When we talk about the GDR and its consequences, we often assume a totalitarian dictatorship for the sake of explanation. The first set of “Free Press” podcasts explains why this image is rather twisted.

What has this GDR done with the East German people? Time and again, when developments today, for example in Saxony, Brandenburg or Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, are explained, attempts are made to trace them back to the “dictatorship of the proletariat” in the small German state afterwards. the Second World War. The perspectives are often one-sided and mostly show the point of view of certain interest groups. On the other hand, researchers rarely have a say in dealing in a purely scientific way with the complex and often contradictory cogs of the GDR system, which had not only a political, but also a cultural and social component.

From the spring of 2020, the “Freie Presse” published a three-part interview with two experts who have devoted themselves to in-depth research on the GDR: the historian Prof. Dr. Gerd Dietrich, born in 1945, worked at the Academy of Sciences before reunification – after 1989 he was the only scholar with an Eastern career to be licensed to teach contemporary history at the Humboldt University in Berlin. With his three-volume “Cultural History of the GDR” he wrote a reference work on research on the country. Lawyer and constitutional expert Dr. Maik Weichert, meanwhile, was born in 1977. He did his doctorate with an in-depth thesis on “Art and the constitution in the GDR”, revealing many ambivalent interdependencies between the state and the society.

Since the current perspective of the GDR once again made the headlines with the thesis of CDU politician Marco Wanderwitz, Federal Government Commissioner in the East, on the “socialization of the dictatorship” of the East Germans as explanation of the AfD election results, the Free Press discusses the issue again in detail in a multi-part podcast that unearths a lot of exciting material about the dictatorial character of this state. According to Dietrich, for example, there are three different phases of the dictatorship of the GDR: first a “mobilization dictatorship”, a “education dictatorship” and a “welfare dictatorship” – the last aimed at to achieve a “unity of economy and political society” proclaimed by the head of state Erich Honecker. to satisfy the needs of the people of the GDR through consumption. Much of the official ideology of the RDA, Weichert explains, was pure folklore to most people: retreating into the private niche was in fact as easy in day-to-day life as it was in the West.

So where does the dissatisfaction of many East Germans come from today? “After the war, the citizens of the Federal Republic could only be won over to democracy because the economic miracle happened”, explains Dietrich. Helmut Kohl had also promised this path in 1990 with the “flowery landscapes” – but had then kept as conditional as Honecker his visions of prosperity: A double experience which has certainly shaped many citizens …

Podcast The first episode of the series “Shared views – The GDR in Germany” has just been released with the title “We are the dictatorship!” published. You can find it on all popular podcast portals – and here.