The most striking image of state socialism's collapse throughout Eastern Europe remains the sight of East and West Berliners triumphantly scaling the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989. The fall of the Berlin Wall proved to be the most dramatic event of the Wende, or "the turn": the rising up of the East German people and the collapse of the dictatorship exercised by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED)1 that is hailed as Germany's first successful peaceful revolution.2 Many have argued that the East German Protestant Church, to which approximately six million of East Germany's seventeen million citizens nominally belonged,3 played a crucial role in bringing about the Wende.
German historian Rudolf Mau, for instance, emphasizes in his research that the church and the SED strongly opposed each other, with the regime regarding the church as a bastion of the capitalist West and the "strongest legal position of imperialism" within the German Democratic Republic (DDR).4 Theologian John P. Burgess has asserted that the church "consistently represented the major ideological and political
alternative to the Communist party and the socialist state"5 and has emphasized the considerable degree to which the church "helped organize and direct the non-violent Wende."6 Finally, Reinhard Henkys, the former leader of the (West) Berlin Protestant Publishing Center, has written of a "Protestant Revolution" where the church represented an "enzyme of the revolutionary renewal" of East Germany.7
In his work on the relations between the SED regime and the East German Protestant Church from 1983 onwards, however, German historian Gerhard Besier posits that "most of the church's ideas of a reform of the DDR were based upon a socialist conception of state.8 An analysis of the East German Protestant Church's primary publication, Die Kirche (The Church), demonstrates that the majority of leading church figures in 1989-90 desired not a revolution, but a gradual reformation of East German socialism. Mainstream church opinion during this time rejected both unification under West Germany's "social market economy" and the existing East German order in favor of a bland mixture of socialism with greater political pluralism. Revelation 3:16 warns against excessive moderation in critical circumstances: "So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth." Not surprisingly, the church's stance failed to engender sufficient popular support in the polarized political conditions of the time.
The church leadership's desire for only moderate societal change as expressed in Die Kirche in 1989-90 developed in the context of the earlier ambiguous church-state relations characteristic of the DDR. While large segments of the church and the SED regime strongly opposed each other in East Germany's early years, especially in 1953 and 1958 when the government held show trials against important church leaders,9 church-state relations improved throughout the 1960s.(10) To conciliate the SED regime, the East German Landeskirchen (district churches) separated from the umbrella organization of the EKD (Protestant Church in Germany)-encompassing congregations in both East
and West Germany and formed the strictly East German Kirchenbund (Church League) in 1969.(11) In the early 1970s, the Kirchenbund further accommodated the East German state by adopting the formula "Kirche im Sozialismus" (Church in socialism-In other words, linking the Christian gospel with the socialist policies of the state).12
At an important 1978 summit meeting between the leader of the DDR, SED General Secretary Erich Honecker, and the executive board of the Kirchenbund, the state granted the church important concessions, such as access to state television and permission to build more churches.13 Honecker even praised the work of the church, emphasizing that the church and the state would increase cooperation to develop an improved socialist society. For its part, the Kirchenbund leadership stressed that it was in agreement with the foreign and domestic policies proposed by the SED. This meeting represented the high point of cordial church-state relations in the DDR. Afterwards, while the SED leadership called upon the church to use its influence to mollify increasingly vocal opponents of the state,14 the church leadership allowed increasing numbers of Basisgruppen, grassroots groups critical of the state, to meet in church space.15
In 1987, some members of the East German Protestant Church expressed their disapproval of the Honecker regime's failure to adopt Mikhail Gorbachev's policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) and criticized the state's practice of using Staatssicherheitsdienst (State Security Service, commonly known as "Stasi") agents to arrest SED opponents meeting in church space.16 At the 1987 Kirchenbund Synod, the assembled church leaders discussed rejecting the theory and practice of Abgrenzung, or demarcation, that the East German government was practicing towards the BRD (Federal Republic of Germany).17 While the church leaders ultimately strongly affirmed the continued validity of the formula "Kirche im Sozialismus,"18 the mere existence of this debate led some leading SED figures to believe that the church was resolved on a course of confrontation.
With this synod, argues Gerhard Rein, "the Protestant Revolution began."19
A close reading of Die Kirche, however, demonstrates that the East German Protestant Church as a whole advocated not a "revolutionary" but an evolutionary course of action in 1989-1990, wishing to improve East German socialism through cooperation with the state authorities rather than calling for the overthrow of the existing order. When German reunification became a practical consideration, East German Protestant Church leaders actually called for a policy of Abgrenzung towards the West in order to ward off the specter of their country being absorbed into what they perceived as a morally unjust capitalist West German state and their church being overshadowed by what they regarded as its spiritually inferior Western counterpart.
Gerhard Thomas, who had gained a solid mastery of church ideology through his earlier service as a pastor, edited Die Kirche throughout the period under consideration. In a notable example of the ambiguous church-state relations in the DDR, although Thomas worked as an unofficial collaborator (Inoffizieller Mitarbeiter) of the Staatssicherheitsdienst,20 he had an unfavorable reputation among SED leadership circles primarily due to critical comments that he had expressed while serving as the editor-in-chief of the Mecklenburgische Kirchenzeitung (Mecklenburg Church Newspaper), and the government had opposed his appointment as the new editor-in-chief of Die Kirche in 1986.(21)
While Die Kirche under Thomas's leadership tended to expound more left-wing political views than the considerably smaller church newspaper Der Sonntag (Sunday) in Saxony (Dresden) did, its opinions accorded with those of the great majority of East German Protestant church leaders. Die Kirche served as the official church organ for the Landeskirchen of Berlin-Brandenburg, Saxony (Magdeburg), Greifswald, Anhalt, and Gorlitz, constituting by far the most widely read and influential religious newspaper in the DDR. The SED state limited the Protestant weekly's circulation to 42,500, and since Die Kirche had a considerably greater demand than its supply, it was perpetually sold out.22 The church periodical was published on state presses, meaning that SED officials could censor it, which they did fifteen times
in 1988,(23) but SED authorities did not censor Die Kirche a single time during 1989 and 1990(24)
Articles in Die Kirche during the first half of 1989 demonstrated no need for state censorship. In the opening issue of 1989, Editor-inChief Thomas even took pains to distance the East German Protestant church from the Basisgruppen that were meeting in church buildings. He noted that Bishop Werner Leich, the chairman of the Kirchenbund who, incidentally, had emphasized at the aforementioned controversial 1987 synod that the "positive results" of SED policy had to be placed in the foreground,25 had recently declared that the "Church is there for everyone, but not for everything."26 In a similar vein, Thomas related how Gunther Krusche, the general superintendent of the Berlin-Brandenburg Landeskirche who, like Thomas, worked as an unofficial collaborator of the Staatssicherheitsdienst,27 had emphasized that tensions between the Basisgruppen and the church leadership had grown unbearable, for the "onslaught" of such groups had "made the limits of the church's possibilities apparent."28
The next issue of Die Kirche sought to appease the East German state apparatus by presenting Bishop Leich's view that "according to the will of God, no political power, not even in indirect form, is given to [the church]. Power is entrusted to the state."29 Leich's pronouncement affirmed that the East German Protestant Church leadership continued to maintain the validity of the "Kirche im Sozialismus" policy and did not possess political pretensions of its own. The most "critical" statement printed in Die Kirche during the first half of 1989 proved to be the admonition that East Germans should support the church's agenda of upholding "justice, peace, and the protection of Creation,"30 nebulous aims that fit easily within the socialist framework of the East German state.
Far from pressing the SED government to initiate reforms, opinions expressed in Die Kirche in the spring of 1989 counseled East Germans to accept current societal conditions. In a March editorial, Thomas urged his "wealthy, satiated" readers not to question their ma
terial situation,31 while another article in Die Kirche noted that "the expectations of a continual increase of affluence should be questioned especially by Christians."32 A May 1989 essay in the church newspaper stressed the need to "protect and strengthen" the "laboriously evolved trust between Christians and Marxists" in order to "keep harm away from our society."33 Another piece argued that capitalism only led to "dependency, underdevelopment, and impoverishment," concluding that "the orientation towards the better and better satisfaction of continually growing material desires and towards Western affluence must be forfeited."34
During the summer of 1989, East German Protestant Church thought expressed in Die Kirche clearly rejected notions of German reunification. For instance, Die Kirche reported on the June 11th speech of Consistory President of the Berlin-Brandenburg Landeskirche Manfred Stolpe, who, though he served as an "important unofficial employee" of the Stasi,35 nevertheless went on to become the governor of the federal state of Brandenburg in October 1990.(36) Stolpe stressed: "The majority of DDR citizens as yet do not want an Anschluss with a capitalist Federal Republic, but a better socialism."37 Stolpe's qualifier "as yet" indicates that he feared that East Germans might increasingly favor reunification in the future, and his use of the word "Anschluss" when he could have employed a more neutral term indicates his desire to associate notions of reunification with the negative emotions attached to Nazi Germany's annexation of Austria in 1938.
Further indications of the East German Protestant Church leadership's rejection of reunification with West Germany and its "social market economy" appeared in the July 25th issue of Die Kirche. The church periodical related that Gottfried Forck, the bishop of the Berlin-Brandenburg Landeskirche (who was viewed as a "negative" force in SED circles38) had stressed at the recent Protestant Church Congress in West Berlin that "dreams" of German reunification were over, while Superintendent Krusche had attacked the "illusion" of reunifica
tion, maintaining that "capitalism is not an alternative for us."39 Die Kirche also printed the recent warning of the bishop of the Saxony (Magdeburg) Landeskirche, Christoph Demke, who had consistently championed the principle ot "Kirche im Sozialismus" and had long enjoyed substantial SED support.40 Demke stressed that both Germanys had to continue to exist in order to maintain "peace in Europe."41
In September 1989, church dismissals of German reunification took on new urgency due to the Hungarian government's easing of travel restrictions. Eager to improve Hungary's chances of joining the International Monetary Fund, Hungarian officials had begun dismantling defenses on the Austrian border in May 1989,(42) and on 10 September 1989, the Hungarian government allowed approximately thirteen thousand East Germans to leave Hungary for Austria and announced that it would no longer block the passage of East Germans to the West, thereby transforming a small gap in the "Iron Curtain" into a yawning breach. By the end of October, approximately 225,000 East Germans had fled the DDR in 1989, primarily via Hungary.43
In its 17 September issue, released at a time of crisis due to the mass exodus of East Germans to West Germany, Die Kirche presented statements from Bishop Demke and the Kirchen.bund's Committee of Church Leaderships, which was responsible for the church's administrative affairs, in the hope that "nobody misunderstands them as 'counter-revolutionary programs.'" Bishop Demke's letter censured the Western media for sensationalizing the East German "refugee wave" without "wasting a single thought on the consequences" for the DDR, lamenting the disregard of "our republic" [emphasis in original]. Significantly, though, Demke did offer some criticism of the SED government, suggesting that the state end the "contradiction between published reality and everyday experiences and the government's claim always to be right," which "almost makes the admission of mistakes into a catastrophe."44
While Bishop Demke called for greater governmental openness and accountability in his essay, he nevertheless affirmed the fundamental principles of East Germany's socialist system, positing that the "so
cial safeguarding of the basic necessities of life, of the opportunity to work, of housing, and of basic medical care for everybody" had to remain. The bishop further claimed that the DDR had to uphold its "antifascist commitment,"45 meaning its continued separation from the BRD, as the Honecker regime justified the Berlin Wall as an "antifascist defense wall."46 Moreover, Demke argued: "Despite the oppressive economic weaknesses of the socialist countries," the "basic socialist matter of concern, the sharing of the burdens and of the fruits of work with one another" had to continue.47
The letter from the Kirchenbund's Committee of Church Leaderships that appeared in the same issue of Die Kirche proved more critical than Bishop Demke's remarks, reproaching the SED state for failing to make the "changes in society that the citizens have been waiting for and that are long overdue." While the essay argued in favor of greater freedom to travel and more dialogue between the government and ordinary East German citizens, it did not advocate free market reforms, instead urging East Germans "to remain in the community and not to leave the DDR," warning of the "illusion that greater economic affluence already brings fulfillment in life."48
As reported in Die Kirche, at the annual conference of the Kirchenbund Synod held from 15-19 September, Kirchenbund Chairman Leich criticized the Honecker regime more than the Committee of Church Leaderships letter had. On 4 September 1989, several hundred people in and around the Saint Nicholas Church in Leipzig had demonstrated for freedom to travel, and one week later at a similar demonstration, Stasi officers had arrested large numbers of protesters.49 Bishop Leich asked the government to allow divergent standpoints to be "expressed in peaceful demonstrations."50 Leich further called for an improved electoral law, addressing the fact that many had (rightly) accused the SED of falsifying the results of the 7 May 1989 parliamentary elections.51 Yet Leich took care to underscore the church's goodwill towards the regime, noting that the church wished
East Germans to remain in the country and to work "for and not against our state and our society."52
From the start of 1989 until the massive intensification of the exodus of East Germans in September 1989, Die Kirche attacked capitalism and upheld the East German socialist order. Only after East German emigration to the West swelled dramatically did East German Protestant Church viewpoints expressed in Die Kirche advocate initiating democratic reforms in the DDR. A paper written at the conference of the Kirchenbund Synod from 15-19 September that Die Kirche first cited in its 1 October edition asked the SED regime to allow the creation of a "democratic variety of parties" in the DDR so that there would be an "electoral procedure that makes the choice between programs and individuals possible."53
The Kirchenbund Synod's leaders did not combine this plea for increased pluralism with a request for free market reforms. Instead, it criticized the capitalist mindset by accusing many members of the East German Protestant Church of orientating themselves on the "standard of living of those who have more than we do although the majority of the people of this earth, in Europe as well, must make do with much less." The Kirchenbund resolution also emphasized that calls for German reunification would only lead to "fears among other nations."54 The Kirchenbund Synod proposals thus advocated adopting certain democratic principles in the DDR, but only within the framework of an independent socialist state.
Thomas's "Word for the Week" segment of this same 1 October issue of Die Kirche noted that Jesus had warned against making the "obsession" of constantly improving one's standard of living "the measure of all things." The Word for this week came from Matthew 6:19, 20: "Lay up not for yourselves treasures upon earth,. . . But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven."55 Thomas's remarks were in a tradition whereby biblical passages were used to support an economic system. As the renowned German sociologist Max Weber demonstrated in his work The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, earlier Protestantism played an integral role in bringing about modern capitalism, and capitalism's proponents have frequently used biblical quotations to further their arguments, such as Proverbs 8:29, which so impressed the young Benjamin Franklin: "Seest thou a man diligent in his business?
He shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men."56 Thomas however, used the Bible in order to uphold socialism's continued validity.
In the early part of October 1989, several mass protests against the SED regime took place in the DDR, most notably in Leipzig, where tens of thousands of people gathered on the streets chanting the powerful slogan in favor of greater political rights: "We are the people!"57 Die Kirche sought to temper public opinion by citing the admonition of Erfurt Provost Heino Falcke, who, while he had presented arguments at the above-mentioned 1987 Kirchenbund Synod to transcend the theory and practice of Abgrenzung,58 now stressed that West Germans should not use the massive emigration of East German citizens to the BRD as a "self-justification of capitalism."59 Falcke posited that the DDR had to bring about the "democratic renewal of real existing socialism,"60 thereby rejecting West Germany's "social market economy."
In addition to presenting Falcke's anti-capitalist arguments, Die Kirche responded to the massive pro-reform demonstrations by printing the "urgent requests" of Bishop Forck that counseled restraint on all sides. One "urgent request" called for the government to take "clear and credible steps" so that a "broad agreement over a law-ruled, democratic, and socialist perspective of the DDR" could be found. Another plea asked policemen and members of the Stasi to show the "greatest possible restraint" when confronted with the "impatience of critical citizens" on the street. Forck's last request called for East Germans to "refrain from [participating in] unauthorized demonstrations in the streets" so that government officials "cannot say that they will not let themselves be put under pressure with regard to changes on the agenda."61 Forck's "urgent requests" indicate the strong church desire to work with rather than against the existing state apparatus in an effort to improve the existing socialist order.
In an effort to reduce the flow of the refugees to the West, Thomas offered an editorial in the 22 October 1989 issue of Die Kirche, "Many Are Going-More Are Staying," which an effort to reduce the flow of refugees to the West, Thomas offered an edic socialism, to which pluralism in the 22 October 1989 issue of Die Kirche, and societal life Are Going-More Are Staying," which argued that "urgent" in order to stop the "escape wave" from the democratic socialism, to which pluralism in political and societal life belong," were "urgent" in order to stop the "escape wave" from the
DDR. Thomas quoted from "Democracy Now" that socialism had to find its "own democratic gestalt" in order to form an alternative to the "Western consumer society" for which "the rest of the world has to pay."62 Thomas further asserted: "Nobody wants to return to a capitalist system of a Western mold," maintaining that "Christians, Marxists, and others" approved of the church's formulation of socialism as the 11 more just form of living together." Thomas clearly wished to democratize East German socialism in order to save it.
In view of the rising pressure from demonstrators within the DDR, the SED leadership resolved to take action to appease the masses. On 18 October, two days after over 120,000 people in Leipzig had demonstrated for far-ranging political reforms, the East German Politburo ousted the ailing SED General Secretary Honecker and then announced his retirement. Honecker's protege, Egon Krenz, became the new general secretary,63 and he moved swiftly to shore up church support for the state. In its 29 October issue, Die Kirche wrote of a "Wende" in East Germany for the first time when discussing the talks between Egon Krenz and Kirchenbund Chairman Bishop Werner Leich that had taken place on 19 October.64
According to the Protestant newspaper, Leich stressed at these conversations that the Krenz government would have to win back the trust that the Honecker regime had destroyed by blocking open debate, carrying out a media policy divorced from reality, and ordering security forces to use "violence at demonstrations," including widespread protests that had been held on 7 October 1989, the 40th anniversary of the DDR.65 While providing some useful criticism, Leich advocated not the over-turn of socialism in the DDR, but the improvement of the mechanisms of state power so that the citizens of the DDR could gain greater faith in East Germany's socialist order.
The 5 November 1989 issue of Die Kirche published Berlin-Brandenburg Consistory President Manfred Stolpe's recent claims that the "current mass demonstrations make . . . the urgent necessity of the search for agreement by society as a whole clear," that the pressure of a "ticking bomb" necessitated a "fundamental and quick understanding of everyone who wants to remain and to strive together for an independent, antifascist, democratic, free, and socialist DDR."66 Stolpe's use of loaded terminology in the midst of a highly charged political situation
resembles Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg's attempts to ward off the Anschluss of his country with National Socialist Germany in 1938. Hoping to be able to undermine Hitler's argument that the majority of Austrians favored Anschluss with the Reich, Schuschnigg announced a plebiscite for a "free, independent, social, Christian, and united Austria," a vote that never materialized due to increased German pressure.67 In pleading for an "independent, antifascist, democratic, free, and socialist DDR," Stolpe suggested that East Germany faced a situation akin to that of Austria in 1938. Stolpe's comments reflected widespread East German Protestant Church fears that the BRD would rob the DDR of its autonomy, thereby bringing about the downfall of the socialist order with which the church had developed a modus vivendi over the course of several decades.
While Die Kirche rejected West German-style capitalism as a model worth emulating, it pleaded for the democratization of socialism in the DDR with increased vigor in its 12 November edition, which, due to printing constraints, was released without mentioning the fall of the Berlin Wall. In his "Word for the Week" section, Thomas referred to the SED regime as a "dictatorship" for the first time, noting that history demonstrates that dictatorships have no chance over the long term. He asked: "Why of all things should the `dictatorship of the proletariat,' exercised by the organ of power of one party, be the historical exception?" Then he urged the creation of a "free and democratic" socialism to which there could be "no alternative" for the "hopefully still majority" of East German citizens who wanted a socialist DDR.68 Thomas aimed to discourage those who viewed West Germany's "social market economy" as a viable alternative to East German socialism.
During the period from the intensification of the mass exodus of DDR citizens to the West in September 1989 to the early part of November, church opinions expressed in Die Kirche belatedly began calling for the democratic renewal of socialism in the DDR, but only through cooperation with and not in opposition to the state in an evolutionary, and not revolutionary, process. Leading church figures criticized the SED's misuse of power, but they upheld socialism's fundamental validity. The impetus for the church's halting calls for reform stemmed primarily from the fear that the acute flight of East Germans to the West would undermine the DDR's international standing, jeopardizing the future of socialism in the DDR and bringing
about the specter of East German society's absorption into what church leaders regarded as the morally inferior capitalist West German system.
Events in Berlin in early November 1989 transformed the situation in the DDR, rendering questions about the future of East German socialism more pressing than ever. On the night of 9 November, the first secretary of the SED, Gunter Schabowski, announced that the Politburo would now allow East German citizens to travel to the West within the framework of a gradual, orderly opening of the borders where people would still have to present their identity papers and the border guards would still possess the right to forbid travel. Events soon outstripped the Politburo's designs as thousands of East Berliners, believing that they could travel to the West immediately, rushed to border crossing points. Border guards, confused as to their exact duties since they had not received precise orders, ultimately allowed agitated crowds to surge past them.69
Rather than expressing exultation or triumph, the lead article of the first issue of Die Kirche dealing with the ramifications of the fall of the Berlin Wall, "'New Men' Among Us As Well?," exhibited extreme trepidation over the Kirchenbund's future. The piece anxiously noted that 70 percent of the East German Protestant Church's money came from West Germany, suggesting fear that the West German Protestant Church would overpower its weaker Eastern counterpart in the future. Moreover, the article asked uneasily:
If social science subjects are freed from ideological pressure, will so many young people still want to study theology? If the unions finally fight for the rights of their colleagues in enterprises, will not employees transfer out of the Church sphere? And if economic reforms lead to higher rents and other price increases, who will still want to work in a Church department for 400 Marks [a month]?70
Instead of hailing the fall of the Berlin Wall as a triumph for greater freedom in the DDR, Die Kirche's lead article expressed apprehension over the financial leverage that the West German Protestant Church possessed over the Kirchenbund and demonstrated narrow concerns about potential membership, financial, and labor problems for the church in the radically altered East German societal circumstances. With the downfall of the atheistic SED's monopoly on power in sight, Die Kirche's editorship expressed broader East German Protestant Church fears that the church would lose the special societal standing that it had gained through its "Kirche im Sozialismus" policy and become a mere appendage of its more powerful Western counterpart.
As well as fretting over the future of the East German Protestant Church now that the DDR's barrier to the West had fallen, East Berlin
Youth Pastor Wolfram Hulsemann warned of the prospect of the demise of East German socialism and the loss of the DDR's autonomy to the BRD in another article in this edition of Die Kirche, "Freedom of Movement?." Hulsemann expressed "concern about the sell-out and fear for the existence of our country," lamenting that the "ideals of a more just social system appear once and for all abused and forgotten after 40 years of DDR reality." He further emphasized that the "societal agreement that the weak and those who have been deprived of their rights must not fall behind" threatened to "become irrelevant overnight."71
Hulsemann argued that in order to keep the ideals of socialism from becoming irrelevant, the Krenz government had to recognize every "form of assembly of committed people," to bring about the "deletion" of the First Article of the Constitution, which upheld the sole leadership of the SED, to create a new electoral law, to call for "free, general, secret elections by the summer of 1990 at the latest," and to open "round table" discussions on all societal problems.72 These requests for democratic reforms stemmed primarily not from Hulsemann's desire for the DDR to emulate the West, but from his wish to help garner popular support for the East German state so that East German socialism could be preserved in the face of the inevitable onslaught of Western capitalism.
In his editorial written in the same 19 November 1989 edition of Die Kirche, "Round Table?" Editor-in-Chief Gerhard Thomas urged the Krenz government to initiate democratic reforms in order to preserve the DDR's continued existence. He praised the government's decision to open the borders to the BRD as a "first convincing measure," but he asked the regime to hold free and secret elections, to end the SED's political power monopoly, and to establish a "round table" of "all old and new parties and socially important groups, such as, for example, the churches." The "round table" was to work towards the creation of a "different socialism that is democratically capable of winning a majority on the ruins of the previous `real existing socialism.'"73
Fearing the massive intervention of the BRD, Thomas regarded the construction of a new democratic socialism as a means of preserving the DDR's independence. Thomas asked the West German government to act "constructively" with regard to its "moral responsibility" of respecting the DDR's independence. Echoing Stolpe's views, Thomas stressed that a "basic area of agreement" needed to be reached so that
"our country remains able to act nationally and internationally alike."74 Thomas's anxious commentary indicates his fear that the DDR and the East German Protestant Church with it would lose their autonomy to West Germany, thereby destroying the prospects for a better form of East German socialism with the church as one of its pillars.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, East German protesters at demonstrations increasingly replaced the chant, "We are the people," with the decidedly pro-reunification slogan, "We are one people. "75 Despite this upsurge in popular East German demand for union with West Germany, Die Kirche maintained its strong moral disapproval of the BRD and its "social market economy." Thomas's 26 November "Word for the Week" section cited Mark 13:33: "Take ye head, watch and pray; for ye know not when the time is." Thomas stressed that an "alert posture" like the one referred to in this biblical citation would not "find any majorities." In the future, Thomas argued, "Christians... will have to stand against an uninspired consumer materialism," and they "will have to be alert when the Germans find their feet again and once again discover themselves as the 'greatest.'"76 Thomas thus sounded a call to arms against the perils of unification with what he regarded as the excessively consumer-oriented and aggressive West German state.
In fact, the likelihood of German reunification loomed larger with every passing day. On 28 November 1989, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl proposed bringing about a German confederation that would lead to a unified Germany in ten years. Without even mentioning Kohl's suggestions, Thomas printed the East German novelist Stefan Heym's "Appeal For Our Country in an early December edition of Die Kirche that argued: "Either we can insist upon the independence of the DDR and try ... to develop a society of solidarity... for all," or "we must tolerate ... a selling out of our material and moral values." Heym's letter urged the strict necessity of maintaining a "socialist alternative to the Federal Republic."77 Die Kirche's presentation of the views of an artist who opposed German reunification without referring to Kohl's proposals even in passing demonstrated significant church fear and mistrust of West German intentions.
At the time of Heym's appeal for a sovereign DDR, the SED was struggling for its political survival. The Volkskammer, the East German Parliament, abolished the SED's monopoly on political power on 1 December. On 3 December, General Secretary Egon Krenz resigned. The SED leadership renamed the party the PDS (Party of Democratic
Socialism) and elected Gregor Gysi, a lawyer who had defended dissidents, as the new head of the party. The reform-minded Prime Minister Hans Modrow became the country's new leader. The first of the church-state round table meetings that significantly influenced the transformation of the DDR took place on 7 December. Since the church enjoyed considerable trust among various political groups, the round-table participants chose Bishop Forck of the Berlin-Brandenburg Landeskirche to serve as chairman. The Modrow government agreed to disband the hated Stasi and to hold free elections in May 1990.(78)
With the collapse of the SED dictatorship and the increasing attraction of West Germany's "social market economy" to many East Germans, Die Kirche continued to reject reunification with the BRD under its present capitalist system, arguing that both countries had to reform themselves. In his 10 December 1989 editorial, "United Fatherland?" Thomas maintained that "the powerful BRD" could not "annex the weak DDR as a new Bundesland (federal state)," nor could it be that "DDR socialism, as it was still called yesterday, triumphs in accordance with the law of history." The only viable option for the future was for "the Germans to contribute their part for a worldwide order capable of survival."79 Thomas did not specify precisely what this new order would entail, but he clearly hoped that it would have more socialist traits than capitalist ones.
Another article in the same 10 December edition of Die Kirche, "Between Slavery and Freedom: The Desert," likewise stressed the need for the renewal of both Germanies, calling for the creation of a "third way" between the Eastern and Western socioeconomic systems, a vision that, incidentally, enjoyed considerable support among leading Western Protestant church circles as well.80 Pastor Uli Bandt from Greifswald began his essay by asserting "the first euphoria over the opening of the wall has given way to fears of the consequences." Then he offered a poignant comparison between the East Germans and the ancient Jews of the Exodus:
We have freed ourselves from the dictatorship of one party .... We still do not have the 40 years of wandering in the desert behind us as some, with reference to the 40 years of the DDR, would gladly see it. We are at the beginning and not at the destination. The view of "Karstadt" [a popular West German department store] through the [Berlin] Wall does not reveal the Promised Land. It sooner conveys
an image of the golden calf. Those reunifying-appropriating people (wiedervereinigend-vereinnahmend) there who await us with open arms forget that they themselves only sit at Egyptian fleshpots. The soup is too fatty to be able to offer hope for the children of the Sahel area as well. We Germans will only really find ourselves in the desert. The other Germany must set off for there as well.81
While Bandt presented a strong argument for the necessity of sacrifice in both Germanys, his choice of the theme of the biblical Exodus was perhaps unfortunate given that the mass emigration of East Germans to the BRD continued unabated throughout this period. Moreover, while he stressed the need for reform both east and west of the Elbe River, he clearly envisioned the creation of an improved socioeconomic system much closer to socialism than to capitalism. Bandt further suggested in his article that East Germans were superior to West Germans in that they realized that they needed to strike out for a new societal order replete with social justice if not wealth, whereas opulence blinded the West Germans so that they did not yet even realize the error of their decadent ways.
With the goal of inspiring East Germans to contribute to the construction of a new order based on socialist ideals infused with greater pluralism, Bandt urged the newly-founded political parties in the DDR not "to sacrifice the truth about the desert to the striving for popularity," meaning that they should oppose the popular desire for reunification with the BRD. Moreover, Bandt expressed the hope that "our dignity will be more important than . . . Chiquita bananas ."82 Tropical fruits had been scarce in the DDR, but with the fall of the Berlin Wall, they had become abundant. In admonishing East Germans to reject West German capitalism, Bandt associated Chiquita bananas with capitalism's material values as well as its exploitation of the Third World.
After attacking Helmut Kohl and other leading West German political figures by expressing the hope that "we do not sacrifice our freedom for self-determination to new dictators of a `Fourth Reich' in our blind rage" in its 17 December issue,83 Die Kirche returned to biblical analogy in its Christmas edition. The Protestant church superintendent of Zittau, Dietrich Mendt, contributed an essay to Die Kirche that compared increasing greed in East Germany with the story of Adam and Eve. In the Garden of Eden, Mendt argued:
People lived justly and contentedly.... But, as is well-known, everything nevertheless did not go smoothly. It was almost like today: when people have it good, they always want to have it better. When they have everything that they need to live, they absolutely want to have that which they do not need to live as well. In
the case of Adam and Eve it was apples, not apples in general, oh no, only a very specific type that did not exist, or more precisely said, that did not exist for them. Just like my neighbor had a nice little car, but he very soon wanted a big one. And since in the meantime he has that as well, he now wants an even bigger one, and if he cannot get that here, he says, then he will emigrate to a country where there are even bigger cars than here. That is why Adam and Eve were chased away from Paradise. God punished them because they could not get enough, although he had given them so much, after all! God was completely right.84
As well as printing Mendt's critique of the evils inherent in consumer-oriented capitalism, Die Kirche presented an essay by the director of the Protestant Academy in Rostock, Michael Mahlburg, "Forgotten Longing." Mahlburg's argument used the biblical themes of the Jewish worship of the golden calf and Christ's temptation in order to urge East German Christians to opt for an improved socialist society and to reject West Germany's capitalist system:
A people (Volk) has broken out. 3,400 years ago. Broken out of slavery and having their minds made up for them.... The people is proud to be free. But now begins a long time of searching for Promised Land. Soon to be daily necessities of life begin to run out. Soon slavery with its fleshpots seems better to the people.... Those who had called for this departure lose standing in view of wealth, which becomes ever more important to the people. After another stretch of road, the people come to know a new god and make an image of him: the golden calf. Now it suddenly becomes this blistling golden idol that has led the people out of slaery....Forgetting the Promised Land that they had set out for, they dance around the golden calf and take it to be the true god who appears to promise them all riches. 1,400 years later. A man is promised all the riches of the world if he will worship the idol of wealth and money. But he refuses and continues to live his difficult life for a Kingdom without rulers and ruled. He cannot give up his ideals and the chance to see his ideas realized for the wealth before his eyes. This man's name is Jesus Christ. And today, another 2000 years later?85
Unfortunately for Mahlburg and most other East German Protestant Church leaders, the majority of East Germans wished to join the prosperous West German "social market economy" instead of undertaking the arduous task of building an improved society based on Christian/socialist renunciation. According to a poll taken early in 1990, over 90 percent of the DDR's adult population desired a speedy reunification with the BRD.86 Church pleas against reunification increasingly took on the nature of cries from the wilderness. Die Kirche nevertheless maintained its anti-capitalist, anti-reunification stance in the face of popular growing pressure for union with the BRD, carrying out a mod
ern and mately reversed version of the battle of David versus Goliath.
In defiance of popular opinion, Thomas complained of "emotional demonstrations for a swift reunification that are marked by a lack of good political sense" in the 7 January 1990 issue of Die Kirche. He maintained that a "wealthier DDR need not be a more just DDR." He concluded his commentary by remarking, "a society in which everyone is the architect of his own future is not necessarily the desirable alternative to a society of solidarity."87 Thomas once again demonstrated his fundamental opposition to West German capitalism with its emphasis on self-reliance and his profound sympathy for a "true" socialism based on cooperation to assist the disadvantaged.
While approximately 80 percent of West Germans supported rapid German reunification at this time,88 Die Kirche merely noted that reactions in the BRD to developments in the DDR were "mixed" and printed a letter from Oldag Graf Schwerin of West Germany which maintained that in many respects DDR citizens were "superior to us Germans of the Federal Republic." Schwerin's essay stressed that "faith in the DDR ... has more inwardness and more depth than here" and counseled against reunification, noting that socialism represented "not only a planned economy," but "solidarity," a word that had "no special meaning in the capitalist system," which was full of "egoism, cold-heartedness, and inconsiderateness."89In choosing to print this piece, Die Kirche argued in favor of socialism's reputed solidarity over the perceived cruelty of capitalism, and it affirmed that the East German Protestant Church was spiritually superior to its Western counterpart, a widespread view in the West German Protestant Church as well.90
Augmenting the recurrent East German Protestant Church arguments against the evils of the Western economic system, Joachim Garstecki, an East German Catholic theologian who served as a consultant for the Protestant Kirchenbund, argued against succumbing to the onslaught of Western riches in the 21 January 1990 issue of Die Kirche. Although Garstecki had had a "negative" reputation among the SED state leadership,91 in his article, "Let's Go West? [English in original]: The Departure of the DDR Into the Unknown," Garstecki emphasized that East Germans could not allow the "selling out of the DDR to the economic superpower Western Europe." He argued for a "basic agree
ment" to forge a "potential for resistance against the superior might of big money that will now flood us." Garstecki concluded that "we still have . . .the chance not to copy every profitable foolishness of the West,"92 indicating his rejection of the continual search for greater profits inherent in capitalism.
While the majority of East German Protestant Church leaders had considerable difficulties struggling against the popular desire for German reunification, in the middle of January 1990, they suddenly had to contend with the highest Protestant church officials in both Germanys as well. Kirchenbund Chairman Bishop Leich and Bishop Martin Kruse, the chairman of the EKD (Protestant Church in [West] Germany) who had previously repeatedly stressed that he accepted German division,93 issued a joint declaration on 17 January 1990 that stated: "We want both German states to grow together." This was no plea for a speedy reunification as many Germans at the time wished, calling instead for the coalescence of East and West Germany "in several steps in the framework of an all-European process of agreement,"94 but this church document nevertheless significantly departed from earlier staunch church opposition to German unification.
The 11 February issue of Die Kirche strongly criticized this startling development. An angry essay from the East Berlin Pastor Klaus Galley referred to the actions of Bishops Leich and Kruse to unite the EKD and the Kirchenbund as a "surprise coup." Galley queried, "Out of what cup of frenzy (Taumelbecher) have members of the church leadership drunk as well, when they now enter into the general reunification drunkenness[?]"95 This article conformed with the overall East German Protestant Church philosophy offered in Die Kirche that sober minds had to prevail over intoxicating visions of West German might in order to strive for the creation of a viable East German socioeconomic system that upheld fundamental socialist ideals.
In its 25 February edition, Die Kirche presented sections of the "Berlin Declaration" of 9 February that Protestant church leaders from the BRD and the DDR had signed, including Provost Falcke from the Saxony (Magdeburg) Landeskirche and Garstecki of the Kirchenbund. The declaration stated that while the Protestant church in both Germanys had worked towards the unity of the German people during the time of "political division" through its "special community," it now conversely had to protect this "special community" by fighting for the
maintenance of the "still existing divisions for the sake of the growing together of Europe in peace and justice." Moreover, the declaration continued, "The danger is growing that ... in the course of the uniting of both German states... we will suppress our own history and leave no room for the necessary grieving."96
Commentary on the "Berlin Declaration" in Die Kirche warned that the reunification of Germany would mean the "taking of the weaker side by the stronger side" and stressed that the current "turning away from socialism must not serve as self-justification for Western society and its subliminal anticommunism." Die Kirche further pointed out capitalism's perceived "failure in light of the question of justice," noting that "peoples and Christians of the Third World experience capitalism as a threat to life and struggle for liberation with the help of socialist concepts."97 Faced with the disconcerting prospect of reunification on West German terms, mainstream church opinion called for the construction of a viable socioeconomic order based primarily upon socialist principles in the DDR that could offer a credible alternative to the BRD's "social market economy."
Kirchenbund Chairman Werner Leich's turnaround from opponent to proponent of German reunification, however gradual, cost him his position. As reported in the 3 March issue of Die Kirche, at the conference of the Kirchenbund Synod ending on 25 February 1990, the assembled East German Protestant Church leaders voted Leich out of office and replaced him with Christoph Demke, the former favorite of the SED regime who strongly opposed both capitalism and German reunification. At the meeting of the Kirchenbund Synod, many church leaders criticized Leich for speaking favorably of West Germany's "social market economy" in general, and Provost Falcke warned against East German "identification" with the BRD in particular.98 The Kirchenbund Synod's vote of no confidence in Leich and criticism of West Germany demonstrated widespread church leadership resistance to German reunification.
Leich's ultimate acceptance of the idea of gradual German unification jarred with mainstream East German Protestant Church opinion of the time, a crucial period when the campaigns for the first free elections in the DDR's history, scheduled for 18 March, were intensifying. Die Kirche clearly opposed pro-reunification parties, warning of the 11 misleading C" in the East German CDU (Christian Democratic Union), the sister party of Kohl's West German CDU, arguing that this
organization misused the "name of Christ for party political purposes."99 Another article, "Considerable Resistance," quoted Bishop Forck's admonition to be "skeptical" of parties with "Christian" in their names.100 Die Kirche also attacked the DSU (German Social Union), an amalgamation of conservative Christian groups. The last issue of Die Kirche before the elections claimed that the leader of the DSU, Pastor Hans-Wilhelm Ebeling, had resisted opening the Saint Thomas Church in Leipzig to peace groups in October 1989.(101)
In its last issue before the elections, Die Kirche also delivered yet another salvo against the evils of the Western free-market economy. In his article, "When Products and Profits Become Idols," Walther Bindemann, the head of the Protestant Academy of Berlin-Brandenburg, quoted what he found to be an objectionable advertisement for Coca-Cola: "I am not only glass and contents, no dead thing. I am effervescing life, true life. You have raised me to a regal symbol. I was, I am, I will always be: Coca-Cola-living life, creative spirit." Bindemann was greatly offended by what he perceived to be the misuse of religious themes for crass capitalist materialism, and he warned that "products and the profits that can be made with them can become idols that demand false feeling, thinking, and behavior of people."102
Bindemann then argued that the theoretical basis of free market capitalism in the West, notably Adam Smith's 1776 work, The Wealth of Nations, was "greatly mistaken." While the early proponents of the free market economy had believed that "economic freedom brings about political freedom and that the interests of single individuals active in the market are in the interest of the public welfare," Bindemann asserted that "an economic system that borders upon the 'free market' alone always makes the rich richer and the poor poorer." He further stressed that "growth must not be confused with development. In numerous cases growth creates more problems than it solves," maintaining that sixteen million members of the European Economic Community were unemployed and that "the god of growth will not help them."103
The East German political party that voters most associated with "growth" was the East German CDU. In his final editorial before the vote, Gerhard Thomas urged his readers to be "suspicious" of the
11 cravings for power of politicians," referring only to Kohl by name. Thomas noted ominously that while Kohl was tirelessly promising billions of Marks to help rebuild East Germany, he had no desire to "invest his good money in an ailing system," and he therefore was making his pledge for support contingent upon the fact that "the right people are brought to power on 18 March." Thomas concluded by asserting that the question "whom do I mistrust the least?" was the most important one to ask when faced with the "agony of the vote" (Qual der Wahl).104 The East German CDU clearly did not pass this test in Thomas's mind.
In the 18 March 1990 Volkskammer elections, the "Alliance for Germany," primarily a union of the two conservative political parties that Die Kirche had warned against, the CDU and DSU, won a convincing 47.79 percent of the vote, while a surprisingly small 21.76 percent of the voters chose the SPD (Social Democratic Party). The PDS garnered 16.4 percent of the ballots cast, the "Alliance of Free Democrats" managed to win 5.28 percent of the vote, and the "Alliance 90," made up of such citizen initiative groups as New Forum and Democracy Now that espoused leftist views similar to those of Die Kirche, gained the support of a stunningly small 2.9 percent of the voters. The "Alliance for Germany," the Social Democrats, and the Free Democrats formed a ruling coalition with Lothar de Maiziere of the East German CDU as prime minister. De Maiziere took office on 12 April 1990, and he soon formally announced that his government desired reunification with West Germany as soon as possible, thereby drawing the Wende to its conclusion.105
With German reunification on West German terms now virtually unavoidable, Die Kirche vowed to remain critical of West German society. In his first "Word for the Week" segment after the elections, Thomas called for the Protestant church to ask at whose expense the DDR's "Anschluss" with the Western economic system would occur. The biblical quote for the week came from Isaiah 54:10: "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, with the Lord that hath mercy on thee."106 In using this particular biblical citation, Thomas suggested that something akin to a natural disaster had just taken place at the polls.
Another article in this same 25 March 1990 edition of Die Kirche lamented the growing loss of the "feeling of solidarity" in the DDR
brought about by the introduction of "a market economy that we do not believe ourselves to be a match for." The essay quoted Matthew 5:7: "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy," referring to the perceived lack of compassion in capitalism. This issue of Die Kirche also printed the grave recent commentary of the new chairman of the Kirchenbund, Bishop Demke. As well as complaining about the loss of solidarity in the DDR, Demke asserted that while the idea that the greatest good for all could be gained by everyone searching for their own greatest advantage was "fascinating," it had never been realized. Moreover, he argued that West Germany's "social market economy" had "no power of redemption."107
In addition to agreeing with Bishop Demke that one should not ascribe redeeming powers to the West Germany economic system, in his "Word for the Week" segment of 22 April 1990, Gerhard Thomas deplored the introduction of "naked capitalism" into large firms in the DDR. Thomas noted anxiously that the citizens of the DDR were on their way to "an elbow society in which the law of the stronger is mercilessly enforced." The biblical quotation for the week was that of Isaiah 40:29: "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength."108 Thomas chose this quote to advocate the Christian/socialist ideal of protecting the weak from the strong.
Demonstrating widespread distrust of West Germany's capitalist economic system, on 24 April, the leaders of the Berlin-Brandenburg Landeskirche Synod wrote a resolution that strongly opposed East Germany's union with West Germany. As reported in Die Kirche, church leaders warned "against an uncritical adoption of the present Western economic system," stressing that East Germans could not regard "the goal of our lives in the production of more affluence."109 The Berlin-- Brandenburg Landeskirche Synod was not able to slow down the coming together of the two Germanys, however, for on the very day of its declaration, Chancellor Kohl of the BRD and Prime Minister de Maiziere of the DDR agreed to implement the "economic, currency, and social union" of the two Germanys as of 2 July 1990.(110)
Maintaining its strong moral stance against capitalism, the next issue of Die Kirche argued that the "wolf's laws of the free market already bare their sharp teeth."111 Moreover, by printing a scathing
critique, "A Hope Has Gone Astray: Bitter Observations on the Anniversary of the Ecumenical Assembly," Die Kirche's leadership expressed its extreme disappointment with the recent course of events. The essay lamented that instead of trying to build "an alternative to the Western consumer society ... we are plunging into the consumer... society of the West, and soon into NATO as well. That is deplorable." The article criticized the East German Protestant voters who had supported Kohl's designs for rapid reunification, thereby helping to "bury the alternative of solidarity" in the DDR. The critique continued:
What about solidarity with the weak, the single mothers, the handicapped?... What will be gained for the question of the survival of humanity when we in the DDR strike out 'as quickly as possible' for the side of the winner of the 'Third World War of the rich against the poor'. and strengthen the 'worldwide structures of injustice'?... What new and progressive things are to be gained for the protection of Creation with a policy of Anschluss. . .? Our hope of the autumn of '89 has gone astray. The revolution has turned into restoration. The question of mankind's survival plays no role. The global crisis has more likely been accelerated, Our hope directs itself once again towards the Gospel of Jesus about the Kingdom of God. This Gospel places us on the side of the defeated and makes us into critics of the new power structures.112
While leading East German Protestant Church figures opposed "Anschluss" with the BRD, only concerted action on the part of the victors of World War II could have halted German reunification at this time, and this was not forthcoming. That which the vast majority of both church writers for Die Kirche and those church leaders whose opinions were cited in the periodical staunchly opposed, German reunification on West German terms, took place on 3 October 1990. Editor-in-Chief Thomas ultimately had to concede that he had not been able to hinder the absorption of East German socialism into the West German "social market economy," but he pledged to denounce social inequities in the new capitalist German state wherever they appeared, a promise that he has maintained, though to a greatly reduced readership.113
As witnessed in the East German Protestant Church's principal organ, Die Kirche, East German Protestant Church leaders carried out actions that contributed to unintended consequences in 1989-90. By eventually criticizing the SED's abuses of power and belatedly calling for the increased democratization of East German society, church leadership helped to precipitate the collapse of the SED dictatorship, which itself cleared the way for the demise of East German state socialism, something that church leaders had not desired. Prevailing East
German Protestant Church thought during the Wende advocated reforming socialism, not abandoning it. As Thomas later lamented, while he and others like him had wished to avoid an "Anschluss" with West Germany and to create an improved democratic socialist system in the DDR in 1989-90, "history overtook us."114
In Luke 5:37, 38, Jesus calls for mankind's complete rebirth, counseling: "And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved." In the time of the Wende, the vast majority of leading East German Protestant Church figures advocated a course of action against the counsel of Jesus: they wished to infuse the "new wine" of democracy into the "old bottles" of socialism, thereby creating an improved socioeconomic order that they hoped would be able to oppose the perceived mammonism of the BRD. East German socialism proved unable to maintain itself under the pressure of increased democratic pluralism, however, leading to the incorporation of East German society into West German capitalistism, a system that mainstream church thought rejected.
* MICHAEL KELLOGG (B.A., University of Wisconsin; M.A., University of Wisconsin; M.A., University of California at Los Angeles) is pursuing his Ph.D. in history at UCLA with the assistance of a Fulbright-- Hays Scholarship. An article has appeared in the UCLA Historical Journal. Special interests include the rise and decline of German National Socialism and Soviet socialism, and comparative world religions.…