Dialectics, Dogmas, and Dissent

Stories from East German Victims of Human Rights Abuse

By (author) John Rodden

Paperback - £23.95

Publication date:

15 January 2014

Length of book:

208 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271036120

Germany underwent two periods of dictatorial repression in the twentieth century, first under Hitler and the Nazis in the late 1930s and early 1940s and then under the communist German Democratic Republic from 1945 until the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. The abuses of human rights under the Nazis are well known and now abundantly documented. The abuses that occurred during the period of the GDR, however, are not so well known and are poorly documented.

Through his interviews with survivors of GDR repression, John Rodden seeks to add to the history of this dark period. He reveals the many different ways in which ordinary people suffered at the hands of a brutal regime and its secret police enforcers, the Stasi. Some presented here are heroes; some are survivors, including those who played along to get along. As one teacher who conformed to stay safe admitted to Rodden, “It was a nation that, by cutting us off from the truth, made cowards of us all.”

“John Rodden is an outsider, an Aüslander, who has managed to tell the story of human rights abuses in the former East Germany to the great satisfaction of the Germans themselves. He has uncovered realms of experience that testify to the physical and mental cruelty of totalitarian regimes. His life histories of political criminals inform us about the myriad forms of inhumanity in the technological age and remind us that such evils are never far away from the present—or ruled out for the future.”

—Thomas Cushman, Wellesley College