The final session of last year’s ‘A Different View of German History’ course will be held on Friday 18 February at 2pm when we will finally concentrate on the German Democratic Republic. Or, as it was also called, East Germany. I would like to invite members who have an interest in this topic but did not attend last year to join us on Friday 18 February at 2pm in the U3A meeting room. The session will include a slide presentation of photographs of East Berlin in 1970 which may be of interest.
We will finally finish our course on Friday 18 February at 2pm when we will at last concentrate on the German Democratic Republic. Or, as it was also called, East Germany.
The German Democratic Republic came into existence in opposition to the Federal Republic of West Germany and its currency. The Soviet Union thought that Germany would be occupied for 20 years by the Allies and would not have its own government and currency etc. When the West set up West Germany the Soviet Union gave its approval for the German Democratic Republic to come into existence.
The German Democratic Republic started with many problems. It had no natural resources. It had no hard currency. It had a reducing population. It had to pay reparations to the Soviet Union. Its heavy industry was mostly confiscated by the Soviet Union. It had West Berlin right in the centre of the country. So it had lots of problems. It's surprising it lasted for 40 years.
We will be examining how the country was governed and the methods used in the administration of the country. This will be a detailed examination.
I would like to invite members who have an interest in this topic but did not attend last year to join us on Friday 18 February at 2pm in the U3A meeting room. The session will include a slide presentation of photographs of East Berlin in 1970 which may be of interest.
Our last meeting for 2021 - the demise of Nazi Germany and the establishment of the German Democratic Republic
At our last meeting on Tuesday, 26th October we discussed some unfortunate occurrences that occurred in Nazi Germany. To say there were some unfortunate occurrences perpetrated by Nazi Germany is an understatement. The world benefited from the policy agreed to by the three main allies that they would accept only Unconditional Surrender by Nazi Germany.
We discussed the reason why the GDR came into existence and some of the problems they encountered.
Because of the low numbers attending the course it was suggested to me that we finish and not continue into next year. However, as the course was designed to finish with a detailed examination of the GDR, I would like to have one more day where we concentrate solely on the history of the GDR. I have been granted a slot in February (date not yet known) and will attempt to make sure everyone knows when this will be.
I am hoping that I might be able to generate some interest from the wider U3A community and we may have a larger attendance. I am thinking of resorting to a Press Gang. Stay tuned.
This month (October) we studied how the Government of the German Democratic Republic was structured. We examined its Constitution in detail. We noted how it worked in practice.'
The GRD had 21 Million People when it was set up in 1949. By 1961 it had 17 Million people.There was always a constant strain on their capacity to cope with their need for labour as people moved West.
The GDR had no natural resources. It had a constant problem with lack of hard currency. They had no assets to offer to the west in exchange for hard currency. Until the riots of 1952 it had to pay reparations to the Soviet Union.
Nevertheless they persisted. Slowly their standard of living rose. Their idea was to set up a Utopian Society based on justice and equality for all. This manifested itself in manufacturing the same car for everyone and providing everyone with an identical apartment. But they were always next to West Germany and West Berlin was a gaping hole in the middle of the country. There was nowhere in the GDR where they could not get West German Television. This was monumental distraction.
We looked at some slides taken in 1960 East Berlin and some slides of East Berlin taken 2 years ago.
Please note that a meeting will not be held in November as the date falls on the day of the Christmas Lunch at Chrismont Winery. If an alternative time can be found in early December, I will contact class members to let them know. If we meet, we will examine in detail life inside the GDR.
At our September meeting we started by looking at how much smaller Germany is compared to its size before the First World War. Germany is approximately half the size it was in 1913. Germany had large amounts of land removed - some said stolen - by the Treaty of Versailles - and even larger areas of land were removed after World War 2.
So far Germany hasn't complained. They have decided to get on with their lives and try and make up for the misdeeds of the Nazi period.
The Nazi period was dominated by its focus on Anti Semitism. In every year between 1933 to 1945 there were increasingly onerous laws passed aimed at removing Jewish people from German life. One seemingly insane law passed in 1938 made every male add the name Israel to their names and every female add the name Sarah to their names. As if this wasn't enough as the letter J was already stamped on every Passport and Identification Paper.
The Nazi period is still hard to fathom or explain.
Germany however appears to be coming to terms with its past and has erected several structures which make an attempt to accept that great injustices were perpetrated by the German People. Since reunification Germany has been able to take into consideration all its history and is making an effort to at least reconcile with the past.
At our next meeting we will finally get around to studying the German Democratic Republic
The GDR was a Utopian concept. It had high ideals and is well worth studying.
The Wall has now been down for longer than it was up. Berlin is a wonderful vibrant city that is well worth visiting. Most residents under 30 do not know if they now live in either West or East Berlin.
We had to postpone our August meeting. Let’s hope we will be able to meet in September. If we don’t watch out the length of our course will take longer to complete than the GDR was in existence!
When we do meet, we will be concentrating on the Nazi period. The Weimar Republic period which was derogatory term used by Hitler lasted for only 14 years. The Nazi period lasted for roughly the same time. Can we even compare each period?
At our June meeting we went over the Versailles Treaty and the consequences that happened because of it. It is worth noting that a number of wars can be sheeted home to the Treaty of Versailles and the influence our Prime Minister had on it.
We also discussed the Weimar republic. The Weimar republic was a genuine attempt at good government that was never accepted. The Weimar Republic had strict proportional representation. It had strict civil rights for all. It had one vote one value. It had universal suffrage for both males and females. Governments had to have a more than 50% majority in Parliament.
A myriad of balances were built in to ensure democracy reigned and no one group could take advantage.
It accepted the conditions of the Versailles Treaty and attempted to comply with its conditions.
It goes without saying that pretty well all political classes, all individual parties and all pressure groups hated it with a passion.
Next month we will discuss the Nazi Period.
We are slowly moving toward the GDR.
On Tuesday 25 May we concentrated on Otto Von Bismark and Kaiser Wilhelm the second.
Bismark was one of the worlds great politicians who was able to reconcile most conflicts both within Germany and conflicts between Germany and other states. He instituted universal suffrage and universal welfare but remained a dedicated monarchist who believed implicitly in claiming the privileged classes were best suited to govern the country. More specifically he himself was best suited to run the government.
Wilhelm the second had much the same thoughts. This led to conflict that was only resolved by Bismarks removal in 1890.
Kaiser Wilhelm or Kaiser William was grandson of Queen Victoria. Some said her favourite grandson.
In the years 1871 to 1890 Germany became the dominant country in Europe. These were the years when both men were in office. After 1890 the Kaiser tried to outdo the UK in military spending.
We also asked the question - who started the first world war?
We resolved that it wasn’t Germany.
But Germany was forced to take the blame and was severely punished by the Treaty of Versailles.
Next month we will be concentrating on The Weimar Republic.
We are slowly working our way towards the German Democratic Republic.
At our last meeting I attempted to describe German Culture. German Culture existed long before the German State did and was admired and even held in awe by all other European people. It influenced most societies which considered themselves civilised.
But who was German?
Who came first, Bach or Beethoven?
Who considered themselves German?
Where did Germany start or Germany end?
Which countries made up Germany?
We listened to some music that is considered German. We read some German Poetry that has been put to music.
At our next meeting we will concentrate on three German Personalities. Luther. Metternich and Bismark.
After the Covid hiatus - When did Germany come into exis-tence? Can we say with confidence - who was German? ....
The history of Germany can be classed as controversial on several levels. For instance - when did Germany come into existence. We all have our own view on history but can we say with confidence - who was German? We will be looking into such subjects over several weeks.
Before our Covid hiatus we had one session on the German connection with the UK Royal Family.
The conventional history of Germany can be split into a number of periods.
1. The pre Empire.
2. The Empire period
3. The Weimar period.
4. The Nazi period.
5. The German Democratic Republic period.
We will be concentrating on the evolution of German Culture and certain aspects consistent with all periods.
The first class of A Different View of German History will be held on Tuesday 23rd February from 2 to 4 pm in the U3A Meeting Room provided building renovations/maintenance has been completed.
Unfortunately we will not be able to meet and discuss Germany's History for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19 regulations. However when we do return we will be even keener to take part in U3A activities.
It is worth noting that the Berlin Wall has now been down longer than it was up. I have opened up my slide boxes and discovered some slides that show the wall in 1970. We will see them when we return.
In modern Berlin little evidence of the Wall exists. In the tour groups that we went on I was the only person old enough to have seen both sides of the wall. Not that anyone was impressed. Especially the tour guides.
Part of the Berlin Wall at Night, 1970
When we return we will be spending a full day on East Berlin. I hope everyone is looking forward to it.
A Different View of German History
‘A Different View of Germany History’ will be split into several periods:
Convenor and Contact Details
0428 858 688
Meeting Time/ Place
4th Tuesday 2:00 to 4:00 pm U3A Meeting Room
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Photographs - U3A members; Benalla Art Gallery website; Weebly 'Free' images;Travel Victoria and State Library of Victoria