Historical Social Research

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Konrad H. Jarausch, The Failure of East German Antifascism: Some Ironies of History as Politics [1991] [Abstract]

The overthrow of Communism through the “peaceful revolution” during 1989/90 raised the question of what to do with its ideological justification of “anti-fascism.” Ironically some self-critical GDR intellectuals like Christa Wolf had already argued that what had begun as a rigorous effort to repudiate National Socialism had turned into a legitimation of a new SED-dictatorship. Written during the exciting process of German unification, this essay attempted a preliminary assessment of the role of East German historians within the SED-regime: On the one hand their scholarly efforts had become more complex and convincing during the 1980s, leading to growing re­cognition from abroad. But on the other hand, these scholars also showed a failure of political nerve by not drawing the practical consequences from their empirical and methodological advances. Based on discussions with East German colleagues, this essay sought to resolve the paradox of their intellectual contribution and political inaction.