From Buchenwald to Bismarck: Historical Myth-Building in the German Democratic Republic, 1945-1989

Nothnagle, Alan
March 1993
Central European History (Brill Academic Publishers);Mar1993, Vol. 26 Issue 1, p91
Academic Journal
This article will examine the experience of the late revolutionary regime established in eastern Germany in 1949. By focusing on the phenomenon of myth-building, it will take a look at the peculiar history of the German Democratic Republic, which presented itself to the world as a descendant of such diverse figures as Ernst Thilmann and Friedrich Barbarossa, and as the heir to both the antifascist liberators of Buchenwald and to the "Iron Chancellor," Prince Otto yon Bismarck.
It would be absurd to claim that the GDR collapsed and vanished from the map solely because of faulty myth-building. But there is no doubt that both the SED and the West believed so deeply in the mythology that they were blind to the disastrous reality of the GDR in the 1980s.[52] In the end, neither the SED "reformers" nor the West brought down the Berlin Wall. Instead, it was the majority of the East German people who, through their mass escapes, their demonstrations, and finally their votes, displayed their utter disbelief in the claims of their "workers' and peasants' state".


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