Western Influences on the GDR

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  • Western Influences on the GDR
    • Western Influences
      • It was impossible for the GDR to stop the influence of the FRG until the wall was built you could simply get a train across the border.
      • The SED always tried to show the FRG as the enemy but the GDR citizens just tuned out to the messages, such as turning off their TV sets to anti-FRG programmes.
    • Travel
      • Emigration was a huge issue. The FRG assured the GDR it did not want to depopulate the new state but if it allowed more travel less people would apply for permanent exit visas.
      • The SED appeared to agree and unofficially relaxed the definition of ‘urgent family matters’ so that 1986 saw as many as 573,000 GDR citizens under retirement age visiting the FRG.
      • In 1987 20% of the GDR citizens visited the FRG at some point.
      • Problems with travel – the FRG welfare system such as jobs and housing was under pressure from emigration.
      • The emigration policies increased resentment with people who had contacts in the West compared to those who did not.
    • Popular Music
      • Pop music was called ‘beat’ – with the closeness of the West young people could not be stopped from listening to it.
      • The FDJ used ‘beat’ music to try and create support for the SED. They were trying to make their message more appealing
      • ‘Germany meeting’ was a massive youth rally of 500,000 participants in Berlin 1964, journalists likened it to a giant street party with music, dancing and theatre.
      • Honecker in 1965 reversed this toleration and beat music became taboo.
      • It morphed into other forms such as rock, which survived until the 1970s. Punk was popular in the GDR but the followers were classedas subversives.
    • Film
      • Cinema going was seen as an activity of the young
      • The famous Babelsberg studio in East Berlin was renowned for itsquality even if it was censored.
      • Films were created to win support for Communist allies and to show capitalist oppression.
      • American films were rarely show in the cinemas due to licensing problems but were shown on TV if they criticised American lifestyles. To distract people from FRG programmes they were shown French soft ****!
    • Western goods
      • West Germans sent friends and family care packages; containing things such as flour and vegetables and luxuries such as chocolate and coffee. East German magazines did not ban articles on western lifestyles and readers could follow Western fashions and trends.
      • The SED became less concerned about young people wearing fashions that were inspired by Western ideas.
    • Western media
      • The GDR had access to Western radio; the US controlled RIAS broadcasting for 24 hours per day and the young listened to Radio Luxemburg for pop music. The BBC was respected for the objectivity of its news.
      • By 1961 there were 1 million television sets in the GDR – the FDJ were tasked with taking down antennae pointing to the West but it was a futile task. Even the SED watched Western TV stating it as‘research.’
      • In May 1973 Honecker bowed to the inevitable and said there would be no more attempts to prevent Western viewing.
      • In the 1980s most East Germans could see that their lifestyle wasinferior to the West.


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