To ‘universalise’ the Nazi crimes is to deny the uniqueness of the Holocaust and the murder of the Jewish people by dissolving it into one universal story or another, from ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ to the ‘barbarism of capitalism’. It is a form of denialism and can be an expression of contemporary antisemitism. Dr. Martin Jander examines the history of the universalising of the crimes of National Socialism by the East German ruling party, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) and the spotty record of East German when it came to challenging either this or what Jeffrey Herf has called East Germany’s ‘wars against Israel’. Jander then highlights those brave figures in the GDR, often Christian or Jewish, who did take a stand and prepared the ground for the adoption by the newly elected People’s Chamber of the historic Declaration ‘Commitment to the Responsibility and Complicity for Past and Future’ on 12 April 1990.
Readers may wish to look next at ‘Undeclared Wars on Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left 1967-1981: An Interview with Jeffrey Herf published in Fathom in 2016’.
Introduction: ‘Responsibility and complicity for past and future’ – The GDR People’s Chamber Declaration of 12 April 1990
On 12 April 1990, shortly before the demise of the state, the first (and last) freely elected parliament of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) accepted responsibility and accountability for the Germans’ crimes against humanity. [i] On that day, the ‘Volkskammer’ (People’s Chamber) voted to pass a ‘Commitment to the Responsibility and Complicity for Past and Future.’[ii] The ‘Commitment’ was initiated by Konrad Weiß (Aktion Sühnezeichen) and was accepted by all 409 members of parliament, with 21 abstentions. The ‘Commitment’ admitted the ‘responsibility of the Germans in the GDR for their past and future’[iii] and accepted that during National Socialism ‘immeasurable harm was inflicted upon the people of the world’ and that ‘nationalism and racial fanaticism’ resulted in ‘genocide, particularly affecting Jews from all European countries, the people of the Soviet Union, the Polish people, as well as the Sinti and Roma.’
From this guilt derived a ‘responsibility for the future.’ The People’s Chamber admitted ‘joint responsibility for the humiliation, persecution, displacement and murder of Jewish women, men and children.’ They confessed sorrow and shame and took responsibility for ‘the burden of German history,’ asking Jews around the world for forgiveness. They asked the state of Israel for forgiveness for ‘the hypocrisy and animosity of official GDR policy’ as well as ´for the persecution and debasement of Jews even after 1945 in the GDR.’ From this, the gathered inferred a responsibility to contribute everything in their power ‘to achieve the healing of the psychological and physical wounds of the survivors and to advocate for a just reparation for material losses.’
In the same declaration, the lawmakers assured the citizens of the Soviet Union that they ‘hadn’t forgotten the horrible suffering that the Germans had inflicted on the people of the Soviet Union during the Second World War.’ In addition, they acknowledged joint responsibility for crushing the Prague Spring in 1968. ‘The unjust military intervention’ caused the people in Czechoslovakia ‘great suffering, postponing the democratisation process in Eastern Europe for 20 years.’ The lawmakers also pledged to recognise ‘the German borders with all neighboring countries, drawn as a result of the Second World War, without conditions.’ The Polish people in particular should know that ‘Germany won’t challenge its right for secure borders by claiming territory, neither now nor in the future.’
The Peoples Chamber Declaration of 12 April 1990 showed a historic conscience that had been distinctly lacking in previous declarations of East German dissident groups. This article examines the universalising of the crimes of National Socialism by the East German ruling party, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) and the spotty record of East German dissent when it came to challenging the state, highlighting those figures who failed to take a stand and those that did, preparing the ground for the vote of 12 April 1990.
1945-1989: East German Communism and the universalisation of the Holocaust
During the post-war transformation of the Soviet Occupation Zone (SBZ), and later the GDR itself, into a Soviet-type dictatorship, the National Socialist elites were certainly deprived of power.[iv] But there was no reconstruction of democracy and no assumption of responsibility and liability by the GDR for the crimes of the Germans and only inadequate support for the surviving victims of National Socialism inside and outside the GDR.[v] By contrast, in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), after the military defeat of National Socialism the Western Allies forced a recognition of the Nazi crimes, supervised the construction of a constitutional democracy, a treaty with Israel, and the integration of the German industrial and military potential into the constitutional process of a democratic Europe.[vi] The GDR, with the support of the Soviet Union, took a very different path, opting to ‘universalise’ the Nazi crimes, as the sociologist Mario Rainer Lepsius put it. [vii] The term sums up a tendency to deny the uniqueness of the Holocaust and the murder of the Jewish people by dissolving it into one universal story or another, from ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ to the ‘barbarism of capitalism’.
In the GDR, National Socialism was officially regarded as a force directly caused by capitalism, which had now been destroyed in the GDR by the socialisation of the means of production, the establishment of a ‘people’s democracy’ and a comprehensive process of educating the population to become ‘socialist personalities’. Subsumed under the categories ‘fascism’ and ‘capitalism’, National Socialism was classified as a problem specific to capitalist, western societies, to the USA and Israel.[viii] With very few changes, the ruling Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) in the GDR maintained this attitude until its downfall in 1989.
With the exception of the two studies by historian Jeffrey Herf on GDR history,[ix] a study by Thomas Haury[x] and smaller contributions on partial aspects of the subject, a comprehensive analysis of the history and society of the GDR under the aspect of the ‘universalisation’ of German crimes is still lacking.[xi] As a contribution to that history, this article highlights a range of individuals and organisations from the world of East German dissent, showing that although some oppositionists did little more than repeat the orthodoxy of the SED, there were others, especially in the Christian organisation ‘Aktion Sühnezeichen’ (Action atonement sign)[xii] and among left-wing Jewish intellectuals, who helped prepare the ground for the break with the politics of the SED on 12 April 1990.[xiii]
Robert Havemann and Wolf Biermann: Left-wing dissidents who also ‘universalised’ National Socialism
For a majority of the GDR dissidents who saw themselves as communists, socialists or social democrats, the issues of National Socialism, anti-Semitism and Israel did not loom large. In fact, the most important representatives of a leftist GDR opposition in the 1960s and 1970s, Robert Havemann and Wolf Biermann tended to reproduce the GDR leadership’s universalising criticism of fascism. [xiv]
The chemist Robert Havemann had already approached the German Communist Party (KPD) before National Socialism and had founded the ‘Europäische Union’ (European Union) resistance group with friends in 1943.[xv] The group set up a communications network for forced laborers who had been abducted to Germany and helped threatened Jews to flee Germany. Together with some friends, Havemann was arrested in 1943 and sentenced to death. He was able to escape the death penalty through the intervention of other chemists, who claimed his research was vital to the war effort. Havemann became an important figure for the left-wing opposition of the GDR because after Stalin’s death he turned away from Stalinism and declared that he had made a mistake.[xvi] Because of his public criticism of Soviet dictatorships, Havemann was barred from employment. With the help of friends, he published his books in the Federal Republic of Germany, from where they were smuggled back into the GDR or became known via discussions on West German radio and television.
Havemann’s ideas also reached an audience in the GDR through the songs of Wolf Biermann, who was born in Hamburg in 1936.[xvii] Biermann’s father had been arrested for resistance as a Jewish communist and was killed in Auschwitz in 1943. He was sent by his mother and her communist friends to study in the GDR after the war, but instead of devoting himself to economics he frequented Bertolt Brecht’s theatre, founded his own theatre and soon became famous for his irreverent songs and poems. He also published in the Federal Republic of Germany and in 1964 the Socialist German Student Organisation (SDS) arranged a tour of the songwriter throughout West Germany. As a result, from December 1965 the SED banned Biermann from performing in the GDR. Nonetheless, his songs and poems continued to be heard in the Federal Republic and spread even faster among critical spirits in the GDR. In November 1976 he was expatriated: invited to perform in the FRG in November 1976, the SED allowed Biermann to leave but not to return.
Solidarity with Jews in the GDR, with Israel, or with Holocaust survivors in other states, hardly played a role for the pair.[xviii] For example Havemann’s 1972 book Fragen, Antworten, Fragen claims that National Socialism only ended in the GDR while continuing to be present in West Germany and in all Western democracies. Hitler’s political power may have collapsed but, so he argued, ‘we communists knew that German fascism was only a particularly grisly variation of a political aspect that was colored by specific national characteristics; yet, it doesn’t have its roots in the German constitution but in the contradictions inherent in capitalist society.’[xix] Havemann attributed the genocide of the Jews entirely to ‘racism’ and ‘bourgeois ideology.’ It’s a matter of the ‘biological justification of social injustice,’ he wrote. He presumed that racism in Germany was only directed towards the Jews because the country lacked a larger minority, such as ‘negroes.’ In this context, he claimed that ‘in the U.S. […] Jews took part in the persecution and oppression of negroes as well.’
Havemann did not consider the socialist world, particularly the GDR, entirely free of its Nazi past. He even explained that ‘an immense number of domestic political conditions and events in the GDR’ produced ‘new versions of fascist behavioral norms and mindsets.’ The power of a single party, the ‘synchronised media,’ the ‘dominance of the secret police´, and a ‘parliament without opposition’ also belonged to it. He believed that all this deserved to be utterly condemned. However, despite these phenomena, Havemann believed that the GDR constituted ‘essential progress in German history,’ having contributed to the defeat of ‘capitalism and fascism in Germany.’ Havemann held on to this mode of interpretation until the end of his life.[xx] A version of it can be found in his last book, Morgen (Morning).[xxi]
Taking a Stand (1): The Protestant Bishops – ‘The history of God with the people of Israel’
When the East German civil rights groups formulated their platforms in 1989, they drew on Christian traditions traceable to the ‘Bekennende Kirche’ (Confessing Church), or more precisely, to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and many of their ideas came from the various meetings of the ‘Ökumenische Versammlung für Gerechtigkeit, Frieden und Bewahrung der Schöpfung’ (Ecumenical Assembly for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation), which had begun to meet in February 1988 in Dresden and Magdeburg.[xxii] However, as with Biermann and Havemann, National Socialism, Anti-Semitism, and Israel were largely absent from the concerns of the Christian reform groups in the GDR, which tended to focus instead on the repercussions of ‘the wall,’ the destruction of art and culture, demilitarisation, forms of pedagogy within national education that evoked feelings of hatred and fear, the treatment of people with different beliefs, the demise of the forests due to pollution, issues of German identity and everyday racism.[xxiii]
However, there were Christian voices in the GDR who confronted the country’s refusal to accept responsibility for National Socialism and anti-Semitism as well as the regime’s obsessive ‘anti-Zionism’ and violent hostility to Israel. On 27 November 1975, East German Protestant bishops distanced themselves from a UN resolution that had described Zionism as ‘a form of racism and racial discrimination.’[xxiv] The bishops of the GDR spoke out in response: ‘We must not forget: as Christians we are, according to the testimony of the Bible, placed in the history of God with the people of Israel; as Germans we have in the past denied the right of the Jewish people to exist to an alarming degree; as churches in the GDR we have emphatically supported the program of the World Council to Combat Racism.’ [xxv] Unfortunately, such an attitude was not found in the decisions of the ecumenical assemblies of 1988 or the programs of opposition groups of 1989.
Taking a Stand (2): Lothar Kreyssig – ‘A sacrilegious revolt against God’
Individual Protestants, however, did criticise the GDR leadership’s ‘universalisation’ of Nazi crimes and its ‘anti-Zionist’ policies. In 1958, a decade before the Protestant churches of East Germany separated from the Protestant churches of West Germany, the lawyer and Nazi dissident Lothar Keyssig had founded the ‘Aktion Sühnezeichen’ (Action atonement sign).[xxvi] Kreyssig was the first to admit guilt, responsibility and accountability for the Nazi’s crimes against humanity. An evangelical Christian born in Saxony in 1898, he studied law in Leipzig and volunteered for the First World War. After graduating from university he served as a judge in Leipzig and became a member of the Association of National Socialist Lawyers. In a 1940 letter to the Minister of Justice, he was the only lawyer to voice his suspicion that mentally ill German patients were being mass-murdered.[xxvii] As a result, Hitler ordered him retired. Because of the absence of constitutional legality in the GDR, he decided not to resume his judicial profession after the war. In 1952, he briefly headed up the chancery of the ‘Evangelical Church of the Old Prussian Union’. In the same year still, he became its president, a position he held until 1970.
While travelling to the U.S. by boat Kreyssig wrote down his thoughts, which later became the motto of ‘Aktion Sühnezeichen’: ‘We are asking for peace. We Germans started the Second World War, inflicting more immeasurable suffering on humankind than anyone else. In a sacrilegious revolt against God we killed millions of Jews. We survivors and opponents didn’t do enough to prevent it. […] We are asking the people who suffered violence at our hands to benefit their country with our hands and resources: to take an initiative of atonement by building a village, a settlement, a church, a hospital, or whatever else would serve the public good. Let’s start with Poland, Russia and Israel […].’[xxviii] Young Christians who joined the organisation first applied their beliefs in Norway, the Netherlands, Great Britain, France and Greece.
Taking a Stand (3): Helmut Eschwege – ‘Operativer Vorgang Zionist’
In contrast to Havemann and Biermann, some left-wing dissidents did criticise the anti-Zionist policies of the GDR. The left-wing Jew Helmut Eschwege expressed particularly clear criticism of the GDR’s remembrance policy and its ‘anti-Zionist’ obsession.[xxix]
Born in Hanover in 1913, Eschwege grew up in Hamburg, which is also where he joined the Social Democratic Party (SPD). After the rise of the Nazis, he managed to flee to British Palestine with his mother and siblings. Eschwege worked as a civilian employee in the British army and became a member of the Palestine Communist Party (PCP). After the end of National Socialism, Eschwege left for the Soviet occupation zone and became a member of Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED). He stayed there until the end of GDR, despite the party’s anti-Semitic campaign.
Eschwege wrote about Jewish history and the history of the Shoah, despite the many restrictions in the GDR (The Ministry for State Security [Stasi] spied on him as part of its ‘Operativer Vorgang Zionist`).[xxx] Together with the evangelical pastor Siegfried Theodor Arndt, Eschwege was honored in 1984 by the FRG for his promotion of Christian-Jewish dialogue.[xxxi] After the collapse of the SED, Eschwege was one of the founders of the Social Democratic Party of the GDR (SDP) in the city of Dresden and prepared his memoirs for publication. His best-known books are Kennzeichen J (Code Word J) [xxxii]; Die Synagoge in der deutschen Geschichte (Synagogues in German history)[xxxiii]; and Selbstbehauptung und Widerstand. Deutsche Juden im Kampf um Existenz und Menschenwürde 1933-1945 (Self-assertion and Resistance: German Jews and their Fight for Existence and Human Dignity).[xxxiv] The latter was co-authored with the historian Konrad Kwiet and was only published in FRG.
Starting in the mid-1960s, Eschwege gave talks to Jewish communities, Protestant congregations and evangelical theologians, as well as to the Society for Christian-Jewish Collaboration. Later, he also became an honorary chairman of the Dresden Branch of this society. Eschwege didn’t only lecture on the history of the Jews and of anti-Semitism;[xxxv] he also talked about the more recent history and persecution of Jews in the GDR, about Stalin’s anti-Semitism, the refusal to return property and assets to GDR Jews, and other taboo topics. Neither did he forget to talk about Martin Luther’s anti-Semitism, which was not the favorite topic among Protestant Christians in the GDR.[xxxvi] Whenever he was given the opportunity, Eschwege also criticised the GDR’s policies towards Israel and its support of the war against the Palestinians.[xxxvii] With these publications and lectures, claims Karin Hartewig, Eschwege took ‘cultural politics in his own hands.’[xxxviii]
Taking a Stand (4): The GDR Round Table of 1989-90
In the GDR, demonstrations broke out in the summer of 1989, triggered by the escape of citizens of the GDR to the Federal Republic after the Hungarian border opened up. The successful refugees’ movements, and the visit of Mikhail Gorbachev to the GDR on 7 October 1989, also spurred hopes of change. However, as oppositional movements emerged, advocacy for the assumption of responsibility and liability for the crimes of National Socialism by the Germans played no discernible role. On 15 November 1989, the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir expressed his concern to an American TV station that the Germans could once again become ‘the strongest country in Europe and perhaps the world’ and take this opportunity to kill millions of Jews.[xxxix] Not surprisingly, the GDR and Western Germany condemned Shamir’s announcement. Later, the Central Council of Jews demanded that Germany include the remembrance of its unparalleled crimes against humanity and its obligation towards its victims in the unification treaty.[xl] This demand was rejected as well.
On 30 January 1990, employees of the Foreign Offices from Israel and the GDR met in Copenhagen as the GDR leadership tried to reach a diplomatic relationship with Israel behind the scenes, but the effort failed.[xli] Instead, the office of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which was established in East Berlin in 1973, was transformed into a Palestinian embassy.[xlii]
The ruling party of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), did not apologise for its forty-year anti-Zionist policy or for its political and military support of the wars against Israel.[xliii] The SED rehabilitated Walter Janka, a communist who had been imprisoned in 1957 after a show-trial for allegedly engaging in counterrevolutionary conspiracy,[xliv] yet it did not rehabilitate Paul Merker, a communist condemned in 1955. He was accused of having worked for years as a ‘Zionist agent’ on the ‘plundering of Germany’ and the ‘shifting of German national wealth’ in favour of American and ‘Jewish monopoly capitalists’.[xlv] His conviction and expulsion from the SED happened at the height of a GDR’s anti-Semitic campaign in 1952.[xlvi] As part of that campaign, many Jews had been expelled from the GDR and the state had pursued aggressive internal and external ‘anti-Zionist’ policies.
It is troubling that even the civil rights groups that tried to negotiate a peaceful democratisation of the GDR with the SED and its block parties didn’t address these issues in 1989. None of the declarations of the civil society oppositional groups – ‘Neues Forum,’ ‘Demokratie Jetzt,’ ‘Demokratischer Aufbruch,’ ‘Social Demokratische Partei,’ ‘Böhlener Plattform’ and the ‘Grüne Partei’ – refer to National Socialism, anti-Semitism, Jews or Israel, though a few of the declarations did at least mention the rise of the radical right.[xlvii]
The ‘Für unser Land’ (For Our Country) appeal in November 1989 was typical.[xlviii] Its signatories, including Stefan Heym and Christa Wolf, demanded that socialism, as an alternative to capitalism, be defended and anti-fascism in the GDR be maintained. The signees advocated for an independent path of the GDR demanding a socialist alternative to West Germany, one that would remember the GDR’s ‘anti-fascist and humanist ideals.’[xlix]
After talks between the opposition and government representatives to negotiate a peaceful transition to democracy, at a ‘Round Table’ began in the GDR in December 1989, reform demands became more precise. Although appeals like ‘Für unser Land’, and the platforms of civil rights groups, had neglected to tackle National Socialism, anti-Semitism and Israel, the meaning of ‘anti-fascist and humanist ideals’ appeared self-evident to many civil society activists. As a result, on 12 February 1990 they unanimously supported a petition of the ‘Jüdischer Kulturverein’ (Jewish Cultural Society) to the ‘Round Table’ that demanded they offer asylum to Soviet Jews in the GDR and forward the petition to the GDR government.[l]
The group making this demand had been founded by survivors of Jewish origin, former emigrants, resistance fighters and their adult children, including many scientists and cultural workers, most of whom were neither religious nor members of the religious community. The group included Irene Runge, Vincent von Wroblewsky, Anetta Kahane, Salomea Genin, Barbara Honigmann and her husband Peter. Together, partly shamefaced and partly anxious, they had begun in 1986 to rediscover the Jewish traditions hidden in their families.[li]
In its petition to the ‘Round Table’, the Jewish Cultural Society pointed out the Germans’ responsibility for the Shoah and demanded solidarity with the persecuted Jews in the Soviet Union: ‘Considering that the whole world watched as German fascism persecuted and decimated the Jews, we demand not to repeat the German opprobrium of the past. The Talmudic law holds: [Lo tamood dam reecha pekuach nefesh doche et kol hatorah culah.] We must break all laws if one life can be saved.’[lii]
The pertinent guideline that was passed by the GDR’s Council of Ministers didn’t make it into the unification treaty, but the Commissioner for Foreigners of East Berlin, Anetta Kahane, persuaded the federal state of Berlin to accelerate the admission of Jews. On 9 January 1991 the first conference of secretaries of interior of the different states of Germany after the unification met and decided that Jews from the Soviet Union be accepted as ‘quota refugees.’[liii] This regulation changed German society lastingly.[liv] Approximately 200,000 people arrived.[lv]
Conclusion: The Meaning of 1989
A ‘Wirtschafts- und Sozialunion’ (Economic and Social Union) of the two German states was agreed in the summer of 1990. At the same time, the ‘Einigungsvertrag’ (unification treaty) between the two German states was being drafted. One part of the draft Treaty regulated the return of the property that the National Socialists had taken from the Jews between 1933 and 1945. The GDR had not returned this property to the former owners or their heirs. The declaration of the ‘Volkskammer’ from April 1990 was attached to the Unification Treaty. In addition, the four Allies – USA, USSR, Great Britain and France – had to agree with the Germans on the transfer of all sovereignty rights. On October 3, 1990, the GDR joined the constitution of the Federal Republic and on December 2, 1990, a first joint parliament was elected.
With the decision of the Round Table of 12 February 1990 to invite Jews who had been discriminated against and persecuted in the Soviet Union to immigrate to the GDR, and the adoption of the Declaration of 12 April 1990 in the newly elected People’s Chamber, left, Jewish and Christian GDR dissidents gave the collapse of the GDR and the unification of the two German states a very special character. With these two decisions – they do not appear in many descriptions of the end of the GDR[lvi] – the GDR, later the five new federal states, had left the development path of the ‘universalisation’ of German crimes during National Socialism.
The collapse of GDR 1989-1990 and the unification of the two German states are often seen as a revolution in the tradition of the failed German revolutions of 1848 or 1918.[lvii] I see it more as a process of catching up to something that had been refused in 1945. A restoration of democracy in Germany after 1945 was not possible without punishment of the Nazi perpetrators, not without compensation for the Nazi victims, not without recognition of responsibility and liability for the crimes and the attempt to help the surviving victims as best as possible. These steps had failed to materialise in large parts in the SBZ/DDR after 1945. They were restarted in 1989-90.
The antifascist policies of the GDR had negated and suppressed many non-communist traditions of resistance and opposition to National Socialism. Despite the repressive policies of the GDR, two of the anti-Nazi traditions continued to exist on the margins of society. The Jewish and Christian opposition to National Socialism gave the collapse of the GDR in 1989-90 a democratic and universalist face. The decision of the ‘Round Table’ of 12 February 1990 and the declaration of the People’s Chamber of 12 April 1990 are possibly the two most important documents from the collapse of the GDR and its subsequent accession to the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany.
[i] The Declaration was included in the Agreement of 23 September 1990 between the Governments of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic on the Implementation and Interpretation of the Unification Treaty (Einigungsvertrag (1990): Sonderdruck aus der Sammlung ‘Das deutsche Bundesrecht’. Baden-Baden, p. 544). This article is a revised version of my talk at the 41st annual conference of the German Studies Association (GSA) in October 2017 in Atlanta (Georgia, USA). I want to thank Jeffrey Herf and Alan Johnson for their very helpful comments and critical remarks. See also the German version of this article: Enrico Heitzer et al (Ed.) (2018), Nach Auschwitz: Schwieriges Erbe DDR, Wochenschau-Verlag, Frankfurt.
[ii] Bundesministerium für innerdeutsche Beziehungen (1991): Texte zur Deutschlandpolitik. Vol. III/8a. p. 158.
[iii] See: Jander, Martin: ‚Eine Fahrt nach Auschwitz’ (Interview with Konrad Weiß). In: Horch und Guck 2003, No. 44. 2003. p. 1. See also: Jander, Martin: ’Das war keine spontane Entscheidung’ (Interview mit Konrad Weiß). In: Deutschlandarchiv 2001, No. 5. p. 768. Following my request, Konrad Weiß tried to remember and asked around among his friends. In contrast to our interview, he is now certain that Harald Schneider from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) contributed the formation of the People’s Chamber’s declaration. Among the contributors were also Lothar Klein from the German Social Union (DSU) and Walter Romberg, a representative of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), according to an email from Konrad Weiß to me on 1 December 2017.
[iv] See: Mlynar, Zdenek (Ed.) (1982 ff.): Krisen in den Systemen sowjetischen Typs (Schriftenreihe). Wien.
[v] See: Mertens, Lothar (1995): Die SED und die NS-Vergangenheit. In: Bergmann, Werner u. a. (Ed.): Schwieriges Erbe. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt, S. 194 ff.
[vi] Thomas Allan Schwartz (1991): America`s Germany. Harvard University Press, London) provides one of the best analyses of denazification and reeducation, which was only partially successful.
[vii] See: Lepsius, M. Rainer (1993): ’Das Erbe des Nationalsozialismus und die politische Kultur der Nachfolgestaaten des “Großdeutschen Reiches“’. In: Lepsius, M. Rainer: Demokratie in Deutschland. Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht Verlag, p. 229.
[viii] See: Wistrich, Robert Salomon (2017): ‘Antisemitism and Holocaust Inversion.’ In: McElligott, Anthony and Herf, Jeffrey (Ed.): Antisemitism before and since the Holocaust. Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. Wistrich doesn’t talk about an ‘universalisation’ of the Shoah, he talks about ‘Holocaust inversion’.
[ix] See: Herf, Jeffrey (1997): Divided Memory. Harvard University Press. And: Herf, Jeffrey (2016): Undeclared Wars with Israel. Cambridge University Press.
[x] See: Haury, Thomas (2002): Antisemitismus von links. Hamburger Edition, 2002.
[xi] Siehe: Bergmann, Werner u. a. (Hrsg.) (1995): Schwieriges Erbe. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt.
[xii] See: Weiß, Konrad (1998): Lothar Kreyssig. Bleicher Verlag, Gerlingen.
[xiii] See: Offenberg, Ulrike (1998): Seid vorsichtig gegen die Machthaber. Aufbau Verlag, Berlin, p. 267.
[xiv] Rudolf Bahro and Jürgen Fuchs should also be mentioned here. Since, however, both had no comparable influential influence on the GDR opposition’s program like Havemann (Florath, Bernd (Ed.) (2016): Annäherungen an Robert Havemann. Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Göttingen.), they are not dealt with further here.
[xv] The best short description of the work of the ‘European Union’ and its work can be found in Yad Vashem’s database (http://db.yadvashem.org/righteous/family.html?language=en&itemId=5419419). The story is also dealt with in detail in a book: Hannemann, Simone et al (2001): Robert Havemann und die Widerstandsgruppe ‘Europäische Union’, Berlin.
[xvi] See: Robert Havemann: ’Ja, ich hatte unrecht’, in: Die Zeit vom 7. Mai 1965. (https://www.zeit.de/1965/19/ja-ich-hatte-unrecht)
[xvii] See: Jay Rosellini (1992): Wolf Biermann. München.
[xviii] Solidarity with Jews played an important role for Havemann during National Socialism. The Yad Vaschem memorial in Jerusalem honours him as a ‘righteous among the nations.’ (http://db.yadvashem.org/righteous/family.html?language=en&itemId=5419422 – called on 1 October 2017). The tribute took place after his death and after the fall of the GDR in November 2005. Biermann discovered the topic through his friend Arno Lustiger after 1988. (See: Wolf Biermann (2016): Warte nicht auf bessre Zeiten, Berlin, p. 397ff.)
[xix] Quoted in: Havemann, Robert: Fragen, Antworten, Fragen. Rowohlt Verlag, 1972. p. 240.
[xx] Until his expatriation in November 1976, Wolf Bierman often poeticised Havemann’s political ideas, yet his approach to the GDR differed somewhat from that of Havemann. (Biermann, Wolf: Warte nicht auf bessre Zeiten. Ullstein Verlag, 2016). He defended the GDR as a part of the dreams of his father, who was killed in Auschwitz. In Wintermärchen, which was based on Heinrich Heine, he sang for his ‘Comrade Dagobert Biermann’ whose ‘ashes were eternally dispersed over all seas and people.’ His Jewish-communist father was being killed anew every single day, Biermann continued, listing a series of personalities, including Eldridge Cleaver and Alexander Dubček. (Quoted in: Biermann, Wolf: Deutschland. Ein Wintermärchen. Wagenbach Verlag. 1972, p. 66). After the end of GDR Biermann changed his position. Under the influence of the historian Arno Lustiger he started to directly criticise anti-Semitism and warfare against Israel. (Biermann, Wolf (2016), p. 454ff.)
[xxi] See: Havemann, Robert: Morgen. Fischer Taschenbuch, 1982.
[xxii] In 1934, in view of the imminent threat of war, Dietrich Bonhoeffer had made an appeal to an ecumenical assembly on a Danish island to urge the countries under the authority of a church council to make peace. Members of the Protestant church used Bonhoeffer’s appeal as a model, initiating the ‘ecumenical conferences’ in 1988 (See also: Neubert, Ehrhart (1997): Geschichte der Opposition in der DDR 1949-1989. Verlag der Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, p. 174.
[xxiii] See also: Jander, Martin/Voß, Thomas (1995): ´Die besondere Rolle des politischen Selbstverständnisses bei der Herausbildung einer politischen Opposition in der DDR außerhalb der SED und ihrer Massenorganisationen seit den 70er Jahren.` In: Deutscher Bundestag: Materialien der Enquete-Kommission ’“Aufarbeitung von Geschichte und Folgen der SED-Diktatur in Deutschland’”. Vol. VII/1. Nomos Verlag, p. 896.
[xxiv] Quoted in the UN resolution 3379 of the General Assembly, 10 November 1975. In: Resolutions by the General Assembly during its Thirtieth Session. (Online: www.un.org/documents/ga/res/30/ares30.htm – retrieved November 27, 2017.)
[xxv] Quoted in: Hartewig, Karin (2000): Zurückgekehrt. Böhlau Verlag, p. 544.
[xxvi] See: Weiß, Konrad (1998): Lothar Kreyssig. Bleicher Verlag, pp. 329. The Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center has honored Lothar Kreyssig and his wife as ‘The Righteous Among the Nations’ in March 2017. (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_der_Gerechten_unter_den_Völkern_aus_Deutschland – Retrieved November 16, 2017).
[xxvii] See: Klee, Ernst (2005): Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich. Fischer Verlag, p. 340.
[xxviii] Quoted in: Weiß, Konrad (1998): Lothar Kreyssig. Bleicher Verlag, p. 330.
[xxix] See: Eschwege, Helmut (1991): Fremd unter Meinesgleichen. Christoph Links Verlag, Worth mentioning are also Rudolf Schottlaender and Victor Klemperer. But because they were less influential for the GDR dissent than Helmut Eschwege they are not discussed here.
[xxx] Helmut Eschwege’s two short-term commitments to the Ministry of State Security (code names ‘Bock’ and ‘Ferdinand’) and his many years of being spied on in the ‘OV Zionist’ have not yet been described in detail. (Hartewig, Karin (2000): Zurückgekehrt. Böhlau Verlag, p. 189.
[xxxi] See: Löffler, Katrin (2011): Keine billige Gnade: Siegfried Theodor Arndt und das christlich-jüdische Gespräch in der DDR. Georg Olms Verlag, p 112.
[xxxii] See: Eschwege, Helmut (1966): Kennzeichen J: Bilder, Dokumente, Berichte. Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften.
[xxxiii] See: Eschwege, Helmut: Die Synagoge in der deutschen Geschichte. VEB Verlag der Kunst, 1980.
[xxxiv] See: Eschwege, Helmut/Kwiet, Konrad (1984): Selbstbehauptung und Widerstand: Deutsche Juden im Kampf um Existenz und Menschenwürde 1933-1945. Christians Verlag.
[xxxv] In his educational efforts, Eschwege was particularly close to Eugen Golomb (Elijokum Getzel), the longtime head of the Jewish congregation in Leipzig (Löffler, Katrin (2001): Keine billige Gnade: Siegfried Theodor Arndt und das christlich-jüdische Gespräch in der DDR. Georg Olms Verlag, p. 46.)
[xxxvi] Eschwege was closely connected to Eugen Golomb (Elijokum Getzel), the long-time chairman of the Jewish community of Leipzig (Löffler 2011, p. 46).
[xxxvii] The civil rights activist Konrad Weiß, who initiated the GDR’s People’s Chamber’s declaration of 12 April 1990, encountered Eschwege as speaker at one of these conferences.
[xxxviii] Quoted in: Hartewig, Karin (2000): Zurückgekehrt. Böhlau Verlag, p. 186.
[xxxix] Quoted in: Winkler, Heinrich August (2000): Der lange Weg nach Westen. Vol 2. C. H. Beck Verlag, p. 524.
[xl] See: Lehmann, Ines (1997): Die deutsche Vereinigung vom außen gesehen: Angst, Bedenken und Erwartungen in der ausländischen Presse. Vol. II. Frankfurt, p. 409.
[xli] Deutschkron, Inge (1991): Israel und die Deutschen. Köln, p. 455. In a letter to Israel, the GDR’s prime minister who was in office on 8 February 8 1990 at least acknowledged the responsibility of all Germans for committing crimes against humanity. (Weiss, Yfaat/Gorelik, Lena (2012): ‚Die russisch-jüdische Zuwanderung.’ In: Brenner, Michael: Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland. C. H. Beck Verlag, p. 381.)
[xlii] See: ‚Botschaft des Staates Palästina in der DDR.’ In: Neues Deutschland, 17 January 1989. p. 1.
[xliii] See: Jeffrey Herf (2016): Undeclared Wars with Israel. East Germany and the West German Far Left 1967-1989, Cambridge University Press.
[xliv] See: Jander, Martin (2002): ’Walter Janka.’ In: Fricke, Karl Wilhelm et al. (Ed.): Opposition und Widerstand in der DDR. C. H. Beck Verlag, p. 224 ff.
[xlv] See: Haury, Thomas (2006): Antisemitismus in der DDR. In: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (Hrsg.): Dossier Antisemitismus. Bonn. (http://www.bpb.de/politik/extremismus/antisemitismus/37957/antisemitismus-in-der-ddr?p=all)
[xlvi] See: Herf, Jeffrey (1997): Divided Memory. Harvard University Press. See also: Kießling, Wolfgang (1994): Partner im ’Narrenparadies’: Der Freundeskreis um Noel Field und Paul Merker. Dietz Verlag.
[xlvii] See: Schüddekopf, Charles (1990): ’Wir sind das Volk!’ Rowohlt Verlag, p. 125. Civil rights activist Konrad Weiß tried to have an obligation to give asylum to persecuted Jews added to the Round Table’s draft of the constitution but failed (Thaysen, Uwe (2000): Der Zentrale Runde Tisch der DDR – Wortprotokoll und Dokumente. 5 Volumes. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, p. 1112.
[xlviii] See: Schüddekopf, Charles (1990): ’Wir sind das Volk!’ Rowohlt Verlag, p. 240.
[xlix] Quoted in: Weiß, Konrad (2000): ´Was macht ihr, wenn ihr die Macht habt?’ In: Jesse, Eckhard: Eine Revolution und ihre Folgen. Christoph Links Verlag, p. 52.
[l] See: Offenberg, Ulrike (1998): Seid vorsichtig gegen die Machthaber. Aufbau Verlag, p. 267.
[li] See: Bachmann, Ralf and Runge Irene (2009) (Ed.): WIR – Der Jüdische Kulturverein e. V. 1989–2009, Mannheim.
[lii] Quoted in: Thaysen, Uwe (2000): Der Zentrale Runde Tisch der DDR – Wortprotokoll und Dokumente. 5 Volumes. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, p. 781.
[liii] See: Kahane, Anetta (2004): Ich sehe was, was du nicht siehst. Rowohlt Verlag, p. 186.
[liv] On March 11, 1992, Konrad Weiß petitioned the Federal Parliament (‘Bundestag’) on behalf of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen to allow for the unlimited emigration of Jews from the Commonwealth of Independent States to Germany. His petition was debated on 10 September 1992 but was not adopted. The Israeli government asked that the petition be withdrawn because it saw it as its own, genuine duty to provide a home for persecuted Jews. (This information is based on a conversation with the author Konrad Weiß on 9 November 2017.)
[lv] See: Peck, Jeffrey M. (2006): Being Jewish in the New Germany. Rutgers University Press, p. 6.
[lvi] See for example: Kowalczuk, Ilko-Sascha (2009): Endspiel. Die Revolution von 1989 in der DDR. München.
[lvii] See: Eisenfeld, Bernd et al (2004): Die verdrängte Revolution. Edition Temmen, Bremen.