Constructing ‘authentic’ memories of the German Democratic Republic since 2008: memoir, fiction and film
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 20:54 by Joanna K. Molloy
The German Democratic Republic (GDR) was arguably one of the most efficient authoritarian regimes of the twentieth century. In this thesis I suggest that to fully understand the lived experience of GDR citizens, and contribute to understandings of the East German past, it is necessary to consider individual memories. This thesis presents a close reading of three post-millennial sources of individual memory: a memoir (Red Love, Leo), a historical novel (The Tower, Tellkamp) and a historical feature film (Barbara, Petzold). Memory theory offers a valuable analytical framework to understand these sources as complex interpretations of individual memory, social memory, political memory and existing cultural memory and also acknowledges the impact of the present and media in their construction. The three texts vividly portray the impact of the GDR State on everyday life and demonstrate that Leo, Tellkamp and Petzold did not experience the GDR in the same way; sometimes their interpretations overlap, and sometimes they conflict. While previous phases of cultural memory focused on the needs of unification and identity struggles, this thesis suggests that there has been a post-millennial shift towards remembering the GDR with greater nuance, but that competing interpretations of the GDR are still present in German memory culture.