1st Edition

Antifascism After Hitler East German Youth and Socialist Memory, 1949-1989

By Catherine Plum Copyright 2015
    300 Pages 20 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Antifascism After Hitler investigates the antifascist stories, memory sites and youth reception that were critical to the success of political education in East German schools and extracurricular activities. As the German Democratic Republic (GDR) promoted national identity and socialist consciousness, two of the most potent historical narratives to permeate youth education became tales of communist resistors who fought against fascism and the heroic deeds of the Red Army in World War II. These stories and iconic images illustrate the message that was presented to school-age children and adolescents in stages as they advanced through school and participated in the official communist youth organizations and other activities.

    This text delivers the first comprehensive study of youth antifascism in the GDR, extending scholarship beyond the level of the state to consider the everyday contributions of local institutions and youth mentors responsible for conveying stories and commemorative practices to generations born during WWII and after the defeat of fascism. While the government sought to use educators and former resistance fighters as ideological shock troops, it could not completely dictate how these stories would be told, with memory intermediaries altering at times the narrative and message. Using a variety of primary sources including oral history interviews, the author also assesses how students viewed antifascism, with reactions ranging from strong identification to indifference and dissent. Antifascist education and commemoration were never simply state-prescribed and were not as "participation-less" as some scholars and contemporary observers claim, even as educators fought a losing battle to maintain enthusiasm.

    Introduction: The Poison Cabinet and the Master Narrative  1. The Youth Memory Landscape  2. Stories of Resistance Fighters  3. Tales of Soviet Heroes and Liberators  4. Memory Intermediaries  5. Parents and Pupils: Antifascist Activism and Reception.  Conclusion.  Epilogue: Antifascism in Eastern Germany After 1989


    Catherine Plum is Associate Professor of History at Western New England University.

    "The book closes with a balanced (and unusually rewarding discussion) of how the antifascist teachings of the regime still have some staying power a quarter of a century after unification. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries." - S. Bailey, emeritus, Knox College, CHOICE Review

    "...this book is undoubtedly a significant contribution to the scholarship of East Germany, and will also provide valuable insights for scholars with an interest in antifascism during the Cold War and in education, particularly in relation to state-building." - Grit Wesser, University of Edinburgh