Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (Logo)Civic Education

Resistance, Opposition and Attempts to Escape

Introduction

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1953 and 1989 are the key dates in the history of resistance and opposition in the GDR, although there was rebellion against the SED regime in all its phases.

Not every citizen subjected themselves to the communist dictatorship after the war and many professed to their own traditions. Consequently, many social democrats rebelled against the forged merger of their party with the KPD to form the SED. The civil parties protested against the forcible-coordination of the parties and mass organizations. Students rebelled against the sovietization of their schools and universities. The church remained a stronghold of resistance until the end of the GDR, as they often denied access to the state power. Groups opposing the state found shelter and support in many church communities.

The failure of the uprising on the 17th of June 1953, which was brutally crushed by Soviet troops, and the construction of the Wall 1961 made the people lose confidence in being able to cause a fall of the SED regime for a moment. Many people, about three million in total, left the DDR frustrated and disappointed, many illegaly and at a great risk, which also led to a decline in the opposition. Between 600 and 800 people alone, lost their lives while attempting to escape. In 1968, many oppositionists expressed their sympathy with the ‘Prague Spring’. In the 1970's and 1980's, peace groups, environmental groups and citizens’ groups, who wanted to free themselves from the tutelage of the state, were created and networked together. The civil rights activists in East Germany campaigned for reforms.

© Harald Hauswald, Agentur Ostkreuz Berlin
© Harald Hauswald, Agentur Ostkreuz Berlin


The answer of the State was intervention by the Ministry of State Security and repression through arrest or deprivation of citizenship. During the historical time of change (1989), many opposing groups established political parties and civic movements such as the New Forum (German: Neues Forum) or the Democratic Awakening (German: Demokratischer Aufbruch). Their protests on the outskirts of the official Louxembourg-Lieberknecht-Demonstrations in January of 1988, the actions taken against electoral fraud in May of 1989 and the outrage at the reation of the GDR leadership to the massacre in Beijing heralded the start of the peaceful revolution on the 9th of November 1989, the fall of the Wall and furthermore culminated the demise of the GDR and the Soviet Union. While the portal will be expanded gradually, illuminating all facets of everyday life in the GDR is impossible. Instead, we want to encourage discussions on the topic, enhance textbook knowledge, as well as offer those interested quick access to the major topics.