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3. To what extent was the Protestant church significant in the collapse of communism in the GDR?
About this Lecture
In this module, we think about the role played by the Protestant church in the collapse of communism in the GDR, focusing in particular on: (i) the status of the church as the only semi-autonomous space in the GDR, in which individuals were allowed a certain amount of freedom; (ii) the ratcheting up of Cold War tensions in the late 1970s/early 1980s, and the introduction of compulsory military service in the GDR in 1978/9; (iii) the range of peace movements that emerged in response to increased tensions, and the role of the church in fostering such groups; (iv) the figures of Robert Havemann and Rainer Eppelmann, the introduction of annual 'peace weeks' from 1980, the establishment of Women for Peace in 1983, etc.; (v) the social and political impact of these peace moments; (vi) the growth of an ecological movement following the environmentally-damaging polices of the SED in the 1980s and (especially) the Chernobyl disaster in 1986; (vii) the importance of the church as an incubator for alternative culture, e.g. punk rock; (viii) the variability in the church landscape, and the extent to which some churches were more politically active than others, e.g. Christian Führer at the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig; (ix) the activities of the Nikolaikirche, including prayer meetings within the church and political rallies on the streets of Leipzig; and (x) the existence of opposition groups that were entirely separate to the church, e.g. the Initiative Frieden und Menschenrechte (IFM).
In this course, Professor Anna Saunders (University of Liverpool) explores the final decade of communist rule in East Germany, through six key questions: (1) To what extent did economic factors accelerate the demise of the GDR?; (2) To what extent were Gorbachev’s policies responsible for the collapse of communist rule in East Germany?; (3) To what extent was the Protestant church significant in the collapse of communism in the GDR?; (4) To what extent did external influences contribute to the collapse of the GDR?; (5) How important was popular dissent in bringing about the demise of the GDR?; and (6) How accurate is it to say that Helmut Kohl was the main driver of reunification?
Anna Saunders is Professor of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Liverpool. She specialises in the history and memory of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), and in questions of memorialisation and the performance of memory in the built environment. Her recent publications include Memorializing the GDR: Monuments and Memory after 1989 (2018) and Honecker's Children: Youth and Patriotism in East(ern) Germany, 1979-2002 (2007).
Cite this Lecture
Saunders, A. (2021, February 22). Germany – The Decline of the GDR, 1980-90 - To what extent was the Protestant church significant in the collapse of communism in the GDR? [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://massolit.io/courses/germany-the-decline-of-the-gdr-1980-90/to-what-extent-was-the-protestant-church-significant-in-the-collapse-of-communism-in-the-gdr
Saunders, Anna. "Germany – The Decline of the GDR, 1980-90 – To what extent was the Protestant church significant in the collapse of communism in the GDR?." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 22 Feb 2021, https://massolit.io/courses/germany-the-decline-of-the-gdr-1980-90/to-what-extent-was-the-protestant-church-significant-in-the-collapse-of-communism-in-the-gdr