Building the East German Myth

Historical Mythology and Youth Propaganda in the German Democratic Republic, 1945-1989
Alan L. Nothnagle
Shows how communist youth propaganda contributed to East Germany's success

Description

Ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the political and economic structures of the former German Democratic Republic are largely understood, yet many questions remain. What actually motivated the East Germans themselves? What common goals and values kept GDR society going and, until its unexpected collapse in 1989, seemed to make it into a relative success story?

Building the East German Myth examines the East German communist party's propagandistic treatment of German high culture, antifascism, "German-Soviet" friendship, and the German nationalist tradition. In this pathbreaking study, Alan Nothnagle argues that the party's mass events and indoctrination campaigns were not mere propaganda, but rather an ingenious program of mythbuilding by which young people were instilled with a dynamic and nearly inescapable mythology. Using a wealth of previously unexplored sources, Nothnagle shows this mythology was as essential to the GDR's existence as the Wall of the Soviet occupation and, as its leaders discovered in 1989, the GDR could not survive without it.

Alongside the economic and human costs this book demonstrates, the loss of honesty, subtlety, and a sense of proportion may represent the most devastating legacy of the East German experience.

Written to appeal to both specialists and non-specialists, Building the East German Myth will prove essential reading for those interested in German and European history, communism, political propaganda, and Cold War culture.

Alan L. Nothnagle is Assistant Professor of History, Europa-Universität Viadrina in Frankfurt an der Oder, Germany.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . gives the reader an informed and fascinating insight into the passion and motivation of GDR society, an area of research that has often been neglected."
    —Jeannette Madarasz, University College London, German History, Volume 18, No. 4 (2000)
  • ". . . a well-researched, thoughtful book that contributes to an understanding of recent German history and problems."
    —J. D. Fraley, Birmingham-Southern College, Choice, March 2001
  • ". . . a highly illuminating exploration of failed myth-building, of the failure of intensive propaganda efforts to instill hollow myths in a population living under dictatorship."
    —Catherine Epstein, Amherst College, American Historical Review, April 2001
  • ". . . lucid, critically empathetic, and vividly written . . ."
    —John Connelly, Central European History, Volume 34, No. 4

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 224pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 1999
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10946-3

Add to Cart
  • $83.00 U.S.

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