For Our Country

The original print out of the Für Unser Land statement

(This article was originally written for and posted on the website of the interdisciplinary academic network Cultures of the Cold War.)

In the counter-factual novel Stealing The Future the rift with reality is pinpointed as beginning on the 4th November 1989, and the For Our Country statement has a significant role to play in building East Germans’ confidence in their ability to remain independent of West Germany. Continue reading “For Our Country”

How realistic is Deutschland 83?

As the author of Stealing the Future I’ve been asked a fair bit about Deutschland 83 over the last few weeks – mostly about whether or not the series is at all realistic. The series is a fun but unreliable witness to both East and West in 1983, but in this post I shall be outlining how Martin Rauch would have been recruited in the real GDR of 1983.

Continue reading “How realistic is Deutschland 83?”

Political Structures in Stealing the Future – Part I

Citizens enter the main Stasi HQ in Berlin

Where to start?

When writing a political novel the author needs to be very clear about the political structures that form the framework of the story, not to mention how they work on a day-to-day basis (indeed it is the tension between the theory and the practice of these institutions that provide the gaps that allow such stories to be developed).

The reader of Stealing the Future will have picked up on the fact that there are parliaments at several levels (Volkskammer at the federal level, and the Landeskammern at the Land, or regional level). But in Martin’s everyday life, most of the actual decisions are taken by the Ministry of the Interior (at which he works) or by the various assemblies – from the Central Round Table right down to the plenary meeting of the residents in his tenement block. Continue reading “Political Structures in Stealing the Future – Part I”

Could the GDR have survived? Part III – the Geopolitics of Stealing the Future

Gorbachev and Honecker in conference

 

 

As I said in Part II, in Stealing the Future I’ve tried to remain as true to historical fact as possible – practically this means trying to keep the history of countries other than Germany pretty much true to real life. Outside the GDR the biggest surprise is the continued existence of the USSR. I decided to let Mikhail Gorbachev keep the Soviet ship of state afloat, despite all its leaks and mutinies. Continue reading “Could the GDR have survived? Part III – the Geopolitics of Stealing the Future”

Spelling – how to spell West Berlin, Westberlin, West-Berlin…

An East German Map, showing West Berlin as an empty space.

West Berlin, Westberlin, West-Berlin, Berlin (West), B(W), BW?!?

It wasn’t until I’d finished my first draft of Stealing The Future that I started worrying about how to spell Westberlin (or West Berlin, West-Berlin or even Berlin (West)!). I’d blithely tapped away at my keyboard, using the Eastgerman (East German) vernacular, only realising that this may seem odd to a non-German audience, or even a Westgerman (West German) audience.

In English it’s really not very hard: West Berlin, West Germany, East Berlin, East Germany. But in German the way you spell West Berlin tells the reader something about you, and your politics. Yep, you guessed right, it’s about the Cold War, of course. Continue reading “Spelling – how to spell West Berlin, Westberlin, West-Berlin…”

Für unser Land

Demonstration for an open country and free people 1989

Unser Land steckt in einer tiefen Krise. Wie wir bisher gelebt haben, können und wollen wir nicht mehr leben. Die Führung einer Partei hatte sich die Herrschaft über das Volk und seine Vertretungen angemaßt, vom Stalinismus geprägte Strukturen hatten alle Lebensbereiche durchdrungen. Gewaltfrei, durch Massendemonstrationen hat das Volk den Prozess der revolutionären Erneuerung erzwungen, der sich in atemberaubender Geschwindigkeit vollzieht. Uns bleibt nur wenig Zeit, auf die verschiedenen Möglichkeiten Einfluss zu nehmen, die sich als Auswege aus der Krise anbieten. Continue reading “Für unser Land”

Verfassung der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik – Entwurf 1990

Header from the government gazette of the GDR

(See also the post Constitution of 1990.)

Verfassung der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik

Berlin, April 1990

Inhalt

Präambel

I. Kapitel
Art. 1-40 Menschen- und Bürgerrechte
Art. 1-25 Würde, Gleichheit, Freiheit, Solidarität .
Art. 26-33 Arbeit, Wirtschaft, Umwelt
Art. 34 Rechte der Sorben
Art. 35-39 Gesellschaftliche Gruppen und Verbände
Art. 40 Geltung Continue reading “Verfassung der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik – Entwurf 1990”

The Constitution of 1990

Header from the government gazette of the GDR

One of the joys of writing fiction, I find, is the absolute power an author has over the characters and events in the story. Nevertheless, that power is limited by the needs of the reader—unconvincing, illogical and irrational plots may be fun to dream up and write, but will leave most readers unsatisfied. For that reason, when writing Stealing the Future I found I needed to place the events into various kinds of frameworks and contexts—there was a real need to make the story both plausible and believable.

Clearly history presented me with one set of limits. The novel is counter-factual – branching away from ‘real’ history at the beginning of November 1989 – but I felt there was a practical limit as to what a society (no matter how energetic and idealistic) could achieve in just under three years. Continue reading “The Constitution of 1990”

Point of Divergence – when history splits

GDR Coat of Arms

Point of Divergence

Stealing the Future is set in 1993 – nearly three years after (in ‘our’ world) the GDR ceased to exist. But in the East Berlin Series, the GDR has continued to exist, and is searching for ways to remain economically, politically and socially viable as a country in its own right.

Inevitably a change such as this would have an impact on the rest of the world, and perhaps more importantly, demands other changes in order to be at all possible. I talk about this more in the post How plausible is Stealing the Future, (including a look at the economic and the geo-political situation). Continue reading “Point of Divergence – when history splits”

Could the GDR have survived? Part II – the Economics of Stealing the Future

External factors were the main cause of death for the GDR economy. In those days the economies of the Soviet dominated Eastern Bloc were far more globalised than we are even today, and the collapse of COMECON – the East European trading bloc in January 1990 meant that export markets disappeared overnight. New trade links could theoretically have been built were it not for the preparations to introduce the West German D-Mark in the GDR. This happened in June 1990 and meant that all the GDR’s traditional trade partners were simply unable to pay for goods or services from East Germany. Continue reading “Could the GDR have survived? Part II – the Economics of Stealing the Future”

Martin’s Music Part II – Not Fade Away by the Amiga Blues Band

LP Cover for Not Fade Away

The Blues Scene in the GDR started in the late 1950s, gaining official recognition in the 1960s and peaking by the 1970s. But it wasn’t until the 1980s that the cultural power of the Bluesers was turned to political ends – this was the point at which the scene became strongly associated with the independent grassroots peace movement. Continue reading “Martin’s Music Part II – Not Fade Away by the Amiga Blues Band”

Martin’s Music Part I – Das Buch by the Puhdys

The Puhdys may seem an odd choice of music for the protagonist of Stealing the Future – a band that was quite happy to get into bed with the senile East German leadership in return for success and the right to tour in the West. They’ve been criticised for providing the state with plastic rock-music that had only the merest hint of the rebellion that rock’n’roll is supposedly proud of. Continue reading “Martin’s Music Part I – Das Buch by the Puhdys”

Tour 3 – Cops and Squats

Mainzer Strasse in 1990

A walking tour around some of the squats of Friedrichshain, a trip to the Museum of Youth Resistance against the Nazis and the Communists, taking in the impressive Stalinist architecture of the Karl-Marx-Allee and the notorious police station near the film set of the The Lives of Others on Marchlewskistrasse. Consider doing this tour in the evening if you want to try the food, beer and punk bands playing in the social centres in the old squats!

Walking distance: 4km/2.5 Miles; 90 mins, plus time to visit museum.
Start: Samariterstrasse U-Bahn Station (U5); End: Weberwiese U-Bahn Station (U5) or Warschauer Strasse S and U-Bahn Station (U1). Continue reading “Tour 3 – Cops and Squats”