Politics and Religion in Central and Eastern Europe: Traditions and Transitions

By William H. Swatos Jr | Go to book overview
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10
The Church as Catalyst in East Germany's Freedom Movement

Karen C. Hartley

After World War II, the victorious allies -- France, Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union -- divided Germany into four parts. Berlin, the capital city, was also divided into four parts. The Soviet Union immediately began to separate from the other allies and, in 1947, established the communist "German Democratic Republic" (East Germany, the GDR). This part of Germany surrounded the three allied areas of Berlin, so the city also became divided. In 1952, the Socialist Unity party (SED) received a majority of the seats in the "democratic" parliament. The SED consolidated power over the next several years, until the Soviets felt that the government had sufficient strength that they could pull out of the country. In August 1961, the communists in East Germany put up a wall through Berlin, separating the communist eastern side from the capitalist western side. Gradually a wall was built around all of East Germany, so that its citizens could not get out, and outsiders could not get in. The country was seen from the outside as extremely stable and relatively prosperous.

September through November of 1989 proved this analysis to be incorrect. In a three-month period, the ruler of the country for twenty- seven years was overthrown, the Communist party was ousted, and the wall came tumbling down. A primary influence in the overthrow of communism was the freedom movement, which had been born in the

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