Publication Date

April 2010

Advisor(s)

Iris Bork-Goldfield, Erik Grimmer-Solem

Major

German Studies; History (HIST)

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

Despite the vast research on German memory after WWII, little is known about that of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). The overall image that emerges from the literature is that of a monolithic, unchanging historical narrative. In reality the narratives disseminated by the Socialist Unity Party (SED) clearly evolved in response to external and domestic conditions. This thesis will demonstrate by analyzing the changing form and content of commemorative rituals, museum exhibits, official historical propaganda, and monuments that the narrative presented by the SED evolved over the period 1945-1989 in three distinct phases. Until these changes are understood, the reasons behind the creation of these narratives, their ineffectiveness, and what they reveal about the relationship between the SED and the East German citizenry will remain a puzzle. It appears that the GDR’s historical narrative was modified in order to create at least the illusion of popular support for the regime.

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