The Wall in My Backyard: East German Women in Transition

The Wall in My Backyard: East German Women in Transition

The Wall in My Backyard: East German Women in Transition

The Wall in My Backyard: East German Women in Transition

Synopsis

"With the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and German unification less than a year later, East Germany entered a period of radical change. In this collection of interviews, eighteen East German women describe the excitement, chaos, and frustration of this transitional period. The interviewees discuss candidly the problems they have faced as women in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and in the new Germany. Although the East German government proclaimed equal rights for men and women and promoted women in the dual role of worker and mother, the interviewees often take issue with those policies. The perspectives contained here are as diverse as the women who voice them. Ranging in age from twenty to sixty-nine, the women work at a variety of occupations, including filmmaker, mental health therapist, water safety instructor, university professor, housekeeper, writer, and representative to Parliament. In telling their stories, they present a wide range of experience that offers the reader a multidimensional view of life in the former GDR. The interviews challenge conventional notions about what East German women gained under socialism as well as what they lost after unification. The book shows that many women are successfully negotiating the obstacles of the transition, taking responsibility for their lives in ways that were not possible in the GDR." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

The radical changes that occurred in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) with the opening of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 ushered in a period of chaotic transition for the East German people. The collapse of the forty-yearold government of the Socialist Unity Party (SED), the speedy economic and political unification with the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), the abrupt switch from a centrally planned economy to a social market economy, and the complicated restructuring of all social and political institutions marked one of the most far-reaching turning points of modern European history. The enormous psychological adjustment accompanying each of these processes, including the overnight change of citizenship for sixteen million people, cannot be easily comprehended. Indeed, the more extensive the study of this transition -- called in German the "Wende," or turn -- the greater the sense of its complexity.

This book is a collection of interviews with eighteen women who experienced that automatic change of citizenship. In the interviews the women touch upon numerous aspects of life in the former GDR, the territory now referred to as the five new federal states. They depict the excitement and frustration of the rapid and radical changes that followed the lifting of travel restrictions and the opening of the Wall. They also tell how their lives were affected by the social and political changes of German unification.

The book's focus, however, is women's issues, as the interviewees discuss candidly and critically some of the problems they faced as women. Because the GDR proclaimed legal equality for women, the editors wanted to know whether these women perceived themselves as equal to men in their society. We were . . .

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