In 1945, when the Red Army marched in, eastern Germany was not “occupied” but “liberated.” This, until the recent collapse of the Soviet Bloc, is what passed for history in the German Democratic Republic. Now, making use of newly opened archives in Russia and Germany, Norman Naimark reveals what happened during the Soviet occupation of eastern Germany from 1945 through 1949. His book offers a comprehensive look at Soviet policies in the occupied zone and their practical consequences for Germans and Russians alike—and, ultimately, for postwar Europe.
In rich and lucid detail, Naimark captures the mood and the daily reality of the occupation, the chaos and contradictions of a period marked by rape and repression, the plundering of factories, the exploitation of German science, and the rise of the East German police state. Never have these practices and their place in the overall Soviet strategy, particularly the political development of the zone, received such thorough treatment. Here we have our first clear view of how the Russians regarded the postwar settlement and the German question, how they made policy on issues from reparations to technology transfer to the acquisition of uranium, how they justified their goals, how they met them or failed, and how they changed eastern Germany in the process. The Russians in Germany also takes us deep into the politics of culture as Naimark explores the ways in which Soviet officers used film, theater, and education to foster the Bolshevization of the zone.
Unique in its broad, comparative approach to the Soviet military government in Germany, this book fills in a missing—and ultimately fascinating—chapter in the history of modern Europe.
[A] masterly analysis of the Soviet occupation between the end of the war and the emergence of two German states… [A] startlingly original book.
The best study of the making of Communist East Germany, based on remarkable archival research and invaluable for anyone seeking to understand the psychological as well as the political origins of the German Democratic Republic.
An outstanding analysis of the ruthless Stalinization of East Germany in the early postwar years, and of its economic and scientific exploitation. Using newly released East German and Soviet archives, [Naimark] gives us a complete picture of what has been called Stalin’s ‘march to the west.’
[A] remarkable historical treatment… [This] is a quite splendid work of erudition, style and humanity, which replaces all earlier writing in English on the subject… Using primarily the German and the Russian sources, Naimark sets new levels of archival research and raises many issues for historians to debate in years to come… It is unlikely…that his overall study of these few crucial years will be superseded for a good while to come. In particular, he has set the scene for a fuller understanding of the regime and society which followed the occupation.
What makes this book superior to anything that has been written about the Soviets in early postwar Germany…is its comprehensiveness. It contains important chapters on reparations and economic transformation, the use of German scientists, culture and education, and the construction of an Orwellian police state. Finally, there is a lengthy and daunting chapter on ‘Soviet Soldiers, German Women, and the Problem of Rape.’ For many years, this remained a taboo subject, and when Naimark began his research, it took some courage to venture into this field… This excellent study of the encounter between Russians and Germans after the defeat of Nazism contains a wealth of insights for all historians of postwar Europe.
[An] impressive study…a nuanced and balanced picture of the development of the Soviet Zone… The range of topics addressed is staggering, since the text moves from administration to rape, from reparations to science, from relations with the Left to issues of control, from the police state to cultural policy… [A] pathbreaking book.
When the Berlin Wall blocking access to East German and USSR archives came tumbling down, historians had the grand opportunity to discover what had transpired in its ominous shadows. This study shows the wondrous potential for revolutionizing Cold War history.
[Norman Naimark] has produced a richly textured and important story, delving into subjects usually ignored in the longer narratives of postwar eastern Germany, including the sensitive issue of Red Army rape during the period of conquest and early occupation, the seizure of scientific materials and talent, and the organization of popular culture. From my perspective, Naimark’s perspective and conclusions are both sensitive and sensible… This book represents one of the first important results of multiarchival work that draws on records so unattainable until recently but so critical to historical reconstruction. The Soviet archives will never finally resolve issues of historical intention and responsibility, any more than American archives, but they are the basis for informed inference and argumentation. Naimark uses them precisely in that scholarly spirit. The Russians in Germany will remain one of the exemplary contributions to the unfolding post-1989 historiography of Europe under communism.
Naimark’s achievement is superb. His book is elegantly written, clearly analyzed, rich in detail.
Naimark has produced a brilliant history of the first four years of what was to become the German Democratic Republic… Highly recommended.
Naimark’s work is an important study of nation-building in the Eastern bloc and will also be of interest to students of German politics, history, and reunification… This is likely to be the standard text on the early years of GDR.
- 608 pages
- 6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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