German Unity – State Awareness, Togetherness, Identity

German Unity - State Awareness, Togetherness, Identity

The attempts of the Federal Republic of Germany to recognize itself as a sovereign state increased in the 1960s (“End of the Post-War Period”, Ludwig Erhard). In 1967/68 conservative journalists debated in the magazine “Hochland” about saying goodbye to the “provisional Federal Republic of Germany” and about a nationality of their own. Accordingly, the Federal Republic of Germany did not lack the connection of missing parts to full statehood (“core state theory”), but the completion of its essence through the recognition of its own state people (“partial state thesis”, Burghard Freudenfeld; * 1918). From this point of view, the fact that the Federal Republic of Germany was a temporary solution on the way to German unity was their “public lie”. The Federal Republic of Germany should develop its own state consciousness and its own West German patriotism. That this position anticipated a real development was due to the “reserve constitution of the economic miracle “, which contributed more than anything to the identification with the West German state.

Since the late 1960s, public opinion has been orienting itself towards two states for the foreseeable future. Social attention turned from German unity to Western Europe. In the age of mass consumption, the national borders in western Europe became less important. Youth exchanges and consumer society under the auspices of “Coca-Cola”, “Jeans fashion” and holidays established “Western Europe” in the everyday life of West German “ordinary people”; Family vacations outside of Germany became affordable. Economic and cultural westernization (“westernization” or “Americanization”) brought the societies of the EEC and the transatlantic community closer together.

Cultural focal points of German unity were v. a. the annual celebrations on June 17th, the day of German unity which commemorated the uprising in the GDR on June 17, 1953 (national holiday since 1963, until 1990). Until the late 1960s, these celebrations embodied the commemoration of German unity in the sense of the core state theory. Since 1969, this form of commemoration of the fundamental illegitimacy of the second German state, against which the uprising of 1953 had been directed, collided with the political recognition of the state character of the GDR by Ostpolitik, which brought June 17 close to the opposition to Germany policy the government got. The constitutional celebrations for the Basic Law on May 23, 1949 became the counter-image of German unity, as it was presented annually on June 17, 1949. Although June 17 remained a national holiday, it changed its character until 1990. The commemorative speeches in the Bundestag filled it with the constitutional patriotism of May 23, which got by without any national cultural reference to the commonality with the GDR. The June 17th celebrations thus promoted the “Federal Republicanization” of German historical awareness and the self-recognition of the Federal Republic of Germany.

West German society continued to westernize rapidly. On the question of German unity, this had an effect on v. a. in a difference between the generations. The majority of the population had a general sense of belonging to the GDR and a positive attitude towards reunification, but no current political pressure to act was felt. The prevailing conviction was that German unity would not be feasible in the near or further future. The division of Germany had become an accepted fact in everyday life. A large part of the younger generation felt that the GDR was a foreign state with a different social order. The awareness of national commonality declined significantly and gave way to constant alienation.

Political ties to the USSR remained close in the GDR. Nevertheless, there was no “sovietization”, but rather an “easternization” of mentalities and everyday life. Lifestyles and identity patterns of the population in East and West diverged. However, the identity of the GDR population was not the “socialist fatherland” propagated by the SED. The protests against the positive attitude of the GDR towards the invasion of Soviet troops in Prague in 1968 (Prague Spring) and the expatriation of the songwriter Wolf Biermann In 1976, many intellectuals had alienated the SED. In the 1980s, the government of the GDR looked for historical traditions in German history that legitimized their own history. She found it in the memory of Luther in 1983, in the Peasants’ War 1524/26 in connection with the work of Thomas Müntzer (“early bourgeois revolution”) and v. a. in memory of Frederick II, the great, of Prussia.

The historical appropriation of these traditions by the party and the state had just as little effect on identity as the international successes of GDR sport. Thus sporting successes (e.g. the soccer goal Jürgen Sparwassers [* 1948] against the West German team at the 1974 World Cup in Hamburg) as proof of achievement, but not as a national identity symbol in contrast to the Federal Republic of Germany, a country that belongs to European Union according to Countryvv. The SED leadership failed to anchor a “socialist national consciousness” in the population. For the East Germans to have their own identity, smaller-scale units were more important. Compensation for the compulsion to have to live in an “unloved” state or to be born into it was often found in regional and local ties. East German identity in the GDR revolved around free spaces within the system-related adaptation and around private social spaces in a public under the monopoly of the state. The community consciousness was based on dense social relationships and personal ties in a highly ideologized state. The GDR has not developed a general identity that can be detached from SED rule. Due to the presence of the West German media and an all-German memory, it bore the traits of a “parallel society”.

German Unity - State Awareness, Togetherness, Identity