German Politics During the Cold War: A Four Part Course with Dr. Finn Ballard
During this four-part course, we'll explore Germany's recent history as a divided nation, and will focus particularly on Berlin. Our learning objectives will be structured around these main points of discussion:
We’ll discuss how the alliance between the Allied forces of World War Two disintegrated immediately after VE Day, and see how the Berlin Blockade and subsequent Berlin Airlift precipitated the division of the capital city and country.
We’ll learn about the uprising of June 1953, and how those critical of the ‘German Democratic Republic’ were suppressed.
We’ll see how the Berlin Wall came to rise in 1961 and fall in 1989. And we’ll learn how close the world came to the brink of a much worse catastrophe - more than once!
Led by an expert on twentieth-century German history, Dr. Finn Ballard, this course will answer all the questions you’ve ever wanted to ask about the ‘hermit kingdom’ of East Germany. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of the nuances of this oh-so-recent German history.
Lecture One – The Big Chill: In this session, we'll explore the history of demilitarisation, division, and 'denazification.' We'll discover how the stage for the division of Germany was set during World War Two, and consider how different world history may have developed in the immediate post-war years had other hypotheses - like the short-lived 'Morgenthau Plan' by which Germany would have been reduced to an agrarian backwater - come to fruition. We'll see how tensions between the wartime Allies turned to outright hostility almost before the ink was dry on the Germans' pledge of unconditional surrender on VE Day.
Lecture Two – Candy Bombers, Demonstrations, and a New Dictatorship: In our second session, we'll explore Stalin's last-ditch effort to annex West Berlin: the Berlin Blockade. We'll learn about the incredible Western Allied response - the Berlin Airlift - and how this gesture of solidarity, generosity, and indeed self-sacrifice (by Germany's former enemies) precipitated a vast migration westwards. We'll examine the creation of 'Stalinallee,' East Germany's new showcase boulevard, and what lay beneath this sheen: state-orchestrated violence and draconian levels of control.
Lecture Three – The Berlin Wall and the Stasi: In this class, we'll explore how the Berlin Wall came to be, and the international response to it - not to mention the Berliners' response. We'll also focus on the State Security Service or Stasi, one of the most sinister secret police forces the world has ever known, and see how these two enormous obstacles to freedom impacted everyday life in the East - and West.
Lecture Four – The Great Collapse: In our final session, we'll discuss the history of how the Berlin Wall really collapsed, and how the Soviet Union dissolved itself immediately thereafter. We'll learn of how the scars of the Cold War manifest themselves in Berlin and Germany today, discuss the phenomenon of 'Ostalgie,' 'nostalgia for the East,' and ponder the question: has Germany ever really reunited?
Finn grew up in Northern Ireland before moving to England to study and later teach in the department of Film and Literature at the University of Warwick. He completed his doctoral study on German folklore and popular cinema in 2012, and has published extensively in the fields of Film Studies and Gender Studies. Since 2008, he has been living and guiding in Berlin. He now works as a historical advisor for television and film productions set in Berlin, particularly during the Weimar era or Third Reich. He is a journalist for the 'Siegessauele', Europe's foremost Queer magazine, and organises events at Berlin's English-language bookstore 'Another Country'.
How does it work?
This is a four-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.
Is there a reading list in advance?
Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, there will be suggested readings for further investigation. These will be provided at the course's conclusion.
How long are the lectures?
Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.
How much is the course?
The course is $140 USD for three lectures.
Is a recording available?
Yes. If you need to miss a lecture, you will be sent a recording via email after the event.
Not suitable for children under age 13 (sensitive content).