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Confidence and Legitimization: The Role of the Protestant Church in Fostering Opposition in the GDR

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Lakatos, Craig
Oshkosh Scholar. Volume IV, November 2009, pp. 52-61
Nov 2009
Germany (East) -- Politics and government; Church and state -- Germany (East); Germany (East) -- History; Protestant churches -- Germany (East)
The purpose of this paper is to pursue the answer to a perplexing question in German history; namely, how did serious domestic opposition to the East German state develop in the 1980s given the extremely oppressive nature of its society? The results of my research reveal that the East German Evangelical Church's decision in 1971 to become a "church in socialism" coupled with the March 6, 1978, summit between church and state leaders provided the church with a legitimate place in German Democratic Republic (GDR) society and its associates with the confidence necessary to shelter serious opposition to the state within its physical and metaphorical boundaries in the 1980s. Although not all opposition to the GDR's communist regime was church-based, I conclude that the church's protection from state oppression afforded the East German citizenry an opportunity to effectively voice dissent. When combined with the public expression of dissent from thousands of others and placed within the broader context of tumultuous events in the Soviet Bloc in the late 1980s, church-based dissent made possible by the church's accommodation with the East German state most certainly contributed to bringing about the end of the GDR.
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