Mar 1, 2013
Journal of European Studies
Fühmann’s insistence on the continuing relevance of the fourthcentury dispute between the Homoousians and the Homoisousians, two competing interpretations of the doctrine of the trinity, a metaphor for Fühmann’s refusal to compromise on matters of principle. This, Robinson suggests, is the ‘iota of difference’ that continues to give the literature of the GDR its relevance despite the failure of the GDR itself and the manifest bankruptcy of its cultural aspirations. Hans Ulrich Wehler famously opined that the GDR was no more than a footnote in German history, a dead end which left no legacy, a tyrannical satrapy of the Soviet Union, whose culture was devoid of innovatory impulses. Each of these three books demonstrates that, for the foreseeable future at least, Wehler’s judgment is mis guided. Of course in the most obvious sense the SED did lead its state into a dead end. Yet the GDR also made an indelible mark on German history, and the society and culture that developed under it generated memories that are personal, collective and cultural. For 20 years those memories have preoccupied not just the former inhabitants of the GDR but the whole of Germany. And there is every indication that, alongside the long term memories of the Nazi era, the legacy of the GDR will continue to preoccupy German society for some time to come. That is not to affirm or deny continuity between the National Socialist and SED regimes, nor to privilege the memories of the perpetrators and collaborators over those of the victims, nor to express nostalgia for or ascribe ideals to a regime that was in reality deeply repressive and brutal. It is simply to recognize that the GDR existed for over 40 years and that its existence continues to reverberate in con temporary German society and culture. Anyone who wishes to understand why that is so could do no better than to start by reading these three excellent volumes dedicated to the memory of the GDR 20 years after its demise.