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.
relationship between young people and these two states reveal about the nature of each system, and how did young people’s patriotic behaviour (or lack of it) impact on the East German state’s apparent stability and demise? Thirdly, what are the longer-term effects of GDR socialisation and socialist patriotic education: have they influenced young people’s civic loyalties in post-Wende Germany, or are they subordinate to the conditions and circumstances of life in the present day? The primacy of personal experience within patriotic sentiment is central to each of the above
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.3 It will ask how far a young generation’s loyalties can be regulated from above, through official education and socialisation, and in the face of cultural and historical traditions, material conditions and social circumstances. Specific to the context of East(ern) German identities, it will therefore pose two central questions: firstly, to what extent has GDR socialisation and socialist patriotic education influenced the
their decisions and in the mass media, because they [the youth] do not find that their questions are adequately considered.’7 Certain passages also revealed the ineffective nature of socialist patriotic education, claiming that a significant number of young people identified themselves primarily as Germans rather October 1989–October 1990 121 than specifically GDR citizens. Despite the accuracy of this report, Honecker did his utmost to prevent it from being presented at the following Politbüro meeting, declaring: ‘this is the first time in the history of the GDR