I’m pleased to be contributing another episode to the Radio GDR podcast, again with Dr. Edward Larkey. This time Ed and I look at the relationship between popular music and politics in the GDR. You can find the episode here: https://radiogdr.com/politics-and-pop-music-of-east-germany-part-2/.
This episode is the first of two with this theme and looks at the 50s and 60s; we’ll cover the 70s and 80s the next time around.
The eastern German city of Leipzig is known as the “City of Heroes” for its role as home to the protests which led to the demise of the state socialist regime. Explanations for why Leipzigers took to the streets have often focused on a number of factors including political repression, the desire to travel and economic stagnation, but author/academic Andrew Demshuk makes a compelling argument in his book Bowling for Communism that, for many Leipzigers, the slow motion decay was a decisive factor in their decision to rise up.
Demshuk will make his case at an online event presented by the Goethe-Institut Toronto on Thursday, January 28th from 6 – 7 pm EST. I’ll be joining the author to discuss his exciting work and it would be great to have some GDR Objectified readers there too.
For further details on this event and to register, click here.
With apologies to all on Facebook who will have seen this, I did an interview about the GDR Objectified blog with Radio GDR, a very fine podcast which shares my fixation with “the first socialist state on German soil”. If you’re interested, you can listen to it by clicking here.
To mark the 57th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall, here are some memories of Gundula Wilhelm, a retired pastor’s wife from Alberta, Canada. Gundula and her family moved to East Berlin in 1952 so that her father, a Lutheran pastor, could serve the zum Vaterhaus parish on Treptow’s Baumschulenweg, just a short stroll to the border dividing the two halves of the city.
Berlin August 13, a publication of Federal Republic of Germany’s Ministry for All-German Affairs, here in a revised and expanded version in April 1965 (author’s collection)
“It was wonderful growing up in the Berlin of that time. When we arrived in the city, the border was still open of course, so you could go over on the S-Bahn [commuter train, ed] any time you wished,” remembers Gundula. “You might be unlucky and get searched, but that never happened to me. We had close relatives over there though, so we were over often. In fact, we were in the West visiting a cousin on August 12, 1961, but came back to the ‘lovely’ East that evening. We woke up the next morning to the sound of tanks passing by our house on their way to the border just up the road. And from that point on, you couldn’t go across, simple as that.” (Interview with author, May 27, 2018)
While we are familiar with these sad stories of the immediate consequences of the Wall’s construction, it was the account of the years that followed shared by Gundula and her husband Friedmut which I found most fascinating as they help bring to life the atmosphere that the couple and their circle of young friends experienced in the aftermath of the Wall.