Shadows of the Past: Germany and the Legacy of SED Rule

  • Helga A. Welsh


Contemporary politics in Eastern Germany (as well as in most of Central and Eastern Europe) are characterised by a necessity to address the past in order to build the future. Unearthing and coming to grips with events since communist takeovers after the end of World War II is one of the primary concerns of the revolutions in Eastern Europe. The range of tasks this implies only begins with the revelation of injustices and the rehabilitation of victims of communism: there are streets to rename, statutes to topple, unmarked graves to locate, national identities to redefine.1 Other critical components that require historical perspective in the transition from communist regimes to those based on principles of polyarchy and market economics include assessment of the lingering impact of the communist political background on current political culture;2 restitution, which is central to the whole privatisation process; the appraisal of communist party assets, and the critical evaluation of the past and future role of the former nomenklatura and state security agents.


National Identity Communist Party State Security Communist Regime Authoritarian Rule 
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  1. 6.
    Cf. Rudolf Wassermann, ‘Die strafrechtliche Aufarbeitung der DDR-Vergangenheit,’ Recht und Politik, vol. 28 (1992), 121–34.Google Scholar
  2. 12.
    Janusz Tycner, ‘Wohin man packt, man greift in Dreck,’ Die Zeit March 20, 1992, 21.Google Scholar
  3. 16.
    See also Dieter E. Zimmer, ‘Die Zeit. Das Geld. Die Schuld.,’ Die Zeit, October 4, 1991, pp. 17–18Google Scholar

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© New York University Press 1995

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  • Helga A. Welsh

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