Jan Kiepe: From ‘eternal youth’ to the ‘eternal ages’. On the transience of ‘class- struggle’ experiences in the GDR

Abstract

In: Jahrbuch für Historische Kommunismusforschung 2011. Berlin: Aufbau Verlag, pp. 203-216.

The GDR ascribed ‘youth’ a double significance. Practically, members of the FDJ, the GDR’s youth organisation, carried out party and the state functions. Beyond that, ‘youth’ served an ideological purpose. During the 1980s, members of the SED leadership who had started their political career during the Weimar KPD continued to present their mindset as ‘ageless’. They not only understood ‘youth’ in the sense of age, but also – and more crucially – as a label for their own specific political and ideological experience. Marxist-Leninist ideology had not only guided them to the founding of the GDR, but assured them time and again to quicken the progress towards the ‘birth’ of a communist world. Based on these observations, the essay develops some reasons for the evolution and the sudden decline of the idiosyncratic communist sense of youth by focusing on three decisive periods: Weimar Germany, the founding of the GDR and the 1980s. The paper concludes that the political and the ideological sense of youth was an inseparable part of German communism but simultaneously contributed to the downfall of the GDR in 1989.

Über den Autor

Jan Kiepe, M.A., geb. 1978 in Haren/Ems, 1999–2006 Studium der Mittleren und Neueren Geschichte und der Soziologie an der Georg-August-Universität in Göttingen, zurzeit Promotion an der Universität Erfurt zur Kader- und Parteischulung der SED in Thüringen während der Ära Ulbricht. 2002–2006 Hilfskraft am MPI für Geschichte in Göttingen, 2006–2007 Freier Mitarbeiter an der »Arbeitsstelle Historische Anthropologie« des MPI für Geschichte an der Universität Erfurt, seit Mai 2011 Gastdoktorand am Institut für Technikgeschichte der ETH in Zürich. Veröffentlichungen u.a.:

  • Das Reservepolizeibataillon 101 vor Gericht. NS-Täter in Selbst- und Fremddarstellungen, Münster 2007
  • »Nationalism as a Heavy Mortgage. The SED’s Cadres’ Action between Demand and Reality«, in: Nationalities Papers 37 (2009), H. 4, S. 467–483
  • Wiederabdruck in: Martin Mevius (Hg.): The Communist Quest for National Legitimacy in Europe, 1918–1989. Socialist Nations, London 2011.