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Honecker’s ChildrenYouth and Patriotism in East(ern) Germany, 1979–2002$

Anna Saunders

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780719074110

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719074110.001.0001

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Conclusion: death of the GDR – rebirth of an eastern identity?

Conclusion: death of the GDR – rebirth of an eastern identity?

(p.220) 5 Conclusion: death of the GDR – rebirth of an eastern identity?
Honecker’s Children

Anna Saunders

Manchester University Press

Abstract and Keywords

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.

Keywords:   youth patriotism, GDR, patriotic pride, divided Germany, national socialism, personal experiences, education, military service

I am proud to be German. (Laurenz Meyer, CDU General Secretary, March 2001)1

Laurenz Meyer has the mentality of a skinhead and not only the appearance of one …That is typical of the insipidness, the numskull attitude, that marks out every racist thug in this republic. (Jürgen Trittin, Federal Environment Minister, March 2001)2

During the months following Laurenz Meyer’s declaration of pride in March 2001 and Jürgen Trittin’s virulent riposte, the concept of pride became a subject of heightened public debate in Germany. Whilst the extreme nature of Trittin’s attack was widely condemned, a number of high-profile public figures such as President Johannes Rau and the singers Peter Maffay and Udo Lindenburg also rejected this outright expression of pride, largely as a result of its associations with the Nazi past.3 Others, however, including Chancellor Schröder, defended Meyer’s statement, and the CDU defiantly produced posters for regional elections bearing the slogan ‘Proud of Germany’.4 Yet in contrast to Willy Brandt’s successful 1972 election campaign, headed by the slogan ‘Germans – We can be proud of our country’, the 2001 poster campaign was loaded with controversy. Despite recent claims that unified Germany has regained a sense of ‘normality’, the expression of collective German pride is clearly still considered anything but ‘normal’.

The attitudes of young east Germans exemplify the unease that surrounds the expression of patriotic pride in contemporary Germany yet, in contrast to their elders, they often have little personal memory of divided Germany, and none of National Socialism. For the majority, unified Germany thus represents the accepted norm, typically described by one teenager as ‘normal reality’.5 Few, (p.221) however, choose to make the same claim as Meyer, many instead simply stating: ‘I just am German’; ‘I’m happy to be born here’; ‘I can’t help that I’m German.’6 As the examination of their patriotic behaviour both during the GDR period and in unified Germany has revealed, it is less the ‘normality’ of living in unified Germany (or indeed the ‘abnormality’ of division) that has shaped young people’s patriotic sentiment in recent years, but rather the perceived normalities and abnormalities of life in the private sphere, as determined by the public framework. Individuals’ personal experiences of employment, education or military service, for example, have proved more influential in their assessment of each state than any official rhetoric or propaganda.

This phenomenon is central to the three major questions posed in this book. Firstly, how was patriotism encouraged in the GDR state and post-unification Germany, and to what extent can it successfully be imposed on a population from above? Secondly, what does the 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 questions, yet it is most pertinent to the first, for it helps to explain the way in which patriotism is formed. This is demonstrated by four parallels that can be drawn between young people’s behaviour in the GDR and united Germany, despite the radically different nature of these two political systems. The first concerns the way in which young people responded to the immediate conditions of their everyday lives, for confidence in both states was severely diminished by problems concerning goods and services, creating reticence towards the expression of patriotism. In the GDR, the shortage and nature of basic material goods, suitable housing, fashion accessories and cultural entertainment provoked increasing criticism of the authorities, whereas in unified Germany employment shortages have provided a major cause of fear and discontent. Although both cases are different, the result is similar: a lack of confidence in the state and a consequent unwillingness to (p.222) contribute actively to its development, whether this is demonstrated through low levels of military commitment, reluctant political activity, or ambivalence towards supposedly legitimising international alliances.

Insecurities caused by material or labour shortages have been most visible with respect to attitudes towards foreigners both before and after the Wende. In the GDR, competition for material goods and housing caused tensions between young people and foreign residents in the same way that fear of losing one’s status through unemployment after unification created resentment towards foreigners who were perceived to be living off the state. As both cases demonstrate, it is clearly difficult to be content with the presence of foreign cultures if one’s own situation appears insecure and vulnerable, and as a result they are frequently perceived as a threatening and destabilising force. In this way, personal insecurities can become ethnic in nature, endangering the civic basis of patriotism and creating identities and loyalties marked by exclusivity. Right-wing extremism has existed as a minority phenomenon throughout both periods, largely in protest against the contemporary state of affairs rather than as a result of deep-rooted ideological beliefs. This is demonstrated by the fact that supporters of both political extremes have frequently shared similar concerns and interests, especially in the GDR, where movement between minority groups, such as punks and skinheads, was common. In contrast to Martin Walser’s claim that right-wing extremism is caused by ‘the neglect of the national’,7 it would seem, rather, that quite the opposite cause is true: the neglect of the private.

Despite notable instances of extremism, political apathy marks the second major parallel between both systems. With the exception of the Wende period, which saw a brief phase of mass politics alongside a new-found sense of purpose and responsibility, both systems have been marked by a lack of commitment to political activity, and thus to the civic basis of patriotism. This was considered to be futile by most, especially in the GDR, where the large-scale official political demonstrations achieved little real change, and attempts to bring reform to the system were simply ignored or quashed. Whilst the situation has since changed, many still feel impotent within the post-Wende political sphere, believing themselves to be unable to change the status quo as individuals, and consequently withdrawing from the political process. In both cases, young people have (p.223) experienced alienation from the political world and a consequent lack of responsibility within society.

Widespread apathy is a phenomenon which can be witnessed internationally amongst young generations, yet attitudes within both German states have demonstrated that this does not result simply from typical youthful demeanour but also from an active distrust of party politics. In the GDR this was founded in the stagnant and undemocratic nature of the political system, where the act of voting had no real effect, FDJ meetings simply relayed the SED’s latest policies to young people and ageing leaders failed to listen to the needs of young people. Following unification, politicians still failed to elicit the trust of young citizens, who felt that their needs were not being served and that no parties truly represented their interests. In both periods it was not the fundamental principle of the respective political system that was considered at fault but rather the realisation of the system in question. Socialism as it was experienced by young people thus failed to match up to the socialist ideal in the same way that the realities of a free-market democracy have not lived up to young people’s post-Wende expectations. As a result, politics has remained a sphere devoid of emotional involvement for young people, and areas primarily defined by their political and civic boundaries (such as the GDR, the FRG or Sachsen-Anhalt) have consequently evoked few feelings of loyalty.

Thirdly, the way in which materials are presented to young people greatly influences the effective transmission of their content, a phenomenon which was evident in both states. This was most apparent under socialism, where the dry teaching methods, repetition and old-fashioned language of the SED’s patriotic education simply sapped enthusiasm and produced boredom amongst pupils. Whilst this approach has largely been revised in united Germany, and attempts to produce support for the state prove more subtle in nature, evidence still reveals that the dry or politicised presentation of certain materials (e.g. concerning the European Union and the formal unification process) have caused a lack of interest. Furthermore, efforts to emphasise specific subject areas have frequently resulted in the opposite of the desired effect. In the area of historical consciousness, for example, attempts to foreground official GDR history simply turned young people away from this area; instead they were drawn towards historical periods which were considered taboo, such as Stalin’s crimes or the true causes of the 1953 (p.224) uprising. Similarly, attempts since 1990 in Sachsen-Anhalt to foreground older, less controversial regional history as a basis for regional pride appear to have had little effect in the face of interest in twentieth-century controversies. Moreover, the western bias in history teaching shortly after the Wende created amongst many a defensive interest in the east. Outside the education system, the same pattern of behaviour can be identified, demonstrating that the cultural dominance of any phenomenon does not necessarily secure its popularity. In the GDR, the overbearing emphasis on proletarian internationalism, and particularly Soviet culture, caused many young citizens to reject these values and look elsewhere for inspiration; in contrast, the dominance of American values in unified Germany has caused resistance towards some elements of its mass culture.8 Clearly the more young people feel that their lifestyles and loyalties are being dictated to them, the more they are likely to resist.

The fourth and final parallel concerns the dominant nature of West(ern) Germany. The presence of this ‘other half’ of Germany (both before and after the Wende) illustrates the extent to which collective identities are created in the face of difference, and patriotic sentiment is influenced by an element of competitiveness or rivalry. In the GDR, West German culture was clearly idolised by young people, as it represented the inaccessible, and provided a source of valuable material items which were lacking under SED socialism. Despite this idolisation, an element of competitiveness was also evident, and the desire not to appear as the poor German relative created a defensive protection of East German distinctiveness. This feeling came to the fore during the Wende, when West German attempts to become involved in what was perceived as an East German affair caused increasing resistance. Since the fall of the Wall, the new proximity of these two cultures has caused east Germans to reassess dramatically their own situation in the face of ‘the other’, both materially and psychologically. Whilst they have adopted (willingly or otherwise) numerous elements of western life, east Germans’ self-definition has increasingly been shaped in contrast to the West, particularly where they have felt negative discrimination. Although a sense of ‘easternness’ need not conflict with patriotic sentiment, it is this feeling of negative discrimination which potentially undermines loyalty to the united state. As Meulemann states: ‘The east Germans are becoming more similar to the west Germans, yet their identity as east Germans is becoming stronger. (p.225) The ‘wall of values’ is crumbling, albeit slowly; but the ‘wall of self-categorisation’ is growing.’9 The death of the GDR clearly did not imply the death of young people’s loyalty to an eastern set of values, but in many ways its rebirth.

As the above parallels show, young people’s reticence about the expression of patriotism in both systems has resulted primarily from their unsatisfactory experiences of everyday life in the personal sphere. Indeed, personal insecurities and dissatisfactions can frequently lead to unpatriotic behaviour, as witnessed in negative attitudes towards foreigners, or the opposing trends of extremism and apathy. Attempts to shape patriotic sentiment from above, most prominently in the GDR through its comprehensive patriotic programme, but also in united Germany through school classes such as Sozialkunde, political initiatives and historical exhibitions, have thus frequently failed. Young people see their immediate concerns to lie elsewhere, and their collective self-image is defined as much in relation to others as in a common set of values. Instances concerning the creation of positive collective identities amongst young people both before and after the Wende demonstrate the importance of these elements. The church-based peace movements of the 1980s, for example, attracted large numbers of young people, as they addressed many of their immediate concerns and frustrations, instilled in participants a sense of empowerment and responsibility that had previously been lacking and provided a sphere of influence away from the omnipresence of the SED. In more recent years, a number of cultural phenomena, such as the Jugendweihe, popular music and consumer products, have found appeal as they have been adapted to suit the needs of the east German community, providing a positive focus of attention away from the dominant west and centring on the immediate challenges facing young people in the east. On the one hand, these examples suggest that patriotism is not a burning issue amongst young people in post-unification Germany and is subordinate to a number of personal concerns. On the other hand, however, they demonstrate that formal attempts to create a sense of patriotism can find resonance amongst this generation only if they address the physical and emotional states of young people in the personal sphere before, or at least alongside, issues concerning the civic state.

Whilst the similarities between young people’s relationship to patriotism in both states reveal important elements relating to the (p.226) formation of patriotic sentiment, they say little about the character of the two states themselves, particularly the nature of the GDR regime – the second question addressed in this book. Here the different effects of resistance to patriotic behaviour on the functioning of each system prove enlightening, particularly with reference to the demonstration of opposition to the state, and the withdrawal into apathy.

As illustrated in chapter 2, the demonstration of opposition to the GDR state was varied in nature and widespread amongst the young generation. Instances ranged from small-scale individual acts, such as the defacement of school certificates, the refusal to participate in the Jugendweihe, or the burning of the FDJ shirt, through to localised protests as witnessed at the Carl-von-Ossietzky school in 1988, or participation in nationwide actions frequently organised under the umbrella of the churches, such as those which carried the motto ‘Swords into ploughshares’. These incidents clearly revealed that the SED’s goal of uniformity within the education system and the sphere of young people was never reached during the 1980s. Instead, young people’s growing desire to break out of the SED’s patriotic mould endangered the regime, weakening its hold on the young generation and ultimately helping to cause its demise. Ironically, many who demonstrated against the regime revealed surprising patriotic potential, for they were engaged in the public debate and often believed in the basic principles of socialism; their aim was to improve the GDR rather than to overthrow the state. The SED, however, made little attempt to listen to the real concerns of these people, and in its drive for uniformity and ultimate control it punished them, whilst tolerating those who had retreated into the private sphere. In doing so, it lost numerous potential supporters.

In contrast, the plural democratic system of united Germany has accepted and allowed demonstrations of protest against the workings of the state. As a result, many instances of protest in the GDR, such as a pupil defacing his or her certificate, do not warrant attention today, for they have lost all political meaning. Instead, the act of engaging in critical political debate is actively encouraged, even when this results in highlighting problematic or contentious elements of state policy, for true democracy demands the representation of all citizens’ interests. Protests which have, however, aroused concern are those which are potentially directed against the democratic order, such as right-wing extremist demonstrations. Whilst (p.227) these are strictly policed, they have often been allowed to take place, thus revealing the confident nature of the state, in contrast to the constant paranoia of the SED.

The importance of political protest in each regime is countered by the presence of apathy. Whilst this phenomenon was dominant during both periods, it adopted a radically different function within each. In the GDR, the large number of apathetic conformists ultimately maintained the system for, as long as they participated to the necessary minimum, yet refrained from overt forms of protest, the state was able to function smoothly. Although the aim of GDR socialisation and patriotic education was to create a young generation which would be fully active in the pursuit of socialism, in reality only a minority of young people was needed to commit to this course; the withdrawal of the masses into the private sphere ironically enabled the SED to present a semblance of stability to the outer world, as well as to its own citizens. As young people began to emerge from this state of apathy, however, the GDR found itself resting on unstable foundations, and as soon as genuine political activity became a mass phenomenon the future of the state was severely limited.

Young people’s apathetic stance towards the affairs of the state in united Germany, however, has far from supported the democratic order, for apathy endangers the nature of true democracy by creating an environment in which political decisions fall into the hands of a minority, rather than being representative of the masses. Whilst mass apathy is unlikely to endanger the existence of the FRG in the same way that the politicisation of young people helped bring about the demise of the GDR, it does, however, limit the functioning of the state. As the contrasting natures of the GDR and united Germany demonstrate, the importance of patriotic behaviour to the maintenance of a state clearly depends on the nature of its political foundations: whilst the maintenance of a true democracy requires a high level of patriotic commitment, the absence of this commitment may actually help sustain a single-party state.10

These findings help deepen our understanding of the GDR regime, for the fact that inadequate commitment to official socialist patriotic values in the GDR helped maintain the regime shows that stability was based on more than simple repression and central control. As demonstrated by the apathetic conformity of many young people who co-operated with the system to suit their own (p.228) needs, yet whose disaffection with the regime was largely tolerated, the boundaries between state and society were far from clear-cut. The evident interaction between both spheres not only proved essential in shaping the loyalties of young people – and, indeed, the nature of state control – but it also seriously undermined the validity of firstly the totalitarian paradigm and secondly the model of the ‘niche society’ for the GDR, both of which failed to recognise such interaction. The classification of the GDR as ‘totalitarian’ allows no space for the complex and often changeable nature of the relationship between state and society, for rather than describing the actual structures of power this model relies on the aims of the state to intimate the nature of the regime. As Mary Fulbrook argues: ‘The primary focus on ideology and repression misses the crucial importance of Anpassung, grumbling conformity and the isolation of dissent, as key aspects tending towards political stability despite lack of commitment, as well as failing to explore the conditions for the organisation of alternative movements which can mount effective challenges to the regime under particular conditions.’11 Although the portrayal of the GDR as a ‘niche society’ clearly allows for a more differentiated view, and captures the importance of private circles within the regime, this concept also fails to recognise the significance of interaction between the private and public spheres. As Thomas Lindenberger claims, the concept of the ‘niche’ is rather misleading, if not somewhat idyllic, for the private sphere was never entirely free from the influence of GDR politics.12

In contrast to the concepts of totalitarianism and the ‘niche society’, the idea of Eigen-Sinn is largely supported by the findings of this study. As Corey Ross states, this concept ‘points towards ways of bridging the divide between the competing images of ubiquitous dissent and widespread conformity by emphasizing how the pursuit of one’s interests – indeed, the very definition of one’s interests in the first place – is integrally related to social and political circumstances’.13 This idea can be found in numerous areas of young people’s lives throughout the 1980s, and aptly reflects their frequently complex relationship with the state. This is perhaps best symbolised by the GDR Jugendweihe, a ceremony which was mobilised by the SED to encourage and demonstrate high levels of state loyalty in the GDR. Despite its official nature, it became a popular and emotionally laden ritual for young people and their families, who adapted it to their own needs. Whilst some took part (p.229) simply to ensure their future career paths, many also saw it as a family celebration and an important turning point in their lives. In response, the SED also adapted its approach in order to maintain the popularity of the ritual; whilst the preparatory Jugendweihe classes continued to propagate socialist ideology, shops were allowed to market clothes and presents specifically for this occasion, and the importance of family values and the coming of adulthood were often emphasised in official discourse. This interaction between state and society clearly demonstrates the limitations of totalitarian theory and concepts of the ‘niche society’ to characterise the GDR. Instead, the pursuit of Eigen-Sinn captures the essence of this relationship and, as Lindenberger highlights, the true nature of the GDR can only be understood once we recognise ‘the individual [eigen-sinnig] experiences of east Germans with ‘their’ dictatorship’.14

The concept of Eigen-Sinn also relates closely to the way in which GDR socialisation has affected young people in the longer term – the third point of investigation in this study. The nature and extent of young people’s personal interaction with the GDR state has thus clearly impacted on their post-unification identities, as demonstrated by the differences in attitude between the two groups of interviewees: teenagers and young adults. Teenagers had few memories of the GDR, yet their minimal experiences of life under socialism often gained a disproportional over-importance in their assessment of united Germany. In this way, personal experience of the GDR (however minimal) created amongst many the impression that they knew what life there was like, and consequently they felt part of an exclusive group which was able to legitimately pass judgement on the GDR. Furthermore, rosy childhood memories have frequently painted an image of a world in which young people lived easy, straightforward lives, free from the immediate worries of unemployment and financial insecurity and, as a result, those growing up post-1989 have often felt hard done by and disadvantaged. This image is often strengthened by their parents’ own difficult experiences since unification, and subsequently their positive appraisal of life in the GDR. Others, however, who experienced negative discrimination during the GDR, paint a rather different picture for their offspring. It is consequently no surprise that teenagers’ views of the socialist past were biased in nature, through their limited experiences and reliance on ‘second-hand’ sources. The tendency to adopt a black and white viewpoint was also evident in (p.230) many teenagers’ attitudes towards their immediate environment, which were frequently shaped by the opposition of east and west within united Germany, each half often simply negating the other, rather than being valued (or criticised) for its own individual nature. Indeed, as a result of growing up during a time marked by western dominance and perceived eastern inferiority, teenagers’ categorisation of both east and west was highly stereotyped, and their loyalties were based primarily on the perception of east–west difference in the present, rather than past divisions.

In contrast, young adults’ attitudes towards the past and present were more moderate. As a result of their longer socialisation in the GDR, their views of the socialist state were varied and more likely to be neutral and descriptive in nature than those of teenagers. Having encountered both the positive and the negative aspects of life under SED socialism and experienced life there as a daily normality, their memories proved less susceptible to manipulation than those of teenagers (although, as with all memories, they have been altered by the passage of time). These memories were consequently more influential in this age group’s assessment of their contemporary state, and in contrast to teenagers’ reliance on western difference as a point of comparison for their own situation, young adults were more likely to look to the GDR past as a reference point for the present. Rather than defining themselves in the face of the west, members of this cohort thus more frequently drew on past personal experiences to judge the present. The strong solidarity that was felt during the GDR, or the appreciation of non-material values, for example, highlighted for them the cut-throat competitiveness and economic greed of contemporary society. In contrast, however, the regulated nature of public life and the lack of personal freedoms in the GDR underlined for them the liberal nature of post-Wende Germany, and allowed for greater appreciation of the benefits of its political system. As a result of young adults’ greater reliance on the past–present comparison, their self-definition in the face of the west was more moderate than that of teenagers, and their descriptions of east and west were consequently less biased.

In both age groups, personal experiences have played a vital role in influencing attitudes towards united Germany. The influence of GDR socialisation has thus continued to be highly relevant in the lives of young adults, and as claimed in Good Bye Lenin!, ‘the GDR lives on’, yet rarely in the sense of formal education and (p.231) propaganda. In contrast to the views of psychologists and social scientists such as Hans-Joachim Maaz and Christian Pfeiffer on the one hand, who claim that education and socialisation in the GDR created authoritarian characteristics amongst young people, and Peter Förster and Detlef Oesterreich on the other, who suggest that contemporary circumstances are primarily responsible for identity formation today, the findings of this study suggest that it is rather young people’s experiences of life in the private sphere (in both the past and present) which throw light on contemporary attitudes. GDR courses in military defence, for example, had little long-lasting ideological effect, yet the unofficial solidarity that formed amongst pupils during such lessons has had a much longer-lasting influence. Similarly, the most influential post-unification experiences have been those which have directly affected the private sphere, such as unemployment and financial insecurity.

The relationship between the past and present is clearly two-way: whilst personal experiences of the present have influenced young people’s assessment of the past, personal experiences of the past have equally influenced attitudes towards the present. Whereas the former was more prevalent amongst teenagers, the latter was witnessed more frequently amongst young adults. As Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann and Renate Köcher state: ‘The Cold War has made a lasting impression on the historical consciousness of west and east Germans.’15 This is true to the extent that the Cold War was responsible for the division of Germany, for it was the various experiences on each side of the Wall that have clearly shaped subsequent historical consciousness. It is more doubtful where ideology is concerned, however, for the long-term effects of GDR patriotic education have proved negligible in the attitudes of young adults over a decade later. Similarly, formal education in schools since 1990 has appeared secondary to personal experience in shaping young people’s behaviour. It is thus no surprise that those who have experienced most difficulties in the private sphere are more likely to be critical of the present state, and lenient in their assessment of the GDR past.

Despite the importance assigned to the debate concerning the influence of socialisation versus contemporary circumstances, one final factor that has been a recurrent theme throughout this study proves equally prominent in shaping young people’s loyalties today: the National Socialist past. Following the suppression of many (p.232) elements of this part of German history during the GDR, it has gained a new importance in the east, particularly amongst young people. Indeed, this period has regained the emotional involvement of young people, providing a strong source of shame and often preventing the expression of pride in Germany and its institutions, particularly the Bundeswehr, for fear that history may repeat itself. As the debate initiated by Meyer and Trittin suggests, this period of history is likely to remain central to the formation of collective loyalties in Germany for the immediate future.

The relationship of young adults to the National Socialist past also supports the thesis that personal experience in the GDR claimed greater importance in the formation of patriotic sentiment than formal GDR socialisation. Firstly, the influence of this period in shaping young people’s loyalties soon after the demise of the GDR suggests that the SED’s anti-fascist propaganda had little, if any, long-lasting effect. Their apparent emotional detachment from the period of National Socialism during the 1980s changed more dramatically than any other element following unification, and thirteen years after the fall of the Wall, it evoked more emotional reaction than any other period of history. Secondly, young adults’ personal experience of the Wende and mass opposition to the SED in 1989 has caused them to judge older generations’ apparent complicity with the Nazi past particularly harshly. Here we see how past personal experiences can also influence attitudes towards periods of history which were not experienced first-hand, yet which reflect on present loyalties. In this way, many young adults’ reticence towards displaying patriotic pride as a result of shame in the Nazi past has ultimately been heightened by their personal involvement in demonstrations during the Wende. Whilst the interaction between past and present experiences can clearly be influenced by events outside one’s immediate personal sphere, this sphere will still colour the light in which they are viewed. Once again, ‘the GDR lives on’, at least in the way that it continues to influence the attitudes and perceptions of those who experienced life there.

As the evidence of this study has demonstrated, patriotism cannot be imposed upon citizens from above, however thorough and uniform attempts to do so may be. Instead, it can only grow organically from below, where personal experiences of the past and present are central to the development of civic and national loyalties. Whilst these are further defined by perceived difference in the (p.233) present as well as older historical traditions, personal experiences are also influential in these areas. Clearly the local and personal needs of the masses must be satisfied before a state can rely on the popular support and active commitment of its citizens. Contrary to common assumptions, patriotism is thus not primarily about state symbolism or national greatness, but ultimately about satisfaction within the personal sphere.



(1) ‘Meinungen über Nationalstolz gehen weit auseinander’, MV, 28 Mar 2001.

(2) Cited in Berlin aktuell: Die Woche im Bundestag, 20 Mar 2001, accessed on 29 Sep 2003.

(3) ‘Maffay und Lindenberg unterstützen Rau’, MV, 22 Mar 2001.

(4) ‘Stolz sind sie irgendwie alle’, MV, 21 Mar 2001; ‘CDU integriert Aktion “Stolz auf Deutschland” in OB-Wahlkampf’, MV, 28 Mar 2001.

(5) Sylvia, 17, 27/9/01.

(6) Christoph, 19, 9/4/02; Michaela, 29, 20/9/01; Andre, 17, 14/9/01.

(7) Martin Walser, ‘Deutsche Sorgen’, Der Spiegel, Nr 26 (1993), 40–7 (p. 43).

(8) It should be noted, however, that the German government recognised this atmosphere of resistance in determining policy on the Iraq crisis in 2002, and tapped into the popular mood.

(9) Heiner Meulemann (ed.), Werte und nationale Identität im vereinten Deutschland (Opladen: Leske & Budrich, 1998), p. 17.

(10) Whilst the Third Reich and other fascist states relied heavily on popular support, this was to be founded on the basis of ethnic exclusivity and nationalist thought, rather than the civic emphasis of patriotic commitment.

(11) Mary Fulbrook, ‘The Limits of Totalitarianism: God, State and Society in the GDR’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6/7 (1997), 25–52 (p. 50).

(12) Thomas Lindenberger, Herrschaft und Eigen-Sinn in der Diktatur: Studien zur Gesellschaftsgeschichte der DDR (Cologne, Weimar, Vienna: Böhlau, 1999), p. 9.

(13) Corey Ross, The East German Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives in the Interpretation of the GDR (London: Arnold, 2002), p. 124.

(14) Lindenberger, Herrschaft und Eigen-Sinn in der Diktatur, p. 12.

(15) Allensbacher Jahrbuch der Demoskopie 1993–1997, vol. 10: Demoskopische Entdeckungen, ed. by Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann and Renate Köcher (Munich: Saur, 1997), p. 505.