Television and the Cold War in the German Democratic Republic
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: University of Michigan Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
This work is the product of more years than I would like to admit. That it has finally seen the light of day, so to speak, is due to the support of a number of institutions and individuals. I began this project as a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin, where I received financial, collegial, and moral support. Generous gifts...
I had been in the archive not more than a month when I found a peculiar fragment of the past. In the late 1950s the East German television service had received a letter from an enthusiastic viewer proposing the scenario for a new show. The action revolved around a strong, male protagonist who fought for...
1. Cold War Signals: Television Technology in the GDR
On 2 June 1952, the director of the State Broadcasting Committee (SRK) Kurt Heiss called the recently appointed head of the provisional television center Wolfgang Kleinert and declared, “We must start broadcasting tomorrow, as if we have a real program!”1 These first broadcasts were haphazard. They were...
2. Inventing Television Programming in the GDR
In mid-1952, a young television worker named Günter Hansel arrived for his first day of work at the East German television service (DFF). Despite his youth and inexperience, his new boss immediately threw him into producing the news. Hansel, one of the service’s first employees, experienced “torturing...
3. The Revolution Wasn’t Televised: Political Discipline Confronts Live Television in 1956
In November 1956, an East German broadcasting enthusiast wrote to the head of the State Broadcasting Committee, Gerhard Eisler, to express his dismay with the news coverage of the East German press and broadcasting services. Heinz D., the deputy director of a medical training facility (but who described...
4. Mediating the Berlin Wall: Television in August 1961
In July 1961, the DFF presented the East German television audience with the case of five East Germans arrested for economic espionage against the GDR. The group appeared before the criminal court, accused of gathering information on members of the East German intelligentsia and convincing them by...
5. Coercion and Consent in Television Broadcasting: The Consequences of August 1961
As the Second Berlin Crisis reached a climax with the border closure of August 1961, East German authorities were in a position of renewed strength both in relationship to the West and in their relationship to their own citizens. The initial international diplomatic uproar over the Berlin Wall faded, but 13 August...
6. Reaching Consensus on Television
In August 1961, just days before the construction of the Berlin Wall and while the DFF was still working out the final storyline for Fetzer, the department of television drama of the DFF filmed the final scene of a new mini-series, Revolt of the Conscience (Gewissen in Aufruhr). Hans Oliva wrote the script based on...
By 1989, there was a fairly widespread Western consensus that East Germans spent their evenings watching Western television. Even the (former East) German cultural historian Helmut Hanke characterized West German television as “the only open window on the world, a window that, even during the Cold War...