03 Apr 2023 |
Posted by Jonathan Radnedge | 0 Comment.
** An impressive turnout of BHC members gathered at Stoke Lodge on March 29 to hear a fascinating talk by Neil Taylor on the German Democratic Republic.
Neil is a well-known travel writer and tour guide. He visited the GDR and other Communist Bloc countries frequently in the 1970s and 1980s.
His talk described how the GDR evolved from the Soviet Zone of Occupation in Germany and was led throughout much of its existence by a group of German Communists who had lived in exile in Moscow and were disciples of Stalin.
Neil traced the main developments in GDR history starting with the 1953 uprising. The creation of the Berlin Wall in 1961 was a response to the flight of millions of East Germans to the West and the destabilising impact this had on the economy.
Neil Taylor and the flag which failed
From then onwards, East German citizens, largely cut off from the West, but able to view the fruits of capitalism via their TV sets, enjoyed a much lower standard of living than their counterparts in the West.
On the other hand the system provided security and predictability in their lives and careers.
The GDR imposed communism more thoroughly than other countries in Eastern Europe and ultimately the old men who led the Party and government proved too inflexible and committed to doctrinaire ideology for the system to adapt effectively to economic and geopolitical changes.
Neil’s talk evoked many personal memories and reflections in the audience and the lively discussion which ensued touched on questions such as the role of the Stasi as a stabilising factor for the regime, the social legacy of the GDR, whether it was the presence of the Soviet army of occupation which fatally constrained the GDR’s room for manoeuvre and the question of whether an alternative future for the GDR as an independent state might have been possible after the fall of the Wall.