When is treason a patriotic act?

Contemporary history

Michael Lemke

To person

Dr. phil. habil., born 1944; Project manager at the Center for Contemporary History in Potsdam; currently representative of the chair (contemporary history) at the Martin Luther University Halle / Wittenberg.

Address: Reinhardtstrasse 11, 10117 Berlin; Institute for History, Martin Luther University Halle / Wittenberg, 06099 Halle.

Publications including:External determination and scope for action: Periods and turning points in SED Germany and foreign policy, in: Wolfgang K├╝ttler / Walter Schmidt (eds.), The East-West Conflict and Its End, Berlin 1998.

What was the aim of the SED leadership with its propaganda against "Americanism" and integration with the West during the 1950s? Above all, she wanted to exert a strong influence on the Federal Republic.

I. Introduction

The establishment of the two German states in 1949 had only formally completed the process of division fueled by the Cold War. Its deepening seemed to counteract above all that the people in both states felt like Germans and they acted with the awareness that they were not only members of one nation, but of a unified state that was only temporarily suspended. It is true that in politics and society "here and there" significant differences and a tendency towards inner-German demarcation had already developed since 1945, but Germany was seen as a common fatherland on this side than on the other side of the Elbe and Werra and its inhabitants were referred to as compatriots without distinction Brothers and Sisters "or simply as Germans. This was the case in everyday life as well as in official announcements. The contemporary testimonies show an increased awareness of the problem in the German question - namely reunification - but also that the perspective of a fatherland that had been divided for a long time seemed hardly conceivable, let alone acceptable, for most of those affected.


On the one hand, they had no experience other than their all-German experience; on the other hand, they thought "purposefully patriotic" when they saw the unitary state as the basic condition for overcoming the consequences of war - ultimately for securing their own existence. Moreover, most of them underestimated the dynamism of the Cold War; the belief that the Russians and Americans would somehow come to an agreement about Germany was widespread. In the meantime, large sections of the population recognized the crimes that National Socialism had committed, but they were neither aware of their full scope and all the associated consequences, nor had anti-fascism really gained ground in both German states [1]. The suffering of war, flight and displacement, as well as the pain of losses - including territorial ones - masked the necessary processes of thought and purification, which many still saw as an expression of an externally controlled denazification - less of a democratization from an internal drive.

The severity of the National Socialist crimes and an often repressed sense of guilt delayed the subjective examination of the past and contributed to the fact that the necessary critical distance to the Nazi era and to one's own behavior came about only hesitantly. This repression of guilt was also favored by a policy that gave priority to reconstruction in both German states over "coming to terms with the past". In addition, the still difficult everyday life distracted from the question of the extent to which German nationalism [2] had contributed to National Socialism and thus indirectly to the division of the country. The division and its consequences strengthened the feeling of togetherness and gave rise to the feeling of a cross-border community of fate: Allied control, production restrictions, dismantling and reparations were also anti-German acts for many patriots. And which of them could clearly distinguish between Western occupation dirigism and Soviet systemic transformation in this regard? But most Germans were ready to learn democracy. But they wanted to preserve their national identity. They didn't know anyone other than this. Supranational or other integrative models have not yet been perceived by the population in both countries as a possibility for a new self-image; Even the ideas about reunification did not go beyond nation-state thought patterns.