9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN03 Biographical Perspectives on European Societies

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 The impact of the second world war on memory and generations Building II, C2.02

The "War-Generation" in the period of Cold War. Biographical experiences and political action in Eastern and Western Germany after 1945

This generation, born in Germany between 1920 and 1936, World War II had interrupted their school or (beginning) occupations. The younger socialized in the National Socialist Youth Organizations. After 1945, they could return to civil life and peace. Using empirical findings of my biographical research, I could show, that a more differentiated view on this generation is necessary.
First the paper shows, using the example of a biographical study of East Germany's Workers' and Peasants' Colleges in the 1950th how the reciprocity between biographies and institutional field has a generational forming force. This institution was part of the anti-fascistic frame of mind and therefore at the same time supports a "fascism prophylaxis". In this institutional context a generational unit (Mannheim) arose, linked by both the suffering from common life historic experiences (World War II; National Socialism) and also the willing to engage in for a better future in GDR. This has developed a life-long generational sense of belonging with the institution and GDR. After German unification, they felt discredited.
Secondly the paper will focus on a comparable generational unit in Western Germany, we found in my current research about political action and political biographies between 1945 and 1968 in East and West Germany. People belonging to this unit wanted to establish a peaceful and new Germany after 1945. They acted in the context of West German Communist Party. Soon different concepts of the enemies were established in the political culture in East and West during the time of Cold War. People arrested in the 1950th in West Germany because of anticommunist tendencies. This three aspects, first their war experiences, secondly the experiences of arrest in the 1950th and last but not least the fact, that they are still suffering until today, had formed their self-definition: They see themselves as the forgotten victims of the Cold War.
In both cases described above, these processes are constitutive for biographical constructions,and intergenerational interactions, two. The main question of the talk would be the connection of biographical experiences, the origin of generational units, special forms of self-presentation with changing political frames and social memories.