Yet Another Failed German Revolution? The German Democratic Republic 1989–90

  • Jonathan Osmond
Part of the Themes in Focus book series (TIF)


In early 1989 Germany comprised two republics and a battered, divided former capital, part of which was a western enclave deep in the heart of the German Democratic Republic. Large contingents of American, British, French and Soviet troops were quartered in Berlin and also throughout the territories of the two states. The GDR was headed by the 76-year-old General Secretary Erich Honecker of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), who had been at the top for nearly 18 years. His counterpart in the Federal Republic of Germany was Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), a man of 58 who had then been in office for over six years but had, dare one say it, bigger aspirations.


Federal Republic German Democratic Republic Wilful Ignorance Politburo Member Democratic Revolution 
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Notes and References

  1. 2.
    For example, H. Joas and M. Kohli (eds), Der Zusammenbruch der DDR: Soziologische Analysen (Frankfurt am Main, 1993) pp. 9 and 49–50.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    See their respective memoirs: E. Krenz, Wenn Mauern fallen: Die friedliche Revolution: Vorgeschichte-Ablauf-Auswirkungen (Vienna, 1990);Google Scholar
  3. G. Schabowski, Der Absturz (Berlin, 1991).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    The Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Report: East Germany 4 (London, 1988), pp. 3–4.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    The Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Report: East Germany 1 (London, 1989), pp. 3–4.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    G. Schabowksi, Das Politbüro: Ende eines Mythos: Eine Befragung, F. Sieren and L. Koehne (eds) (Reinbek, 1990);Google Scholar
  7. H. Modrow, Aufbruch und Ende (Hamburg, 1991);Google Scholar
  8. H. Modrow, Ich wollte ein neues Deutschland (Munich, 1999).Google Scholar
  9. More recalcitrant are: G. Mittag, Um Jeden Preis: Im Spannungsfeld zweier Systeme (Berlin, 1991)Google Scholar
  10. 7.
    A. Mitter and S. Wolle (eds.), Ich liebe euch doch alle! Befehle und Lageberichte des MfS Januar-November 1989 (Berlin, 1990).Google Scholar
  11. 8.
    J. Kopstein, The Politics of Economic Decline in East Germany, 1945–1989 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1997), pp. 78, 87–8;Google Scholar
  12. 9.
    See further comments in J. Osmond, ‘The End of the GDR: Revolution and Voluntary Annexation’ in M. Fulbrook (ed.), German History since 1800 (London, 1997), pp. 456–7.Google Scholar
  13. 10.
    Probably the best currently in English are: K. H. Jarausch, The Rush to German Unity (Oxford, 1994);Google Scholar
  14. and C. S. Maier, Dissolution: the Crisis of Communism and the End of East Germany (Princeton, 1997).Google Scholar
  15. For overviews of the literature, see: J. Osmond, ‘From Tubby and Biffy to Honecker and Kohl’, Times Higher Education Supplement, 1220 (22 March 1996), 26–7;Google Scholar
  16. M. Fulbrook, ‘Re-Reading Recent (East) German History’, German History, 17 (1999), pp. 271–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. For a chronology, a directory of people, places and organisations, and political and economic tables, see J. Osmond, German Reunification: a Reference Guide and Commentary (Harlow, 1992), pp. 3–14 and 201–55.Google Scholar
  18. 11.
    A few of many are: S. Meuschel, Legitimation und Parteiherrschaft: Zum Paradox von Stabilität und Revolution in der DDR (Frankfurt am Main, 1992);Google Scholar
  19. M. D. Hancock and H. A. Welsh (eds), German Unification: Process and Outcomes (Boulder, 1994);Google Scholar
  20. J. Habermas, A Berlin Republic: Writings on Germany (Lincoln, 1997).Google Scholar
  21. 12.
    For example H.-J. Maaz, Behind the Wall: the Inner Life of Communist Germany (New York, 1995);Google Scholar
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  23. 14.
    Maaz, Behind the Wall and Das Gestürzte Volk: Die Verunglückte Einheit (Berlin, 1991).Google Scholar
  24. 15.
    J. Gauck, Die Stasi-Akten: Das unheimliche Erbe der DDR (Reinbek, 1991), p. 25.Google Scholar
  25. 20.
    A. Mitter and S. Wolle, Untergang auf Raten: Unbekannte Kapitel der DDR-Geschichte (Munich, 1993).Google Scholar
  26. 30.
    See for example, Bärbel Bohley’s distrust of Wolfgang Schnur and Rainer Eppelmann as conveyed in D. Philipsen, We Were the People: Voices from East Germany’s Revolutionary Autumn of 1989 (Durham, NC, 1993), pp. 297–9.Google Scholar
  27. 35.
    P. Robinson, Ludwig van Beethoven: Fidelio (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 77–8.Google Scholar
  28. 36.
    This is a process under investigation in local studies. The issue is discussed in the review article by J. Grix, ‘1989 Revisited: Getting to the Bottom of the GDR’s Demise’, German Politics, 6, 2 (1997), pp. 190–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. For a detailed account of the meetings of the round table, see U. Thaysen, Der Runde Tisch. Oder: Wo blieb das Volk? (Opladen, 1990).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 42.
    Malcolm Lowry to Downie Kirk, 13 December 1950, quoted in G. Bowker, Pursued by Furies: a Life of Malcolm Lowry (London, 1993), p. 477.Google Scholar

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© Jonathan Osmond 2001

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  • Jonathan Osmond

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