During the final decade of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), young citizens found themselves at the heart of a rigorous programme of socialist patriotic education, yet following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the emphasis of official state rhetoric, textbooks and youth activities changed beyond recognition. For the young generation growing up during this period, ‘normality’ was turned on its head, leaving a sense of insecurity and inner turmoil. Using a combination of archival research, interviews, educational materials and government reports, this book examines the relationship between young people and their two successive states in East(ern) Germany between 1979 and 2002. This time-span straddles the 1989/1990 caesura which often delimits historical studies, and thus enables not only a detailed examination of GDR socialisation, but, crucially, its influence in unified Germany. Exploring the extent to which a young generation's loyalties can be officially regulated in the face of cultural and historical traditions, changing material conditions and shifting social circumstances, the book finds GDR socialisation to be influential to post-unification loyalties through its impact on the personal sphere, rather than through the official sphere of ideological propaganda. This study not only provides insight into the functioning of the GDR state and its longer-term impact, but also advances our broader understanding of the ways in which collective loyalties are formed.
This introductory chapter discusses the theme of this volume, which is about youth patriotism in the GDR. It examines the relationship between young East(ern) Germans and two German states (the GDR and post-unification Germany) during a period of unique change and explores the extent to which each state has attempted to form a young generation loyal to its image and ideology, and how, in turn, young people have responded. It also investigates the loyalties of young people before and after unification in equal measure and considers the government's educational programmes to promote patriotism.
This chapter examines the specific parameters of patriotism in post-war Germany and the GDR's patriotic programme of the 1980s. It discusses how the state attempted to play off the evils of the imperialist world against the assets of socialism in order to create what was often referred to as ‘socialism in the colours of the GDR’ and describes how the five distinct elements of patriotic education combined to encourage the formation of a patriotic youth. This chapter suggests that the GDR's patriotic programme was relatively successful given the high membership rates in the Free German Youth (FDJ), the demonstrations of apparent loyalty at national anniversaries and the widespread acceptance of the Jugendweihe.
This chapter characterizes youth identity in the GDR during the 1980s. It evaluates the extent to which young people in the 1980s accepted and rejected the Socialist Unity Party's (SED) patriotic programme and examines the way in which patriotic behaviour evolved during this decade in the face of intensified propaganda. The analysis reveals that identity formation amongst young people in the GDR was clearly a complex and multi-faceted phenomenon and that in many ways, it was the elements outside state control which gained most influence over young people's attitudes.
This chapter explores the ways in which young people revised their loyalties towards the GDR and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) during the period from October 1989 to October 1990. It analyses how loyalty to each state developed in the absence of any officially sponsored patriotic programme. The analysis indicates that the relationship of young people towards the GDR and the future of Germany over this single year was far from constant, reflecting the social and political turbulence of the time. The result also suggests that young East Germans' patriotic attachments and sense of national identity during this period appeared at their weakest at the very moment when the official German nation was supposedly celebrating its greatest triumph.
This chapter examines the longer-term effects of patriotic education in the GDR and its influence in united Germany in order to understand better the nature of both the GDR state and the concept of patriotism. While young east Germans rapidly adapted to western lifestyles in Germany, many of them maintained a critical stance towards the society of united Germany through their political behaviour and support of ‘eastern’ values. The attitudes of young people demonstrate that patriotism and civic unity cannot be imposed from above, but are instead formed through personal experiences on the local level.
Death of the GDR – rebirth of an eastern identity?
This chapter sums up the key findings of this study on youth patriotism in the GDR. The attitudes of young east Germans exemplify the unease that surrounds the expression of patriotic pride in contemporary Germany even though they often have little personal memory of divided Germany and none of national socialism. Individuals' personal experiences of employment, and education or military service have proved more influential in their assessment of each state than any official rhetoric or propaganda.