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State and Minorities in Communist East Germany

State and Minorities in Communist East Germany

Mike Dennis
Norman LaPorte
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 254
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  • Book Info
    State and Minorities in Communist East Germany
    Book Description:

    Based on interviews and the voluminous materials in the archives of the SED, the Stasi and central and regional authorities, this volume focuses on several contrasting minorities (Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, 'guest' workers from Vietnam and Mozambique, football fans, punks, and skinheads) and their interaction with state and party bodies during Erich Honecker's rule over the communist system. It explores how they were able to resist persecution and surveillance by instruments of the state, thus illustrating the limits on the power of the East German dictatorship and shedding light on the notion of authority as social practice.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-196-5
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  6. Chapter 1 State, Society and Minority Groups in the GDR
    (pp. 1-27)
    Mike Dennis and Norman LaPorte

    While the turbulence of socialist construction is by no means neglected, this book concentrates on the second half of the GDR’s history, that is, from the consolidation of SED rule in the mid 1960s to its unexpectedly rapid disintegration a few weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. The overall aim of this chapter is to provide the historical context for the study of relations between state and minorities and, secondly, to place this development within broad theoretical constructs such as post-totalitarianism. Our argument is that a flexible version of the latter concept, one which encompasses...

  7. Chapter 2 Between Torah and Sickle: Jews in East Germany, 1945–1990
    (pp. 28-60)
    Mike Dennis

    At the end of the Second World War, the Jewish presence in the Soviet Zone of Occupation had been reduced to a mere shadow of its former vitality and strength. The Jewish Communities (Gemeinden)¹ had been dismantled, their synagogues ruined and their property seized by the National Socialists. When they emerged from the concentration camps, from hiding or from displaced persons’ camps, those survivors with a choice faced the agonising dilemma of whether or not to live in a Germany whose rulers had been responsible for the extermination of several million Jews. If they opted to stay, they sometimes encountered...

  8. Chapter 3 Jehovah’s Witnesses: From Persecution to Survival
    (pp. 61-86)
    Mike Dennis

    Except for the short and fragile period of tolerance immediately after the end of the Second World War when, like East German Jews, they were officially recognised as ‘victims of fascism’, Jehovah’s Witnesses were severely persecuted throughout the history of the GDR. The SED and its instruments of repression, notably the Stasi, were determined to destroy the organisation and faith of the approximately 20,000 brethren of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who lived in the country. As is discussed in other chapters, the modalities of repression changed over time, ranging from brutal repression in the early 1950s to a greater emphasis on...

  9. Chapter 4 Asian and African Workers in the Niches of Society
    (pp. 87-123)
    Mike Dennis

    When the Berlin Wall fell, not the least of the many surprises was the revelation that over 191,000 foreign nationals were living in the GDR. Although foreigners had always formed a relatively small proportion of the population of the GDR (1.2 per cent in December 1989), their background was diverse, ranging from political refugees, schoolchildren and students to apprentices, diplomats and workers. While Poles, Vietnamese, Mozambicans, Hungarians, Bulgarians and Cubans were well represented, Great Britain and the U.S.A. had less than 150 residents in the GDR in late 1989 (Elsner and Elsner 1994: 77–78). In addition to these nationalities,...

  10. Chapter 5 Football Fans, Hooligans and the State
    (pp. 124-152)
    Mike Dennis

    This chapter continues the theme of limitations on possibilities for autonomy and the expression of a sense of self with reference to football fans and hooligans in one of the GDR’s most closely monitored sub-systems, top-level sport. Football fandom in the GDR encompassed various combinations of motives and levels of commitment and activity. Among the latter were: membership of registered and unauthorised fan clubs, attendance at matches in the domestic league, reading the sports columns of specialist newspapers such asDie Neue Fußballwoche, collecting football ephemera, and watching or listening to East and West German sports programmes on radio and...

  11. Chapter 6 Sub-cultures: Punks, Goths and Heavy Metallers
    (pp. 153-169)
    Mike Dennis and Norman LaPorte

    SED officials and publicists were fond of lauding young people’s commitment to the GDR and a socialist system that provided them with ample educational, employment and leisure opportunities. This kind of stance has survived the end of the GDR, Wolfgang Schmidt, a former high-ranking Stasi officer, insisting, twelve years after reunification, that ‘no state in German history has ever done so much for its youth’ (cited in Anon.: 2004: 127). While the combined appeal of egalitarian socialist ideology and authoritarian paternalism undoubtedly helped promote a measure of identification with the GDR, the SED, realising that loyalty was often conditional, eventually,...

  12. Chapter 7 Skinheads and Right-wing Extremism in an Anti-fascist State
    (pp. 170-194)
    Norman LaPorte

    Skinheads first appeared in working-class areas of London, Manchester and other British cities in the late 1960s. Usually associated with aggressive and chauvinistic behaviour, some became supporters of the National Front and racist ‘oi-skin’ bands stirred up hatred against black and Asian immigrants. It was not until the beginning of the 1980s, however, that Western skinhead music, fashion accessories and militancy began to appeal to young East Germans, notably in East Berlin and nearby Potsdam. The early skinheads, who tended to be former heavy metallers, football hooligans or punks, endeavoured to follow the fashion set by their British and West...

  13. Chapter 8 Conclusion: Minorities, Present and Past
    (pp. 195-203)
    Mike Dennis

    In this chapter we reflect on the minorities’ varied interactions with the party-state for an appreciation of the East German political system and in particular the potential, however limited, for agency in society. We also review the radically different environment in which minorities found themselves after the sudden collapse of SED hegemony in 1989. While the new Berlin Republic established by the incorporation of the GDR into the Federal Republic in October 1990 introduced a series of civil rights, greater individual autonomy and a curtailment of comprehensive and intrusive state repression, it was far from a paradise for the contract...

  14. References
    (pp. 204-222)
  15. Index
    (pp. 223-236)