cartoon jagged German flag uniting
Cartoon depicting the happy unification of East and West Germany--as equals, although using the Western flag without the East's logo.

UCSB Hist 133c, L24-26:
The Unification of Two Germanies
lectures Feb. 27, March 1, 3, 2006
(L20-23; L27-28)

by Professor Harold Marcuse (homepage)
created March 14, 2006, updated 3/15/06

Life in East Germany,
The "deflection" of the revolution, Nov-Dec. 1989
Jana Hensel,
After the Wall

Introduction (back to top)

  • After 3 lectures covering the "fall of the wall"--the movement that led to the collapse of the East German government in the fall of 1989--we began a series of three lectures on the process and aftermath of German unification.
    • The first was a guest lecture by Gabriel Fawcett, a British historian who has been living and working in Berlin for the past 6 years, as a journalist, tour guide and historical author. His slide show about "Life in East Germany, 1949-1989." (below)
    • The second lecture was devoted to a discussion of some of the points Mr. Fawcett made, and some video clips of important events from 1984 to November 1989 (summarized in the L20-23 notes [note 3/15/06: still blank]).
    • The third traced what Fulbrook calls the "deflection" of the revolution in Nov.-Dec. 1989, and the hurried process of unification in 1990.
    • We also discussed Jana Hensel's book After the Wall (2004; German 2002).
    • I might add a section with some Issues of Unification that I hope to squeeze into L27 along with the 4 student presentations.

Life in East Germany, 1949-1989 (back to top)

  • Mr. Fawcett began with images of the devastation wreaked on the cities and infrastructure by the Allied bombing raids, as well as the block-by-block combat necessitated by the Germans' hopeless last-ditch resistance effort (primarily in Berlin).
    • Mass rape by Soviet soldiers did not endear the later "big brother" to the East German populace. According to Antony Beevor in Berlin: The Downfall 1945 (2002):
      "Estimates of rape victims from [Berlin's] two main hospitals ranged from 95,000 to 130,000. One doctor deduced that out of approximately 100,000 women raped in the city, some 10,000 died as a result, mostly from suicide. The death rate was thought to have been much higher among the 1.4 million estimated victims in East Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia. Altogether at least two million German women are thought to have been raped, and a substantial minority, if not a majority, appear to have suffered multiple rape."
      (Quotation from a May 1, 2002 Guardian article)
  • Once the war was over, much of the infrastructure that hadn't been destroyed was taken as reparations by the Soviet occupying power, which was eager to compensate for the vast devastation of its own infrastructure under the Nazis' "scorched earth" policy.
  • Next came an overview of the East German regime's contradictions between propaganda and practice in the 1950s and 1960s, such as
    • the re-use of Nazi concentration camps as Soviet NKVD "special camps" to imprison both former Nazis and anti-Nazis who objected to East German toilet paperpolicies of the SED. In the late 1950s and early 1960s the former camps were converted into memorial sites idolizing the Communist heros who fought against the Nazis.
  • Fawcett finished with wonderful images of East German consumer products, including an ad that proudly proclaimed "unchanged for 40 years" (IMI laundry detergent). Illustrations can be found in:
    • Ernst Hedler (photos) and Ralf Ulrich (introduction), DDR Design / East German design / design de la RDA, 1949-1989 (Cologne, Los Angeles: Taschen, 2004), 191 p. ($10 at amazon)
    • Illustrations of products available for purchase at the "ostalgie" sites, and
    • A google image search of 'DDR Produkte' will get you a sampling of images.
    • The largest collection of images on the web is probably the Sammlung zur DDR-Alltagskultur. Click on the categories in the left frame and you can scroll through images of that product in the right frame. Knowing German may help in choosing categories.
    • Still more images can be found at DDR Museums, such as the one in Dutch Monnickendam (10 km n. of Amsterdam), or in (former) East German Malchow (on the A19 not far north of Berlin; scroll East German radio cassette recorderdown for images in the right-hand column).
  • He had many great anecdotes, including how there was a special uninterrupted radio broadcast of popular Western albums from 4-5pm each day. Special radio-cassette recorders were sold, so that young people could tape the albums, thereby avoiding the need for hard currency (or any currency at all) to purchase the music.
    • "Bückwaren"--'bend-over goods'--were limited-release items that shop clerks kept under the counter and bent over to retrieve only for special customers. Our usual "customer is king" mantra was reversed in East Germany: customers had to be nice to the clerks in order to have access to special items.
    • East Germans of course had access to Western TV stations. On both Eastern and Western evening news broadcasts a ticking clock was shown to mark the full hour. Teachers could ask young children "does the clock on your TV have dots or lines to mark the hours?" and thereby tell whether the parents were watching Eastern or Western TV news.
    • Dresden is located in the Elb river valley and was not able receive Western broadcasts. It was thus known as the "valley of the clueless" (Tal der Ahnungslosen).
      [In 2003 Nigerian-East German filmmaker Branwen Okpako made a drama about the Stasi with that title; it is set in Dresden. (The connection is unclear from the plot summary.)]
    • Singer-songwriter-dissident Wolf Biermann (1936-) was "dumped" into West Germany in 1976 when the East Germans couldn't shut him up anymore.
The ruins of Dresden in 1945
East German window display of babyfood: 'Hm, tastes good!'
"Zonengabi" on Cover of Nov. 1989 satirical magazine

Mr. Fawcett concluded his lecture with this image.

The November 1989 issue of the West German satirical magazine Titanic featured "Zonen-Gabi in ecstasy" (Zone being short for 'Soviet Zone,' and Gabi a common girl's name) eating "My first banana," which is actually a peeled cucumber.

The satire is based on the East Germans having had to settle for inferior surrogate goods because the country did not want to spend its hard currency on consumer imports. In the first days after Nov. 9, West Germans gave East Germans bananas to try, often throwing them into the crowds, as people might do to animals at a zoo.

The poster reminds me of the scene in The Promise where Konrad paints a stuffed Panda bear brown so that his daughter will think the bears in the East Berlin zoo are pandas.

  • I tried to get accurate figures on the extent of Stasi collaboration. From Mary Fulbrook's The People's State: East German Society from Hitler to Honecker (2005), 241-47 I gleaned the following:
    • 1989: 91,000 full-time Stasi employees for total GDR population of 16.4 million: 0.55%
      By comparison: 7,000 full-time Gestapo for 66 mio--but they could rely on lots of cooperation by a populace willing to inform on its neighbors
    • Informal Stasi agents (IMs):
      1950s: 20,000-30,000
      1968: 100,000
      1975-1989: 170,000-180,000 (proportion: 1 for every 60 adults [10,500,000 adults]).
    • Stasi's own figures suggest a 10% turnover each year, or about 17,500 new agents. Thus over time Fulbrook estimates about 500,000 East Germans were at one time IMs.
    • Reasons for collaborating:
      • members of the SED (true believers; in one instance in 1962: 40-50% of all IMs)
      • "probably a majority" were willing or persuaded to cooperate by small advantages, social rewards, material inducements, or a sense of adventure or flattery
      • less than 10% (Stasi says 7.7%): obvious coercion, bullying
    • Another source says the Stasi kept files on 4 mio. East Germans and 2 million West Germans. 1,500 Stasi spies were active in West Germany.
    • (in German) has relatively detailed information.

The "deflection" of the revolution, Nov.-Dec. 1989 (back to top)

  • Oct. 6-9, Leipzig: reform demands
  • Nov. 4, East Berlin: "Against monopoly socialism -- for democratic socialism"
  • Nov. 10, West Berlin: leaders; Willy Brandt: "What belongs together will grow together" "Es wächst zusammen, was zusammengehört."
  • Nov. 11 SED Demonstration
  • Nov. 28: Chancellor Kohl's 10-point-plan
    • I. immediate measures to help GDR: environment, communications & transportation
    • II. changes in GDR constitution
    • III. confederation to federation (w/i Europe)
  • Dec. 11, Leipzig: slogans
      • "Wir sind ein Volk": We are one people becomes "Wir sind das Volk": We are the people
      • "Deutschland-einig Vaterland": Germany-united fatherland
      • "Keine Experimente mehr, Wiedervereinigung jetzt" No more experiments, Reunification now!
    • Along with these new pro-unification slogans are several explicitly anti-unification ones:
      • "Wir wollen keinen Kohl auf dem sauberen Mittagstisch" We don't want any cabbage/Kohl on our clean dinner table
        • This is actually ambiguous: it could be anti-chancellor Kohl, or anti-cabbage Kohl, a staple, drab vegetable always available in East Germany
      • "Kein Ausverkauf der DDR": Don't sell out the DDR
      • "Wir lassen uns nicht BRDigen": Won't won't let ourselves be BuRieD
    • Fulbrook (1992, p. 338) calls this transition "an ironic vindication of the materialistic determination of history" (remember the first "E" in EIEIO--economics as the underlying, primary cause)
  • Dec. 17: Round table convenes
  • Dec. 19: Kohl in Dresden
  • Two possibilities for unification:
    • Art. 23: "This law applies for now on the territory of the states of Baden, Bavaria, Bremen, In other parts of Germany it will go into effect after they become members."
    • Art. 146: "this Basic Law will lose its validity on the day that a constitution takes effect, which has been ratified by the German people in free elections."
    • March 18, 1990 East German parliamentary election results:
      • CDU+DSU: 41% + 6%
      • BFD 5%
      • SPD 22%
      • PDS 16%
      • Bündnis 90: 3%

Jana Hensel, After the Wall (2002) (back to top)

  • We started out with Q10Jana Hensel:
    • To what country does Hensel go to study and live?
      [answer: France--in Marseilles & Paris]
    • BRIEFLY sketch one anecdote in the book that you found meaningful (if time: why)
  • Discussion of Hensel--what anecdotes were meaningful?
    • Hamburg boyfriend's minimalism in furnishing his eastern apartment
    • how differently teens in the West communicate with their parents, almost as best friends
  • Hensel Links/Resources (most in German, sorry):
    • $6/14 at amazon
    • In Nov. 2004 Hensel did a book tour in the US. Susan Wyndham , a reviewer for the Sydney Morning Herald, did a review in English for the Goethe Institute in Washington, and discussed it with other, similar books in a Nov. 29, 2003 article in the SMH.
    • excerpt at
    • A book of essays written in response to this book: Tom Kraushaar (ed.) Die Zonenkinder und Wir (Rowohlt, June 2003), 128pp. (€7 at
    • Short bio and interview in Aug. 2003, by Stephanie Wurster, at the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung's site.
    • Excerpts from a four reviews at
    • description of a March 2003 reading at the Leipzig book fair, by Friederike Haupt
    • July 2003 review by
    • Citations of lots of reviews at
    • Additional readings (from 2006/07 module by Jane Wilkinson, University of Wales):
      • "recommended:" Brockmann, Stephen. (1999.) Literature and German Reunification (Cambridge University Press)
      • Taberner, Stuart (ed) (2004) German Literature in the Age of Globalization (Birmingham University Press )
      • Kane, Martin (Feb. 2003) Legacies and Identity:East and West German Literary Responses to Unification
      • Costabile-Heming, Carol Anne (June 2001) Textual Responses to German Unification: Processing Historical and Social Change in Literature and Film
      • "purchase:" Schulze, Ingo (c1998.) Simple Storys: Ein Roman aus der ostdeutschen Provinz
      • Brussig, Thomas (2004.) Am kurzeren Ende der Sonnenallee
      • "essential reading:" Taberner, Stuart (2005) German Literature of the 1990s and Beyond: Normalisation and the Berlin Republic Camden House
  • At the end of class I showed the last 3.5 minute clip from the 1990 documentary series Eastern Europe: Breaking with the Past (vol. 9: "Germany Reunites"): "Corsets in Saxony." Filmed in the summer of 1990, probably not long after the July currency union, the clip shows three models of lingerie that a producer in Zwickau (near Leipzig) was making. The first was the old East German model, now being "sold" to the Soviet Union in a barter deal for oil. The second is a flashier but still rather practical model for East German women, while the third line in black and lavender satin was for marketing to West German women.
    • I didn't quite catch the name of the company (Sanitas?), but I'm pretty sure they're out of business. The current Zwickau yellow pages don't list any lingerie producers.

Issues of Unification (back to top)

If I have time, I'll squeeze these points into L27:

  • Abortion law, childcare
  • Citizenship laws and immigration policy

prepared for web by Harold Marcuse, March 14, 2006, updated: see header
previous lecture: 20-23  | next lecture: 27
back to top, Hist 133c homepage