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Individual vs. SocietyPhoto (detail): Harald Hauswald @ Bundesstiftung Aufarbeitung

Individual vs. Society

How did both Germanys structure the ways in which individuals could be active or inactive part of their respective societies?  Was the wellbeing of the collective a Leitprinzip in the GDR? And did the individual take center stage in Capitalist West Germany? Was is that easy? How did young people in the GDR- despite calls to conformity- try to distinguish themselves from each other?

Collective solidarity vs. individual independence Video still © Goethe-Institut New York

"Elbow society" and Solidarity by Necessity

In the GDR, the idea that people were there for each other, something called "grassroot solidarity," was a stated goal for the political system. How did solidarity work in reality and what was a "Notgemeinschaft"? How about West Germany's "elbow society?"


Individual vs. Society: What counts? Video still © Goethe-Institut New York

Collectivity and Work ethic

Individual Vs. Society: What counts? How did German citizens find ways to distinguish themselves in a society that favored collectivity? 

Nachhaltiges Handeln, eine individuelle Entscheidung?   © Goethe-Institut New York

For students of German

Is sustainability an individual or collective choice? 
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Open Memory Box © Open Memory Box

The Work Brigades

The GDR was described as a Nischengesellschaft (niche-society) in which people withdrew into their private lives (as shown extensively throughout the Open Memory Box), but work brigades were truly sites of sociability. 

Open Memory Box © Open Memory Box

Lip service loyalty

....whereas political parades and demonstrations more often prompted lip-service loyalty. 

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