30 Years Ago: Popular Protest Changing History

In autumn 1989, ever-growing waves of popular protest swept through East Germany and led to the crumbling of the communist state. After thousands of East Germans had tried to escape the country during their summer vacations by seeking asylum in West German Embassies in other communist countries, a growing number of East Germans took their discontent to the streets in East Germany itself. Demanding more democracy, free elections, freedom of speech and movement, the protestors defeated the state and peacefully forced the opening of the Iron Curtain separating East from West on 9 November 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down.

 

From Die Zeit, 22 September 1989: ‘Bürger rufen nach Reformen’ by Marlies Menge

 

The East German Studies Archive holds files with clippings from English, and East and West German newspapers covering the events of thirty years ago. To remember the ‘Autumn of Popular Protest’ along with its newspaper coverage, follow our ‘Tweet in Autumn’ https://twitter.com/EastArchive?lang=en

 

 

What we have in the Archive: 3

Heimatkunde 3
Document type: History book
Language: German
Date published: 1982
Place of publication: Berlin
Publisher: Volk und Wissen Volkseigener Verlag
Author:
Archive code: 3B1/1/3 73 He

Details/information: A school textbook containing images of important landmarks and describing influential events and aspects of life in the GDR. Images of ruins after WW2 are presented and the book describes the narrative of overcoming fascism in East Germany thanks to support from the Soviets. Children learn about the founding of the SED, how building projects are planned (for example, apartment blocks) and how to read maps. The book gives advice on sleep, nutrition and hygiene, and on the production of cattle and plants.

Module it links to: Icons of Modern Germany
Links to the module: Honecker era

 

The book opens with large images of Erich Honecker, General Secretary of the SED, the Television Tower and the city council building in the GDR, and captions explaining what each image is.

 

The narrative of Fascists vs. Antifascists is described, and the book tells the story of the antifascists being taken away to concentration camps. Readers also learn that Ernst Thälmann, the leader of the Communist Party in Germany, was killed in the Buchenwald concentration camp after spending 11 years in solitary confinement. There are images depicting the antifascists being captured.

 

The book describes the destruction left over by the war, mentioning how families lived in holes in the ground due to their houses being destroyed. The bottom right image shows the Soviet soldiers marching through a crowd of people raising their hats to them.

 

 

 

The further shaping of the developed socialist society in our republic. This page features a very patriotic image of athletes marching with GDR flags. The text emphasises the party’s commitment to the people, stating that they have kept their word to do anything for the happiness of the citizens of the GDR. Erich Honecker states that the GDR will flourish and that life in socialism will improve for everyone.

 

 

The book describes the extensive future building projects, such as the rebuilding/modernisation of almost a million apartments and the construction of new schools, playgrounds and shopping centres. The rent for families living in these beautiful new apartments will be affordable. There is a need for more young people to become builders and more firms to produce the parts, such as windows and pipes and baths, for these homes. At the end of the text, there are comprehension questions for the students to answer.

The text introduces the Ralf Tischendorf Baubrigade (team of construction workers), highlighting their efficiency; they were able to construct a five-storey building in fourteen days. Ralf Tischendorf is an SED member and a builder, who believes that constructing new houses is the finest career. The text then outlines his responsibilities and tasks.

 

 

The book covers a wide range of concepts and skills, including plants and the weather, how to read from maps, or how farm animals are reared. These explanations are accompanied by clear diagrams and questions at the end of texts. At this time in East Germany, around 10% of the population worked in agriculture, which might explain why there is information particularly about farming and animals.

 

The book offers a wide range of knowledge on different topics, emphasising how socialist education promotes all-round personal development.