Opposition and Resistance in the GDR

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As opposition and resistance in the GDR is called the totality of different movements, which, among other things, for political or religious reasons against the SED - dictatorship in the German Democratic Republic applied and measures against these activities.

The civil rights activists in the GDR primarily advocated reforming the political system and had to accept surveillance , so-called disintegration and repression such as imprisonment and expatriation by the Ministry for State Security . There was also a pronounced ecclesiastical opposition in the GDR, which quickly dissolved after German reunification .


Show trial of young "election saboteurs" in 1949

The Soviet special camps are part of the history of resistance and repression in the GDR . The Soviet military administration in the Soviet Occupation Zone (SBZ) established it in 1945 and operated it until 1950. Estimates assume a total of 160,000 German inmates. Almost 800 were executed, 65,000 people died of hunger, cold, illness and abuse, almost 12,000 were deported to the Soviet gulag , and almost 7,000 were transferred to prisoner-of-war camps. Since the GDR was founded up to 1955, several thousand German citizens - real or supposed opponents of the GDR regime - were handed over to the Soviet Union by the GDR authorities. Around 1,000 were executed there. Several thousand were brought into the gulag, the death rate was about a third.

Demonstrations in 1989

Hubertus Knabe defines 10 levels of opposition from "resistance" to "active resistance" and "insurrection".

The forms of opposition and resistance changed over time. After parties had been re-admitted in 1945, members of the opposition initially concentrated on building political parties and on parliamentary work. An exception was the SPD, which, due to its ban after the forced unification of the SPD and KPD to form the SED, no longer had the legal opportunity to work and had to work illegally. As part of the DC circuit of the parties and mass organizations accounted 1947-1950 Step by step the possibilities of the parliamentary opposition work.

Politicians have been silenced, gone into exile or into illegal resistance. In the course of the 1950s the level of resistance decreased. The failed uprising of June 17, 1953 and the state repression against members of the opposition intensified the flight from the GDR and at the same time reduced the hope of overthrowing the regime through political resistance. At least since the building of the wall , open resistance gave way to more and more forms of peaceful opposition within the limits set by the system. The loose organizations of the GDR opposition were tolerated, but were largely infiltrated by the state security.

With the changes in the structure of the GDR opposition, the type of persecution also changed: During the 1940s and early 1950s, the Soviet occupying power and later the security authorities of the GDR with the purge of public administrations, extensive arrests and also a large number responded to opposition and resistance by murders and death sentences, the number of political prisoners fell as the system stabilized, draconian sentences became rarer, and long sentences continued to be imposed on those involved in the resistance.

Role of the then Federal Republic

The opposition in the GDR was in a special situation in divided Germany : with the Federal Republic of Germany there was a counter-model that could serve as a model for a political and social order in opposition politics in the GDR.

The resistance was initially supported as a fight for freedom by West German organizations logistically, financially and organizationally. In particular, those opposition politicians who had to go into exile often continued their struggle from the West. However, public support from this side diminished over the years: by the end of the 1960s at the latest, some saw the opposition in the GDR as a disruptive factor in the détente between the two German states.

On the other hand, the possibility of fleeing to the West led to the GDR opposition being drained of personnel. Every member of the opposition who went to the West was one of the few who was able to defend his positions in the GDR himself. This effect was also used deliberately by the GDR, here the expatriation of Wolf Biermann is a spectacular example.

As part of the release of prisoners from 1964 onwards, a total of 33,755 political prisoners from the GDR were ransomed by the Federal Republic for more than DM 3.4 billion . The judge Jürgen Wetzenstein-Ollenschläger played a special role in this ; he drove up the prices for the ransom of the prisoners he had convicted and then went underground with a few millions of D-Marks extorted from them.

Western television played an important role in the demonstrations of the 1980s . Since West German journalists were often present at actions of the GDR opposition and filmed them, the security organs of the GDR often, but not always, avoided very brutal violence against demonstrators. The western media also acted in part as a counter-public to the official GDR propaganda reporting. An example of such a counter-public is the radio program Radio 100 broadcast from West Berlin .

Organization of Resistance

A number of organizations of resistance against the systems of the Soviet occupation zone and GDR were formed at the end of the 1940s. In addition to spontaneously founded groups, sometimes in loose associations, for example the Belter group , there were also large, well-organized resistance groups. Examples of this are primarily the eastern offices of the democratic parties of the Federal Republic of Germany and the DGB .

In 1950 in Weimar, three members of a resistance group were sentenced to death by a Soviet military tribunal and executed. Members of this group had distributed leaflets and radioed them on official radio broadcasts.

New critical groups emerged again and again. For example, the Social Peace Service (SoFd) in Dresden in 1980 , the initiative group for the call for February 13, 1982 , in 1985 the Peace and Human Rights Initiative (IFM) in Berlin, and the Human Rights Working Group in Leipzig in 1986 ( Christoph Wonneberger , Steffen Gresch , Oliver Kloss et al ) and in 1987 the Leipzig Justice Working Group ( Thomas Rudolph , Rainer Müller and others), from which the GDR-wide Leipzig Saturday Circle emerged.

The new forum has been in the hot phase of the peaceful revolution in 1989, the best-known alternative party's founding could, but not free himself long term. Such civil society groups lost their importance again after the fall of the SED regime in the unified Germany.

Political samizdat

As samizdat (from Russ. Самиздат ) are by authors themselves issued publications that are designated based on its contents and the position of the author on the political system could not be printed. Due to the state censorship of the media , conventional publication was not possible. However, authors, e.g. B. Sascha Anderson , involved in opposition publications who also worked as an unofficial employee of the Ministry of State Security .

One of the most important publications of the political samizdat in the late GDR were the environmental papers , published by the environmental library of the Berlin Zionskirche community . In the fall of 1989 these were renamed the Telegraph magazine . The Samaritan community spread with "Turning Point," "Shalom" and "Viaticum" samizdat of Friedrichshain peace, human rights and civil movement under Rainer Eppelmann and Thomas Welz .

See also


  • Wilhelm KH Schmidt: Conspiracy. Betray. Tracked. Inadequacy, Resistance and Collaboration in the Stalin Era of Berlin-Brandenburg. Verlag BücherKammer, Herzberg 2011, ISBN 978-3-940635-28-0 .
  • Wilhelm KH Schmidt: Offside in the penalty area. Everyday life in the camp near death. Leipziger Universitätsverlag, Leipzig 2013, ISBN 978-3-86583-794-3 .
  • Karl Wilhelm Fricke : Opposition and Resistance in the GDR. A political report. Verlag Wissenschaft und Politik, Cologne 1984, ISBN 3-8046-8628-1 .
  • Wolfgang Rüddenklau : Troublemaker. GDR opposition 1986–1989. With texts from the "Umweltbl Blätter". Basis-Druck / Edition ID-Archiv, Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-86163-011-7 .
  • Ulrike Poppe , Rainer Eckert, Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk (eds.): Between self-assertion and adaptation. Forms of resistance and opposition in the GDR. Links, Berlin 1995, ISBN 3-86153-097-X .
  • Detlef Pollack , Dieter Rink (Ed.): Between Refusal and Opposition: Political Protest in the GDR 1970–1989. Campus-Verlag, Frankfurt / New York 1997, ISBN 3-593-35729-1 .
  • Ehrhart Neubert : History of the opposition in the GDR 1949–1989. Federal Agency for Civic Education, Bonn 1997, ISBN 3-89331-294-3 ; 2nd edition (=  research on GDR society ). Links, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-86153-163-1 (also slightly edited dissertation FU Berlin , Department of Political Science 1997, online ).
  • Bernd Gehrke , Wolfgang Rüddenklau (ed.): ... that wasn't our alternative: GDR oppositionists ten years after the fall of the Wall. Westphalian steam boat, Münster 1999, ISBN 3-89691-466-9 .
  • Klaus-Dietmar Henke , Peter Steinbach, Johannes Tuchel (eds.): Resistance and opposition in the GDR (=  writings of the Hannah Arendt Institute for Totalitarian Research , Vol. 9). Böhlau, Cologne [a. a.] 1999, ISBN 3-412-15698-1 .
  • Udo Scheer : Vision and Reality. The opposition in Jena in the seventies and eighties. Links, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-86153-186-0 .
  • Detlef Pollack: Political Protest: Politically Alternative Groups in the GDR. Leske and Budrich, Opladen 2000, ISBN 3-8100-2478-3 .
  • Bernd Eisenfeld , Ehrhart Neubert (Ed.): Power - powerlessness counterpower. Basic questions on political opposition in the GDR. Edition Temmen, Bremen 2001, ISBN 3-86108-792-8 .
  • Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk (Hrsg.): Freedom and public. Political samizdat in the GDR 1985–1989. A documentation. Robert Havemann Society, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-9804920-6-0 .
  • Marianne Subklew-Jeutner: The Pankower Peace Circle. History of an East Berlin group within the Evangelical Churches in the GDR 1981–1989 (Diss. TU Berlin 2003). Der Andere Verlag, Osnabrück 2004, ISBN 3-89959-145-3 .
  • Bernd Florath: Opposition and Resistance. A historical consideration of political opposition in Germany since 1945. Helle Panke eV, series "hefte zur ddr-geschichte", issue 100, Berlin 2006
  • Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk, Tom Sello (ed.): For a free country with free people. Opposition and Resistance in Biographies and Photos. Robert Havemann Society, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-938857-02-1 .
  • Siegfried Prokop : 1956 - GDR at the crossroads: Opposition and new concepts of intelligence. Homilius, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-89706-862-1 .
  • Thomas Klein : "Peace and Justice". The politicization of the independent peace movement in East Berlin during the 1980s. Böhlau, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2007, ISBN 978-3-412-02506-9 .
  • Christoph Wunnicke: Long-term goal civil society. The self-organization of the basic church groups in the GDR. In: Journal of the SED State Research Association. No. 23, 2008, pp. 113-135, ISSN  0948-9878 .
  • Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk: Endgame. The 1989 revolution in the GDR. Beck, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-406-58357-5 .
  • Andreas H. Apelt : The opposition in the GDR and the German question 1989/90 (=  research on GDR society ). Links, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-86153-538-6 .
  • Benjamin Schröder, Jochen Staadt (ed.): Under hammer and circle. Repression, opposition and resistance at the universities of the SBZ / GDR . Lang, Frankfurt am Main [a. a.] 2011, ISBN 978-3-631-60523-3 .
  • Thomas Rudolph / Oliver Kloss / Rainer Müller / Christoph Wonneberger (eds.): Way in the uprising. Chronicle of opposition and resistance in the GDR from 1987–1989. Leipzig, Araki, 2014, ISBN 978-3-941848-17-7 ( foreword online )
  • Axel Stefek: Weimar unadjusted. Resistant behavior 1950–1989. With further contributions by Christoph Victor. Stadtmuseum Weimar, 2014. ISBN 978-3-910053-56-4 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Church opposition in the GDR: job done! Evelyn Finger in conversation with Ehrhart Neubert In: Zeit Online from September 26, 2010.
  2. Bettina Greiner : Repressed Terror. History and Perception of Soviet Special Camps in Germany. Hamburger Edition, Hamburg 2010. ISBN 978-3-86854-217-2
  3. ^ Hubertus Knabe: What was the "GDR opposition"? On the typology of political contradiction in East Germany. In: Germany Archive. Heft 2 (1996), vol. 29, pp. 184-198.
  4. ^ Christoph Gunkel: GDR: Pirate transmitter against dictator Josef Stalin - history. In: Spiegel Online . January 9, 2017, accessed April 12, 2020 .
  5. Review by Anke Silomon, H-Soz-u-Kult , March 26, 2010.