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Constructing Socialism at the Grass-Roots: The Transformation of East Germany, 1945-1965

Ross, Corey David; (1998) Constructing Socialism at the Grass-Roots: The Transformation of East Germany, 1945-1965. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The thesis examines how the socialist transformation of East Germany during the two decades following the defeat of the Third Reich was received, implemented, refashioned and adapted at the grass-roots. Concentrating on the region of East Berlin and Brandenburg, it focuses on a selected number of points where the personal lives and interests of 'ordinary' people intersected most closely and were confronted most immediately by the ruling Socialist Unity Party's (SED) attempt to refashion society in the Soviet Occupation Zone/German Democratic Republic: 1.) increasing industrial productivity in raw materials and heavy industry, which meant mobilizing and disciplining workers to produce more; 2.) dispossessing old agrarian elites and later coaxing and coercing farmers into large collective farms; and 3.) protecting these 'achievements' through the creation of armed forces, which meant recruiting East German youths into the army. The popular reaction towards these three ambitious policies, the manner and extent of their realization at the grass-roots level and the role of local officials form the subject of three chapters of the thesis. The fourth substantive chapter examines the problem of Republikflucht ('fleeing the republic', or illegal emigration to the West), a unique and most conspicuous popular response to the transformation of East Germany which typified many of the problems the regime had in exerting control at the grass-roots and which placed certain constraints on the entire process of 'constructing socialism'. Together, these chapters argue that what was a radical social and political transformation of East Germany at the macro-level was more a slow, patchy and inconsistent transition at the grass-roots. East German socialism was not just a new 'totalitarian' construction, but rather a mixture of different structures and mentalities inherited from German past, various Soviet imports, occasional dictatorial intervention as well as unplanned human actions by 'ordinary' East Germans.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Constructing Socialism at the Grass-Roots: The Transformation of East Germany, 1945-1965
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Social sciences; East Germany; Socialism
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10100170
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