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The East German State and the Catholic Church, 1945-1989

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Volume 11

Studies in German History

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The East German State and the Catholic Church, 1945-1989

Bernd Schaefer
Translated by Jonathan Skolnik and Patricia C. Sutcliffe
Published in Association with the German Historical Institute, Washington, DC

324 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-84545-737-2 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (October 2010)

View CartYour country: - edit Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“The German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C. and Berghahn Books are to be applauded for providing a translation of Schaefer’s decade-old work whose overall findings have not been superseded…Schaefer’s work remains the standard work to which all students of both GDR history and Catholic history after 1945 should refer.” • Journal of Contemporary History

“In compiling a history of relations between the GDR state and the Catholic Church, Schaefer has done much more than the title suggests. This study is also a comprehensive account of the history of the East German state and the way in which it operated… He provides a guide to the labyrinthine world of socialist bureaucracy. And he chronicles the way in which two major authoritarian power blocs—the Catholic Church and the socialist regime—sought to avoid a suicidal collision. I would recommend this book to students of East Germany whatever their specialised area may be.” • English Historical Review

“Bernd Schaefer provides a succinct account of the multi-faceted relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the East German state from 1945 to 1989 in this slightly abridged translation of the German original published more than thirteen years ago. Although many books have since appeared on the subject of the Protestant churches on the other side of the Iron Curtain, Schaefer’s remains the only comprehensive account of the Roman Catholic minority in East Germany in the English language, and one of only two in German. Masterfully exploiting relevant collections from state and diocesan archives, and most notably the files of the ministry for state security (Stasi), Schaefer paints a picture that is largely top-down…This book will remain the essential introduction to the field.” • German History

Praise for the German Edition:
“This publication will spark a discussion about the role of the Catholic Church leadership in the GDR.” • Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung


From 1945 to 1989, relations between the communist East German state and the Catholic Church were contentious and sometimes turbulent. Drawing on extensive Stasi materials and other government and party archives, this study provides the first systematic overview of this complex relationship and offers many new insights into the continuities, changes, and entanglements of policies and strategies on both sides. Previously undiscovered records in church archives contribute to an analysis of regional and sectoral conflicts within the Church and various shades of cooperation between nominal antagonists. The volume also explores relations between the GDR and the Vatican and addresses the oft-neglected communist “church business” controversially made in exchange for hard Western currency.

Bernd Schaefer is a Senior Research Scholar with the Woodrow Wilson International Center’s Cold War International History Project (CWIHP) in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was a Research Fellow at the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C., as well as a Fellow at the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway, and the Hannah Arendt Institute at the Technische Universität in Dresden, Germany. His previous publications (as co-editor) include Ostpolitik, 1969-1974: Global and European Responses (2009); Historical Justice in International Perspective (2009); and American Détente and German Ostpolitik (2004). Between 1993 and 1997, he served as secretary for the East German Catholic Church’s Stasi lustration commission in Berlin.

Subject: History: 20th Century to Present
Area: Germany


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