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Friendship without Borders: Women's Stories of Power, Politics, and Everyday Life across East and West Germany

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Friendship without Borders

Women's Stories of Power, Politics, and Everyday Life across East and West Germany

Phil Leask

418 pages, 21 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78920-655-5 $149.00/£110.00 Hb Not Yet Published (March 2020)

eISBN 978-1-78920-656-2 eBook Not Yet Published

Hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“The phrase ‘paradigm-altering’ is used in an inflationary way, but in this case of this book it seems appropriate. Friendship, Power, and Everyday Life will change the way we approach the social history of the twentieth century. In important respects, it alters our view of gender relations in the Third Reich, FRG and GDR.” • Mark Fenemore, Senior Lecturer in Modern European History

“Leask writes with great care for and due attention to the lives of the Schönebeck women. The reader is given a glimpse into their ‘unpolitical’ world, from the ins and outs of their daily lives—love, death, marriage, children—to their experiences living through some of the major ruptures of European history.” • Jane Freeland, German Historical Institute London


Across half a century, from the division of Germany through the end of the Cold War, a cohort of thirty women from the small German town of Schönebeck in what used to be the GDR circulated among themselves a remarkable collective archive of their lives: a Rundbrief, or bulletin, containing hundreds of letters and photographs. This book draws on that unprecedented resource, complemented by a set of interviews, to paint a rich portrait of “ordinary” life in postwar Germany. It shows how these women—whether reflecting on their experiences as Nazi-era schoolchildren or witnessing reunification—were united by their complex interactions with official power and their commitment to sustaining a shared German identity as they made the most of their everyday lives in both the GDR and the Federal Republic.

Phil Leask is an honorary research associate in the School of European Languages, Culture and Society at University College London. The author of numerous novels and short stories as well as scholarly reviews and articles, he has also contributed to several edited volumes: Becoming East German: Socialist Structures and Sensibilities after Hitler (ed. Mary Fulbrook and Andrew I. Port, Berghahn 2013); Ruptures in the Everyday: Views of Modern Germany from the Ground (ed. Andrew S. Bergerson and Leonard Schmieding, Berghahn 2017); and Psychodynamics of Writing (ed. Martin Weegmann, Routledge 2018.).

Subject: General History Sociology Gender Studies
Area: Germany


List of the Schönebeck women and where they went
List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
List of Maps


Part I: From schoolgirls to young women

Chapter 1. Growing up in the Third Reich
Chapter 2. Into adult life
Chapter 3. Conclusion: from schoolgirls to young women

Part II: Grown up: the long 1950s

Chapter 4. The “woman question”
Chapter 5. Homes and families
Chapter 6. Interaction with the state
Chapter 7. Role models and the principal stories
Chapter 8. Travel, holidays, leisure
Chapter 9. Conclusion: grown up

Part III: No longer young: the 1960s

Chapter 10. Overview
Chapter 11. The principal stories
Chapter 12. Families
Chapter 13. Interaction with the state
Chapter 14. Travel, holidays, leisure
Chapter 15. Health, illness, death
Chapter 16. Conclusion: no longer young

Part IV: Turning fifty: the 1970s

Chapter 17. Introduction
Chapter 18. The group and their letters
Chapter 19. The principal stories
Chapter 20. Interaction with the state
Chapter 21. Other concerns: from holidays to health
Chapter 22. Conclusion: turning fifty

Part V: Towards retirement: the 1980s

Chapter 23. Introduction
Chapter 24. The group: coping with tensions and losses
Chapter 25. Health, illness, and death
Chapter 26. The principal stories
Chapter 27. Interaction with the state
Chapter 28. The Denver, Colorado, connection
Chapter 29. Conclusion: towards retirement

Part VI: Reunited? The 1990s and beyond

Chapter 30. The context
Chapter 31. Responding to the Wende and reunification
Chapter 32. The principal stories
Chapter 33. Decline
Chapter 34. Looking back later: the principal figures
Chapter 35. Conclusion: reunited?

Final thoughts: the Schönebeck women and their group


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