The Life and Death of a Vanished Nation: East Germany, 1949-1990 Winter 2019

Cross-listed HIST 16 / GERM 16
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Class Details

In 1989, in the wake of the rapid crumbling of their power in the face of massive popular resistance, the authorities in the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik, or DDR) opened the Berlin Wall. Within a year the wall had been torn down and the East German state voted itself out of existence, absorbed wholly into the belly of its larger and more powerful neighbor to the West. Suddenly, the nation born of the promise to create a genuine people’s democracy and claiming the moral high ground as an anti-Fascist state had vanished, its political culture and social institutions suddenly erased. What were the promises of the regime and what happened to those promises? What were the contradictions in East German society and why and where did resistance slowly build to the point where the entire edifice came crashing down? This course will briefly chart the short history of the DDR, from the founding of the Socialist Unity Party in the Soviet occupation zone of a defeated Germany at the end of the Second World War to the total collapse of the regime in 1989/90. The course will explore key moments in the political history of the DDR, including the uprisings of 1953 and the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961. It will also focus on the social and cultural practices of East German society, exploring the nature of everyday life under the Communist regime. The course will meet twelve times — three or four times per week (1¼ -3¼ hours each meeting) for the three full weeks of Winter Study. Part of the evidence for our discussions will come from the viewing and analysis of seven films, the majority of which were made in the DDR during its short existence and are essential viewing for the course. A textual history of the DDR will also be accompanied by a packet of additional reading materials that will be discussed in class.
The Class: Limit: 20
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: 10-page paper
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: preference given to History and German majors
Materials/Lab Fee: $20 plus cost of books
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:

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