German Democratic Republic (1949-1990) Part V

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When the social tensions in the GDR increased in 1988/89 to the crisis, to the self-liberation of the citizens and to the collapse of the system, the dissatisfaction of the people with the effects of “everyday socialism”, from the economically desolate situation, but also from the ever stronger arose perceived deficits in human and civil rights (citizens’ movement) and the division of Germany the reunification requirement of street demonstrations and rallies (“Germany united fatherland!”, choirs, first in Leipzig on November 13, 1989; “We are one people”; H. Kohl in Dresden, December 19, 1989). From the end of 1989 onwards, the will to unite was the decisive stage in the “peaceful revolution” in the GDR. Well, in the dissolution of the GDR, the “end of self-destruction” (H. Zwahr), it became clear that the SED leadership had never succeeded until the very end in generating a “socialist national consciousness” in the population strata – at best in circles close to the system convinced communists (estimated: 20%) identify with the GDR as a state (state awareness).

Compensation for the compulsion to have to live in an “unloved” state or to be “born into” (poem by U. Kolbe, 1980), many East Germans found regional and native ties. In the end, many people had come to terms with the fact that they could not simply leave the GDR. There are many reasons why nostalgia for the GDR could arise, including: the patterns of behavior, orientations and ways of life shaped by everyday life in the dictatorship, such as the search for freedom in adaptation or the paralysis of the perception of oppression. In terms of the country-specific characteristics of the GDR, there are similarities that go back to the socialization and experiences of the “closed society” of the GDR. Only apparently a paradox: after 1989/90, rediscovered GDR “branded products” such as “f6” cigarettes, “Spreewaldgurken” and “Radeberger Pils” were used in many ways to express their longing for a supposed GDR security.

Church politics and churches in the GDR: Although the constitutions of 1949 (Articles 41–48) and 1968 (Article 39) formally guaranteed the right to freely practice religion, this right was just as limited in actual politics as the churches’ ability to act in public. Despite the practiced principle of a strict separation of church and state, the SED leadership tried in a variety of ways, exploiting its monopoly of power and opinion, through surveillance, influence and “disintegration” on the part of the state security service to constantly exert influence on church life and to neutralize and rule the only great institution of both denominations supported by the Christian religion and ideologically not to be equated. The social marginalization of the churches failed. A not inconsiderable part of the population maintained solidarity with the churches despite being disadvantaged in public and everyday life. Relations between the state and the churches and religious communities have been regulated by a “State Secretariat for Church Issues” since 1957.

The Protestant regional churches formed the largest religious community in the area of ​​the Soviet occupation zone or GDR. Church property remained unaffected by the 1945 land reform, against which the churches had put up considerable resistance in some cases. From 1949 H. Grüber represented the EKD as an “authorized representative” in the government of the GDR (until 1958). The Evangelical Christians continued to see themselves connected to the western part of Germany through the EKD, which was impressively expressed in the church congresses as large pan-German forums until 1961.

In connection with the socialist restructuring of state and society based on the Soviet model, which the SED had proclaimed since 1950 on the basis of the ideology of Marxism-Leninism, the relationship between the state and the churches increased significantly (from 1952, religious instruction was restricted to church premises, massive state repression measures through youth consecration instead of confirmation from 1954/55). Correspondingly, the various elements (especially in education and youth policy), comprehensive church policy, led to pronounced religious desocialization in a relatively short period of time. With the »New Course« in the run-up to June 17th, 1953 the SED began to systematically orient its church policy towards influencing and controlling; “Young congregations” and student congregations were accused of acting as agents as allegedly “imperialist front organizations”. After the “military chaplaincy contract” was signed between the Federal Republic of Germany (K. Adenauer) and the EKD (O. Dibelius), to which the majority of the synods from the GDR had agreed (1957), the SED increasingly sought confrontation. Some Protestant bishops resolutely opposed the state’s total claim to the areas of life of its citizens, including: Dibelius. In the 1970s, Provost Heino Falcke (* 1929) criticized precisely because of the concept of democratic socialism he advocates publicly undesirable developments in society. From the theologically conservative side, Thuringian regional bishop Moritz Mitzenheim (* 1891, † 1977) strived for a relationship between the church and the socialist state that was as free of conflict as possible, despite confrontation with church politics; he reached in a conversation with W. Ulbricht on the Wartburg (August 18, 1964) first human relief after the building of the Berlin Wall (visits by pensioners to the Federal Republic of Germany, a country that belongs to European Union according to Transporthint). However, he was alone with his theological positions and his church political course (“Thuringian Way”). Overall, the relationship of the overwhelming majority of Protestant pastors and large parts of the faithful to the state in the 1960s remained distant or even negative.

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