Christoph Kleßmann

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Christoph Kleßmann (born November 13, 1938 in Jöllenbeck near Bielefeld ) is a German historian . He taught as a professor of contemporary history at Bielefeld University (1976–1992) and held a chair for contemporary history from 1992 to 2004 at the University of Potsdam with a special focus on GDR history . Kleßmann is considered to be one of the best experts on the history of relations between the two German states.

Live and act

Christoph Kleßmann is a son of Ernst Kleßmann (1899–1986), who was pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran parish Jöllenbeck in the parish of Bielefeld . His younger brother is the theologian Michael Klessmann (* 1943).

After graduating from high school in 1958, Kleßmann studied history, German, classical philology and politics at the universities of Göttingen , Munich and Tübingen . In 1964/65 he finished his studies with the first state examination in Göttingen and was a tutor in the Göttingen student dormitory "Historisches Colloquium". 1966/67 he received a doctoral scholarship from the Volkswagen Foundation ; he did research in London. From 1967 to 1970 he was a research assistant at the Ostkolleg of the Federal Agency for Civic Education in Cologne. In 1969 he was awarded a doctorate in the Department of History of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum with a study on National Socialist cultural policy and the Polish resistance movement in the Generalgouvernement supervised by Hans Roos . phil. PhD. The presentation became a standard work.

From 1970 to 1976 Kleßmann was a research assistant in Bochum. In 1975/76 he received a habilitation grant from the German Research Foundation . In 1976 his habilitation took place, which dealt with the Polish miners in the Ruhr area between 1870 and 1945. From 1976 to 1992 he worked as a professor of contemporary history at the Faculty of History at Bielefeld University . In 1978/79 he was chairman of the teaching committee of the Faculty of History. In 1987/88 he received an academy scholarship from the Volkswagenwerk Foundation. In 1990 he was visiting professor at the University of Leipzig .

In 1992 he was offered a chair for contemporary history with a special focus on GDR history at the University of Potsdam . In 1993 he was visiting professor at the German Department at Indiana University Bloomington . In 1994, together with Jürgen Kocka , he took over the provisional management of the research focus on contemporary historical studies in Potsdam. He was then given leave of absence from the University of Potsdam and in 1996 took over the directorate of the Center for Contemporary Historical Research in Potsdam. In 2000 he was a Senior Fellow at St Antony's College , Oxford . In 2004 he retired. He was a liaison professor at the Friedrich Ebert Foundation . His academic students include Uta Balbier , Jan C. Behrends , Gisela Diewald-Kerkmann , Jens Gieseke , Oliver Hilmes , Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk , Hans-Jörg Kühne , Bernd Stöver , Armin Wagner , Annette Weinke and Dorothee Wierling .

His main research interests are the German and Polish history of the 20th century, particularly the Nazi era, the Federal Republic and the GDR. Kleßmann is considered to be one of the best experts on the history of relations between the two German states. His two depictions, The Founding of Two States and Two States, One Nation on the history of all of Germany between 1945 and 1970, were fundamentally in research and published many times. Significantly, he developed the historical concept of "asymmetrically intertwined (German-German) parallel history" and implemented it in his representations. What is meant by this is that the history of the two German states was characterized by demarcation, but also by interdependence through mutual relationships and contacts. The comparison was constantly present on both sides. However, the GDR side looked more towards the West than the other way around, so there was no symmetry.

Kleßmann was awarded numerous scientific honors and memberships for his research. He became a member of the scientific advisory boards of the German Resistance Memorial Center , the Research Center for Contemporary History in Hamburg , the Foundation Archives of Parties and Mass Organizations (chairman) and the Center for Contemporary History Research in Potsdam. He also took on other duties in the advisory boards of the Working Group for Church Contemporary History , the Museum for Everyday History of the GDR in Eisenhüttenstadt and the German History Schoolchildren's Competition at the Federal President, as well as in the Scientific Advisory Board of the Federal Foundation for the Study of the SED Dictatorship . He is a member of the Association of Historians in Germany , the German Society for Eastern European Studies and the German Studies Association . He was also appointed to the specialist commissions for contemporary history in the JG Herder research advisory board and the Brandenburg Memorials Foundation . In 2009 he became a board member of the German-Polish Science Foundation and in 2010 an external member of the Polish Academy of Sciences . In December 2009, Kleßmann was honored with the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany on the ribbon of the Order of Merit for managing the institute and for his contacts with Poland . He was awarded the Bochum Historian Prize 2011. In December 2015 he received the Federal Cross of Merit 1st Class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Kleßmann has been married since 1967 and has two children.



  • Workers in the "workers state" GDR. German Traditions, the Soviet Model and the Western Magnetic Field (1945–1971). Dietz, Bonn 2007, ISBN 3-8012-5034-2 .
  • Two states, one nation. German history 1955–1970. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1988, ISBN 3-525-36219-6 (2nd, revised and expanded edition. (= Federal Agency for Political Education. Series 343). Federal Agency for Political Education, Bonn 1997, ISBN 3-89331-273- 0 ).
  • The double founding of the state. German History 1945–1955 (= Federal Agency for Political Education. Series 193). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht et al., Göttingen et al. 1982, ISBN 3-525-36180-7 (5th, revised and expanded edition. Ibid 1991, ISBN 3-525-36228-5 ).
  • Polish miners in the Ruhr area. 1870-1945. Social integration and national subculture of a minority in German industrial society (= critical studies on historical science . Vol. 30). Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Göttingen 1978, ISBN 3-525-35982-9 (also: Bochum, University, habilitation thesis, 1976).
  • A nation's self-assertion. National Socialist cultural policy and Polish resistance movement in the General Government 1939–1945 (= Studies on Modern History. Vol. 5). Bertelsmann-Universitätsverlag, Düsseldorf 1971, ISBN 3-571-09193-0 (also: Bochum, University, dissertation 1969).


  • 1961–1971, German Democratic Republic. Political stabilization and economic mobilization (= history of social policy in Germany since 1945. Vol. 9). Nomos, Baden-Baden 2006, ISBN 3-7890-7329-6 ( review ).
  • with Peter Lautzas : Division and Integration. The double German post-war history as a scientific and didactic problem (= Federal Center for Political Education. Series of publications. Vol. 482). Federal Agency for Political Education, Bonn 2005, ISBN 3-89331-599-3 .
  • Displacement, new beginnings, integration. Experience in Brandenburg. Brandenburg State Center for Political Education, Potsdam 2001, ISBN 3-932502-30-2 .
  • 1953 - Crisis year of the Cold War in Europe (= contemporary historical studies. Vol. 16). Böhlau, Cologne et al. 1999, ISBN 3-412-03799-0 .
  • Children of the opposition. Reports from rectories in the GDR. Gütersloher Verlag-Haus, Gütersloh 1993, ISBN 3-579-02202-4 .
  • with Georg Wagner: The divided country. Life in Germany 1945–1990. Texts and documents on social history. Beck, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-406-37165-5 .
  • September 1939. War, occupation, resistance in Poland. Eight articles (= Kleine Vandenhoeck series. Vol. 1546). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1989, ISBN 3-525-33559-8 .
  • with Falk Pingel: Opponents of National Socialism. Scientists and resistance fighters in search of historical reality. Campus-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main et al. 1980, ISBN 3-593-32698-1 .


  • Who is who? The German Who's Who. LI. Edition 2013/2014, p. 571

Web links


  1. ^ History. Presence of old Nazis in the GDR hardly discussed , Deutschlandradio Kultur, October 18, 2015.
  2. Christoph Kleßmann: The self-assertion of a nation. National Socialist cultural policy and Polish resistance movement in the General Government 1939–1945. Düsseldorf 1971.
  3. Cf. Christoph Kleßmann: Splitting and Entanglement - A Concept for Integrated Post-War History 1945 to 1990. In: Christoph Kleßmann, Peter Lautzas (Ed.): Teilung und Integration. 2005, pp. 20-36; see: Bernd Faulenbach (Ed.): “Asymmetrically entwined parallel history?” The history of the Federal Republic and the GDR in exhibitions, museums and memorials. Essen 2005.
  4. ^ Potsdamer Neue Nachrichten: Order for Högemann and Kleßmann .
  5. ^ Bochum Historikerpreis - Prize Winner 2011: Christoph Kleßmann at the Ruhr University Bochum (; Retrieved March 29, 2012.
  6. Ministry of Science, Research and Culture: Outstanding Services to the Common Good | MWFK , December 1, 2015.