Kulturbund der DDR

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Logo of the Kulturbund
Peace rally of the Kulturbund in the German State Opera (Admiralspalast) in Berlin (1948)

The Kulturbund was a cultural mass organization in the Soviet Occupation Zone (SBZ) and German Democratic Republic (GDR). It was founded on August 8, 1945 as the “Cultural Association for the Democratic Renewal of Germany” by Johannes R. Becher and other intellectuals with the approval of the Soviet Military Administration (SMAD). At first it was an interzonal, pluralistic and non-partisan movement for all kinds of intellectually interested people on the basis of anti-fascism and humanism and with the goal of “national rebirth” and “regaining trust and respect for the world”. From 1949 various smaller cultural associations were affiliated to the Kulturbund by ordinance of the German Administration for National Education . Later, the Kulturbund served the GDR state party SED to create a socialist culture in society. Numerous writers belonged to the Kulturbund, including Willi Bredel , Fritz Erpenbeck , Bernhard Kellermann , Victor Klemperer , Anna Seghers , Bodo Uhse , Ehm Welk , Christa Wolf , Arnold Zweig . Its first president was Johannes R. Becher.

History until 1949 (SBZ)

Forerunners in emigration

In March 1939, German emigrants in Great Britain and Sweden founded the Free German Cultural Association , which can be seen as the forerunner of the GDR's cultural association.

Planning within the KPD 1944/45

The idea for the Kulturbund took on more concrete forms in the autumn of 1944, when the KPD leadership in Moscow developed an action program, which also included a detailed section entitled “Cultural Policy and Popular Education”. The expressionist poet and communist Johannes R. Becher, then in exile there and on the central committee of the KPD, headed the culture commission and planned as early as September 1944 to set up an association for cultural workers in post-war Germany. This should not present itself close to the KPD, but openly on all sides and serve the re-education of intellectuals and artists in the sense of a socialist image of man. Similar associations in exile countries such as England or Sweden were the model.

After his return to the destroyed Berlin, Becher applied to the Soviet Military Administration in Germany (SMAD) for approval of a “cultural association for the democratic renewal of Germany”. It received approval for Berlin on July 25, 1945, and for the Soviet occupation zone on July 31, 1945 - the area of ​​what would later become the GDR.


Celebration of the first anniversary in 1946: In the front row Max Pechstein (left), Arthur Werner (right) and Herbert Ihering (2nd from right)

On July 4, 1945, the initiators, above all Becher, appeared before the public for the first time - at a rally in the large broadcasting hall of the Berlin radio . The interest was great: around 1500 participants went to the broadcasting house in Masurenallee . Johannes R. Becher, Bernhard Kellermann, Eduard Spranger and others gave speeches and ascribed the function of a "spiritual and cultural parliament of our country" to the Kulturbund. As a “national united front of German intellectual workers”, he should fight for the “destruction of Nazi ideology in all areas of life and knowledge” and the “moral recovery” of the German people.

Two months later, on August 8, 1945, the founding conference took place in the rooms of the former Reichsfilmkammer in Schlueterstrasse . Becher was unanimously elected president, the writer Bernhard Kellermann , the painter Karl Hofer and - on February 12, 1946 - the classical philologist Johannes Stroux elected vice-presidents. The journalist Heinz Willmann took the post of Secretary General . Honorary President of the Kulturbund was Gerhart Hauptmann , winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature .

Party-open, anti-fascist

Title page of the brochure on the occasion of the second anniversary (1947)

As planned by Becher in Moscow, the Presidium's proximity to the KPD was not included in the agenda for summer 1945. On the contrary - the founding manifesto was offensively party-neutral: “The Kulturbund [...] is an independent and non-partisan movement. It was founded as such, only as such can it exist, fulfill its tasks and have a future. It is therefore an act of self-assertion if we defend ourselves most decisively against any interference on the part of a party. It would be self-dissolution, ”wrote Becher in the newspaper“ Sonntag ”. He was thus indirectly referring to hostility to the Kulturbund by the political right, who defamed the members of the Kulturbund “as 'so-called' cultural workers”, that is, badly disguised party soldiers of the KPD. Becher countered: "In these circles only those who engage in unscrupulous anti-Bolshevik agitation and play with the idea of ​​a new war are considered unsuspicious."

The first of seven guiding principles of the founding manifesto read:

“Destruction of Nazi ideology in all areas of life and knowledge. Fight against the intellectual perpetrators of Nazi crimes and war crimes. Fight against all reactionary, militaristic views. Cleansing and keeping public life clean. Cooperation with all democratic ideological, religious and ecclesiastical movements. "

Dealing with the National Socialist past was the primary declared goal. The Presidential Council of the Kulturbund accordingly welcomed the Nuremberg trial against the main war criminals ; but he did not go far enough for him: “We cannot understand that defendants who are to a decisive extent responsible for the seizure of power by a criminal clique were acquitted. [...] The acquittals suggest that certain circles abroad only want to neutralize the top layer of the Nazis. ”As a minimum, the Kulturbund demanded the expropriation of these criminals.

The second declared goal in the formation phase of the Kulturbund was the "education of our people and their youth". Heinrich Deiters and Heinrich Schacht worked out an “educational manifesto” for this purpose. According to the authors, the number of teachers among the members is too low: at least 20.8% in the Mark Brandenburg, but only 7.8% in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania:

Share of educators in the Kulturbund, regional, 1947
Mark Brandenburg
Greater Berlin
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
Example: In Thuringia, 14.01% of the Kulturbund members there were educators.

Inner structure

Bertolt Brecht (center) at the Kulturbund peace rally in 1948

The 1st Federal Congress took place in Berlin from May 20 to 21, 1947. The groups of the Kulturbund were now organized according to the “residential principle”, “casual sociability is sought everywhere. The clubhouses that exist in Berlin and other cities also serve this endeavor. ”In Berlin alone, 40 groups organized themselves under the umbrella of the Kulturbund. Many met in the “Club of Cultural Creators”. The head of the SMAD, Marshal Sokolowski , was a guest there in February and, accompanied by members of the Beethoven Quartet and Russian folk songs, emphasized his solidarity with the ideas of the Kulturbund.

The Secretary of the Kulturbund regretted the one-sided focus on the East in his paper on the two-year existence of the Kulturbund: The meetings would take place “mainly in the Soviet zone”, “while in the other zones it was more difficult to find suitable options.” There were Election process for the board members within the individual groups, as well as for the state and federal management. The Kulturbund had its own “ideological department” under the direction of the writer Alexander Abusch , who returned from exile in Mexico in 1946 . Abusch also directed the regular broadcasts of the Kulturbund in the Berlin broadcaster, which mainly consisted of disputes, for example about constitutional issues and the "student youth". With the latter, a disenchantment with politics can be noticed, but an even stronger urge for scientific studies, wrote Willmann in 1947.

Social structure in the Kulturbund 1949
Students / pupils
Stage / film / music
Visual artists / architects
Technicians / engineers
Science and Research
Poets / writers / journalists
Theologians / engineers
Example: 12.4% of the Kulturbund members were educators.

"Construction" magazine

As a theoretical print medium, the Kulturbund brought the cultural-political monthly magazine Aufbau into circulation in September 1945 , which was published until July 1958 with an initially rapidly growing circulation: 1945 20,000 copies, 1946 150,000 copies. The first editor-in-chief was the later GDR minister of culture, Klaus Gysi , followed from January 1949 by Bodo Uhse (SED). The authors of the first editions included Günther Weisenborn , Georg Lukács , Walter Schirmer and Ernst Niekisch . The magazine was published by Aufbau-Verlag . In 1946, the newspaper “Sonntag” and the newsletter “The Debate” were added. Some commissions of the Kulturbund also published their own writings.

The Kulturbund complained that the Western powers were hindering German publishers by forbidding them to acquire translation rights for books; only the Soviets handled it freely, so that the first publications by Aufbau Verlag were translations of Gorky, Turgenev, Pushkin and Tolstoy. On October 8, 1947, the American, and on November 12, 1947, the British military government prohibited all activities of the Kulturbund in their sectors.

Regional associations

Door sign of the Kulturbund der DDR in Dippoldiswalde, today in the DDR Museum Pirna

In the countries of the Soviet occupation zone, the regional associations of the Kulturbund were formed within a few months, sometimes in the private homes of artists:

At the district level there were 26 district secretariats of the Kulturbund at the beginning of 1949, in August 1949 there were already 99, as well as 28 “culture houses”, 38 “clubs for cultural workers” and 214 offices with a total of 447 employees.


In parallel with the establishment of the regional associations, the Presidium of the Kulturbund set up "commissions" and "working groups" for certain subject areas:

  • 1946 Education Commission
  • 1946 Music Commission
  • 1946 "Werkbund" (for architecture, design and handicrafts)
  • 1947 Student Commission (this resulted in 1947/48 university groups)
  • 1947 Commission for Photography, Press and Radio, Youth
  • 1947 Commission for Education, Film
  • 1947 Philosophical Society
  • 1949 Philately Commission
  • 1950 Fine Arts Commission

In the period between 1946 and 1948, the Kulturbund swung in line with the SED. While in 1946 the Education Commission worked out a “Pedagogical Manifesto” which, because of its supposedly conservative orientation, drew sharp criticism from the Communists, in 1948 the Kulturbund guaranteed the SED full support and the FDGB the close cooperation. With the help of the sponsoring companies, this subordination put the Kulturbund on a solid financial basis and ensured basic security for its members.

In the western occupation zones or the FRG

The three western occupying powers saw the Kulturbund as a party organ of the KPD or the SED. That is why regional associations with different names were formed in the west, for example the “Free German Cultural Society” in Frankfurt and the “Culture League” in Munich. Under the condition of independence from the Kulturbund of the GDR, the communist Johann Fladung of North Rhine-Westphalia was allowed to set up the national Democratic Cultural Association of Germany (DKBD) in April 1951 . The DKBD quickly came under suspicion of being a front organization that spied on the East. In Bavaria it was banned in 1953 because of hostility towards the constitution, but was re-admitted in 1955, as it was nationwide. In 1959 it was banned again in NRW :

"(The DKBD) is an association whose purpose and activity is directed against the constitutional order and is therefore prohibited under Art. 9 (2) of the Basic Law ."

- Interior Minister North Rhine-Westphalia, ban March 2, 1959, legally effective December 4, 1973 (sic); first published on March 13, 1974

Fladung himself was charged in 1964 with endangering the state . The end of the trial remained open, however, as the judges found a doctor who put Fladung on sick leave permanently. His co-accused wife and another accused, Grete Hoffmann, were not harassed any further afterwards.

The magazine of the Kulturbund in the west was initially called Kulturaufbau. Discussion and information sheet for friends and members of the Kulturbund for the democratic renewal of Germany. Monthly magazine for art, literature, science , in magazine format. From issue 4, 1950, the publisher was named “Progreß-Verlag Johann Fladung, Düsseldorf-Stockum ” instead of the Kulturbund as before. From 1951 it was called Today and Tomorrow. Illustrated monthly magazine ; Employees were u. a. Ernst Bloch and Hans Mayer . From 1956 there was the new title Geist und Zeit. A two-month publication for art, literature, science. Editor and publisher was always Fladung, from 1956 Herbert Burgmüller joined them. It was discontinued in 1961 without replacement.

History after 1949 (GDR)

The SED had nomenclature cadres at all levels; the selection of these functionaries required the approval of the respective party bodies. Compared to other mass organizations in the GDR, the members of the Kulturbund were relatively weakly tied to the SED. The offices in the Kulturbund were not career positions, but rather "storage and supply posts". The overwhelming majority of the members (over 260,000 in 1985) consisted of friends of their homeland and collectors, who saw the Kulturbund as the only possibility of being able to organize themselves nationwide; only around a third were artists in the classical sense. While the administrative bodies of the Kulturbund propagated the party's politics, the working groups themselves were non-political niches; Thus the Kulturbund represented a “refuge” for citizens of the GDR who wanted to revive associations and societies from the pre-war period and who wanted to establish appropriate social contacts.

Numerous writers did not join him and instead organized themselves, for example, in the "Protection Association of Authors" founded in 1950, later the German Writers 'Association of the GDR , or in the Berlin Writers' Association founded in 1949. The central figure in the founding phase of the “BSV-Berlin” was Walther Victor , who wrote to the President of the Kulturbund Becher on December 23, 1949: “Legal advice and lobbying alone is not enough.” Becher took this criticism seriously and wrote shortly afterwards to the small secretariat of the SED: "I now think it is urgently necessary to renovate the Protection Association of German Authors and to turn it into a real writers' association."

In 1954, the Society for the Dissemination of Scientific Knowledge was founded in Berlin on the initiative of the “Kulturbund for the Democratic Renewal of Germany” and in 1966 it was renamed “URANIA - Society for the Dissemination of Scientific Knowledge”. The Kulturbund itself also went through name changes: from 1958 it was called the “Deutscher Kulturbund”, from 1974 until the fall of the Wall and its dissolution in 1990 “Kulturbund der DDR”. He belonged to the umbrella organization National Front of the GDR and was represented by 22 members in the People's Chamber . The Kulturbund was the publisher of the weekly newspaper Sonntag .

At the meeting on November 28, 1989, the entire Presidium of the Kulturbund resigned. Its president, Hans Pischner , did not attend the meeting. In a letter he had submitted his retirement for reasons of age and at the same time declared that he would be advising on a new beginning.

Affiliated organizations and groups

At the beginning of the 1980s, among other things, went from various "central working groups"

Other national groups in the Kulturbund were

Further interest groups in the Kulturbund:

The end of the Kulturbund of the GDR in 1990

After most of the sub-organizations belonging to the Kulturbund had already dissolved or were in the process of being dissolved, an extraordinary federal congress of the Kulturbund decided in May 1990 to continue the Kulturbund. (See report of the UKPV, German Bundestag - 16th electoral period - 23 - printed matter 16/24661990. The Kulturbund changed into a legally competent association with the name "Kulturbund eV")

The archives of the Kulturbund are now largely in the Federal Archives in the SAPMO area . The goals of the federal government are summarized in the introduction: “Cultural mass organization. Foundation ... with the task of gathering the best Germans of all professions and classes in a German renewal movement in order to destroy the (spiritual) remains of fascism. Numerous working groups and interest groups, working groups and groups of friends, specialist committees and specialist groups with voluntary management, e.g. B. in the areas of local history, preservation of monuments , nature and the environment, philately , Esperanto , photography, art and literature. Small galleries and clubs of the intelligentsia in almost all district towns of the GDR. 1958 renamed 'Deutscher Kulturbund', 1972 into 'Kulturbund der DDR'. May 1990 'Kulturbund e. V. ' (Umbrella organization) and formation of regional associations. "(A detailed organizational history follows in the Federal Archives.)

President of the Kulturbund of the GDR

ID for members of the Kulturbund of the GDR

Kulturbund e. V.

The work of the Kulturbund has been carried out by an association ( Kulturbund eV ) since 1990 .

See also


  • Heterogeneity and consistency. On the formation and development of the Kulturbund in the GDR (conference contributions). (= Pankower Lectures 30), Helle Panke, Berlin 2001.
  • Gerd Dietrich : Kulturbund. In: Gerd-Rüdiger Stephan, Andreas Herbst , Christine Krauss, Daniel Küchenmeister, Detlef Nakath (eds.): The parties and organizations of the GDR. A manual. Dietz, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-320-01988-0 , pp. 530-559.
  • Helmut Meier: The GDR Cultural Association in the 1970s. Part of the political system and place of cultural self-affirmation. In: Evemarie Badstübner (Ed.): Strange different. Life in the GDR. Dietz, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-320-01986-4 , pp. 599-625.
  • Helmut Meier: The Kulturbund in the political system of the GDR in the seventies . (=  Issues on GDR history. Volume 62). Helle Panke, Berlin 2008, OCLC 46631783 .
  • Magdalena Heider: Politics - Culture - Kulturbund. On the founding and early history of the Kulturbund for the democratic renewal of Germany 1945–1954 in the Soviet Zone / GDR (=  Library of Science and Politics. Volume 51). Verlag Wissenschaft und Politik, Cologne 1993, ISBN 3-8046-8804-7 .
  • Ulrike Köpp: Karl Kneschke and the motives for the Kulturbund for the democratic renewal of Germany. In: Weimar Contributions . Volume 60, Issue 2, 2014, pp. 245–265.
  • Ernst Niekisch : Founding of the Kulturbund. In: Ilse Spittmann, Gisela Helwig (Hrsg.): GDR reading book. Volume 1: From the Soviet Zone to the GDR 1945–1949. Verlag Wissenschaft und Politik, Cologne 1989, ISBN 3-8046-8742-3 , pp. 214-217.
  • Dieter Schiller : The 5th Bundestag of the Kulturbund in February 1958. A programmatic turn in the political run-up. In: Yearbook for research on the history of the labor movement . 4th year, issue 1, 2005, pp. 46–60.
  • Karl-Heinz Schulmeister : Encounters in the Kulturbund. Kai Homilius Verlag, Berlin 2011. ISBN 9783897068278 .
  • Andreas Zimmer: The Kulturbund in the Soviet Zone and in the GDR. An East German cultural association through the ages between 1945 and 1990. Springer VS, Wiesbaden 2019, ISBN 3-658-23552-7 .

Web links

Commons : Kulturbund der DDR  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Gerd Dietrich: Kulturbund. In: Gerd-Rüdiger Stephan u. a. (Ed.): The parties and organizations of the GDR. A manual. Dietz, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-320-01988-0 , p. 537 ff.
  2. ^ Jürgen Kuczynski : Memoirs. Cologne 1983, pp. 300-302.
  3. Magdalena Heider: Cultural Association for the Democratic Renewal of Germany. In: Martin Broszat, Hermann Weber (eds.): SBZ manual: State administrations, parties, social organizations and their executives in the Soviet zone of occupation. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-486-55262-7 , p. 714 f.
  4. Kommunističeskaja Partija Sovetskogo Sojuza (ed.): Manifesto and speeches by Bernhard Kellermann, Eduard Spranger u. a. Held at d. Founding rally of the Kulturbund for the democratic renewal of Germany on July 4, 1945 in Haus d. Berliner Rundfunk. Aufbau-Verlag, Berlin 1945.
  5. ^ Gerd Dietrich: Kulturbund. In: Gerd-Rüdiger Stephan u. a. (Ed.): The parties and organizations of the GDR. A manual. Dietz, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-320-01988-0 , p. 533.
  6. The following academics also belonged to the first presidential council: Walter F. Schirmer , Max Vasmer , Holtzmann, Hofmann and Robert Havemann . In addition to Becher and Kellermann, Herbert Ihering , Paul Wiegler and Theodor Bohner were among the writers . From film and theater: Paul Wegener , Eduard von Winterstein , Karlheinz Martin and Ernst Legal . Fine arts: Hofer and Renée Sintenis . Musicology: Bernhard Bennedik .
  7. Willmann is also the author of the first association publication "Zwei Jahre Kulturbund", self-published in 1947. The facts about the founding staff of the Kulturbund are taken from this book.
  8. Sunday . Berlin, issue 10, 1947.
  9. The rally took place on October 24, 1948 in the German State Opera ( Admiralspalast ) in Berlin and had the motto "Defense of peace is defense of culture". On the ADN photo from left to right: Julius Hay, Bert Brecht, Ernst Legal, Alexander Abusch
  10. ^ Heider: SBZ manual. P. 732.
  11. Weekly newspaper, from July 7, 1946, initial circulation 200,000 copies, editors-in-chief Günter Brandt, then Heinrich Goeres.
  12. initially, from July 1946, published irregularly, later published monthly.
  13. ^ Commission Photography: Photography - magazine for cultural-political, aesthetic and technical problems in photography , monthly from July / August 1947. Philatelists: Collector's Express, twice a month, March 1947 to 1961, edition of 28,000. Urania (Society for the Dissemination of Scientific Knowledge): Urania , popular science magazine, monthly from February 1947. Source for this: Heider: SBZ-Handbuch.
  14. after a joint workshop with the Free German Trade Union Federation ( FDGB) and the Art and Literature Union on April 28-29. October 1948.
  15. ^ Founder: Jo Mihaly , KPD.
  16. See German Literature Archive (ed.): German literary journals 1945–1970: Ein Repertorium. P. 320, no. 416.
  17. ^ Gerd Dietrich: Kulturbund. In: Gerd-Rüdiger Stephan u. a. (Ed.): The parties and organizations of the GDR. A manual. Dietz, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-320-01988-0 , pp. 530-559.
  18. Ulrike Köpp: Heimat GDR. in the Kulturbund for the democratic renewal of Germany . In: Berliner Blätter. Ethnographic and ethnological contributions 31 (2003), p. 97.
  19. Quoted from Jürgen Engler: “Spiritual leaders and poor poets.” Authors' pictures of the post-war period. In: Ursula Heukenkamp (ed.): Under the emergency roof. Verlag Schmidt, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-503-03736-5 , p. 85.
  20. Dieter Schiller: The 5th Bundestag of the Kulturbund in February 1958. A programmatic turn in the political run-up. In: Yearbook for research on the history of the labor movement . Issue I / 2005.
  21. A typical, albeit fluctuating, order of magnitude was represented by 22 Kulturbund representatives in the Volkskammer (1981–1986), which had 500 members.
  22. a b Kulturbund for more personal responsibility . In: New Germany . November 29, 1989, ISSN  0323-3375 , p. 4 .
  23. argus.bstu.bundesarchiv.de
  24. ^ Website of the Kulturbund e. V.