Opposition und Solidarität: Neue Erkenntnisse zu Beziehungen zwischen den Bürgerrechtsbewegungen der DDR und Polen



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In 1980, the workers of the Gdańsk shipyard in Poland created the self-governing Trade Union Solidarność and practiced civil resistance to advance the causes of workers rights and social change. In 1989, following mass protests in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), thousands of East Berliners crossed into West Berlin and ultimately tore down the wall between the two Germanys. This mass mobilization occurred due to the dissatisfaction of the population with their government, the economic situation, as well as the division between the two states. How did these two movements work together to lead to the collapse of the Soviet Communist system in Central and Eastern Europe? This project examines the historical background and the political conditions that, in combination with individuals and independent groups, led to a stronger alliance between Poland and the GDR. My intent in this study is to document the factors that hindered a relationship after World War II and trace the process each country went through individually, that allowed it to transition into the democratic state it is today. I draw not only from the respective countries, but also discuss the persons involved in making a connection between the two. The relationship between Poland and the GDR is often simplified and categorized as being stuck in the animosities they possessed due to the atrocities during World War II, and the results of discussions after the war. However, they share many similarities, in that they were both under the Soviet Regime until 1989/1990. I am interested in examining the nature of their relationship. Moreover, I want to give voice to the individuals and groups that advocated for a civil rights movement and who fought (mostly) peacefully for freedom, democracy, as well as for a community in the Eastern Block. In order to do this, I investigate the factors that inspires people to mobilize and what is in these societies that created these sentiments. Who were the people that led these movements and why? Finally, to what extent were Poles the model for the overthrow of the GDR government and the impetus for the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)?



GDR, Poland, Cold War, Civil Rights Movement, World War II, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Communism, Post-World War II European Relations