harvard's Center for European Studies held a GDR Workshop last year for graduate students. The participants and their themes were:
The GDR in International Perspective:
Gary Garretson, Department of Political Science, Columbia University. Topic: Norm Revision in the Soviet-East European (particularly East German) State Subsystem.
Hope Harrison, 2 Holyoke Street, Apt. #31 Cambridge, MA 02138. Topic: The German Question: Soviet-East German Relations and the Berlin Crisis, 1953-1961.
Olga Ivanova, Eisenhower Center, University of New Orleans New Orleans, LA 70148. Topic: Stalin's German Policy: The Note of March 10, 1952 and "Lost Opportunities."
John Leslie, Dept. of Political Science, 210 Barrows Hall, University of California at Berkeley Berkeley, CA 94720. Topic: Policies toward Right-Wing Movements as a gauge of political stability in the Germanies, England, and France.
Douglas Carl Peifer, Department of History, CB# 3195, Hamilton Hall, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3195. Topic: A Comparative History of the Origin, Structures, and Missions of the Bundesmarine and the Volksmarine between 1945 and 1961.
Douglas Selvage, 420 Temple St. #126, New Haven, CT 06511. Topic: Socialist Internationalism and National Interest: Gomulka, the GDR, and Poland's Response to Bonn's Ostpolitik, 1963-1970.
GDR Cultural and Poltical History:

John Connelly, Center for European Studies, 27 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. Topic: Communist Higher Education Policies in Czechoslovakia, East Germany, and Poland; 1945-1956.
Catherine Epstein Center for European Studies, 27 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. Topic: Old Communists in the German Democratic Republic, 1945-1989.
Barbara Naddeo, 5110 South Kenwood Avenue, Apt. #909 Chicago, IL 60615. Topic: DEFA, 1946-1991: The Production of Film, Projection of Subjectivity and Politics of Culture in the German Democratic Republic.
Carey Pieratt, 106-G Northington Place, Cary, NC 27513. Topic: German Protestant Churches under the Third Reich and the Communist Regime: Constructing a Political Identity through Symbolic Discourse.
Uta Poiger, c/o Kyriacos Markianos, 172 N. Crescent, Northampton, MA 01060. Topic: Taming the Wild West: East and West German Encounters with American Popular Culture, 1949-1962.

GDR Social and Economic History:

Daphne J. Berdahl, 5414 S. Ridgewood Ct. #25, Chicago, IL 60637.Topic: Where the World Ended: Identity, Differentiation, and Reunification in the German Borderland.
Raelynn J.Hillhouse, 2971 Roundtree Apt. A1, Ypsilanti, MI 48197. Topic: The Individual Revolution: Social Bases for Democratization.

Eric Larsen, Department of Sociology DK--40, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195. Topic: Conflicting Legitimacy Claims on Marxist-Leninist Regimes: A Theory of the East-Central European Revolutions of 1989.
Kathy Pence, 426 S. Fourth Ave. #5, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. Topic: Popular Culture and the Gendering of Postwar Identities: Constructions of East and West German Cold War State and Personal Identities in Images and Practice of Everyday Consumption, 1948-1961.
Andrew Port, 82 Monroe Street, #3E, Somerville, MA 02143. Topic: Die DDR am Beispiel einer Stadt: the Political, Economic, and Social History of a Single East German City.
Ben Robinson, Modern Thought Program, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. Topic: Descriptive Shortfalls: Fulfillment and Dissatisfaction in the Presentation of a Better Germany.

1989: Its Causes And Consequences:

Mary Dakin, 430 S. Dunn #301, Bloomington, IN 47401. Topic: Rewriting the Social Contract: Unemployment Policy and Implementation as Factors in Stability and Legitimacy in Post-Soviet Eastern Europe.
Lynn Kamenitsa, 2725 Meadowbrook Drive, Norman, OK 73072. Topic: From Socialism to Pluralism: The Emergence and Evolution of the East German Women's Movement.
Christiane Olivo, 812 South Stull Avenue #7, Bloomington, IN 47401. Topic: Environmental Politics in East and West Berlin: the Dynamics of Grassroots Environmental Activism and Organisation.
Mary Sarotte, 6708 Yale Station, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520. Topic: Causes of the 1989 Revolution in East Germany.
Matthew A. Siena, Department of Political Science, 210 Barrows Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720. Topic: Revolutions from Outside: the Aftermath of Totalitarian Rule in West and East Germany.
Andrea C. Wuert, Department of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218. Topic: The Abortion Debate in Germany from Late 1989 to the Signing of the Compromise Agreement in Fall 1992.


If you received this newsletter, you're a member. Those not now on the mailing list may repair that disadvantage by sending $10 ($5 for students) to the treasurer, Robert Goeckel, whose address is on this page.



Henry Krisch
Dept. of Political Science
University of Connecticutt
341 Mansfield Road
Storrs, CT 06269-1024
Phone: (203) 486-5335
Fax: (203) 486-3347


Thomas A. Baylis
505 Westlake Ave.
Austin, TX 78746


Robert F. Goeckel
Dept. of Political Science
SUNY at Geneseo
Geneseo, NY 14454-1401


Randall Bytwerk
CAS Department
Calvin College
3201 Burton SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546
Phone: (616) 957-6286
Fax: (616) 957-6601

[This document was last edited on 15 December 1994 by Randy Bytwerk]