My name is John Paul Kleiner and I reside in Toronto, Canada. This blog is my attempt to add a footnote to the “footnote of world history” that was the German Democratic Republic (quote by Heinz-Ulrich Wehler). In The GDR Objectified, I present a collection of objects produced in, or related closely to, the German Democratic Republic (GDR), or East Germany. These items were produced primarily during the years between the founding of the GDR in October 1949 and its accession to the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in October 1990. The objects presented here are from my collection of East German ephemera, I provide information on these items with the aim of providing a window onto East German history in an historical and/or personal way.
I hold an M.A. in History from York University, Toronto, Canada. During my graduate studies, I focused primarily on aspects of the history of the German Democratic Republic and wrote my major research paper on how the Saxon city of Leipzig dealt with manifestations of the East German state in its public spaces during the ten years following German unification. I have contributed to Einblick, the magazine of the Federal Republic of Germany’s Bundesrat, on topics related to East Germany
I have traveled extensively throughout the former East Germany and lived for a year and a half in Leipzig during the late 1990s and early 2000s. In the fall of 2008, I was a co-organizer of an eleven-day study tour which took a group of students from York University’s Canadian Centre for German and European Studies to the “New German States” for an interdisciplinary look at this region on the eve of the 20th anniversary of German reunification.
My interest in the GDR arises out of the contradictions between the utopian aspects of the state’s socialist ideology and the realities of everyday life for the vast majority of East Germans. The GDR’s Marxist ideology helped inform its insistence that it be judged on the basis of how well it satisfied the material needs (and to an extent, wants) of its citizens. Given this, I would contend that those items produced in the GDR – both within and without its centrally planned economic system – are especially eloquent in telling the story of East German society and the culture which produced it.
John Paul Kleiner