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The People's Own Landscape

Nature, Tourism, and Dictatorship in East Germany

Scott Moranda

Publication Year: 2014

East Germany’s Socialist Unity Party aimed to placate a public well aware of the higher standards of living enjoyed elsewhere by encouraging them to participate in outdoor activities and take vacations in the countryside. Scott Moranda considers East Germany’s rural landscapes from the perspective of both technical experts (landscape architects, biologists, and physicians) who hoped to dictate how vacationers interacted with nature, and the vacationers themselves, whose outdoor experience shaped their understanding of environmental change. As authorities eliminated traditional tourist and nature conservation organizations, dissident conservationists demanded better protection of natural spaces. At the same time, many East Germans shared their government’s expectations for economic development that had real consequences for the land. By the 1980s, environmentalists saw themselves as outsiders struggling against the state and a public that had embraced mainstream ideas about limitless economic growth and material pleasures.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Social History, Popular Culture, and Pol

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This book has been long in the making and thus owes a debt to many people. I especially want to thank my mom for all of her love and support. She eventually became a high school German teacher, but she was serving in the American military in West Berlin when I was born. The Federal Archive in Berlin...

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pp. 1-24

Twentieth-century communism promised to build a new world and fashion new men and women to inhabit it, and in a manner of speaking, German communists were wildly successful. Right down to its chemical structure, Germany between the Iron Curtain and the Oder-Neisse line had been made anew. Under...

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1. Conquering the Countryside: Athletic Tourism in the Early GDR

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pp. 25-48

Immediately after the conclusion of World War II, the victors redrew the map of Germany, handing over much of eastern Prussia to Poland and dividing the remaining territory among the Allied powers. In the Soviet Occupation Zone, the Red Army helped establish the dominance of the German Communist...

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2. Rejuvenating Socialist Workers: Conservation and Landscape Care in the 1950s

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pp. 49-78

In 1954, a West Berlin newspaper reported that East German authorities had proposed a national park in the beloved forests of “Saxon Switzerland” to the south of Dresden. The proposal, in the journalist’s opinion, revealed the growing penetration of a centralizing regime into every nook and cranny of everyday...

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3. Making Rough Nature More Comfortable: Camping in East Germany

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pp. 79-106

In the 1970s as the GDR reached the end of its third decade, a state publishing company printed a series of East German postcards that featured scenes from bungalow colonies and campgrounds. Images of lakeshores and rolling hill country included Trabant automobiles, motorcycles, and tents nestled in a...

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4. A New Environmental Law: Landscape Care, Global Ecology, and Domestic Social Policy

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pp. 107-134

Given the history of landscape care in the 1950s, the SED’s approval of a comprehensive conservation law (the Landeskulturgesetz) in 1970 is somewhat of a mystery, especially as it predated many similar laws in Western Europe. Landeskultur was a term familiar to West Germans, but it had particular...

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5. Real Existing Socialism: Nature, Social Inequalities, and Environmental Consciousness

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pp. 135-155

In 2003, the movie Good Bye Lenin! highlighted the sudden and traumatic disappearance of an entire material culture and the equally overwhelming spread of West German consumer goods into every nook and cranny of East Berlin after 1989. The movie’s climactic scene unfolds, interestingly, at an East...

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6. The Limits of Growth and the New Environmentalism

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pp. 156-180

During the GDR’s lifetime, East Germany’s Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) suffered from decades of sulfur dioxide poisoning from coal-fired electrical plants located in both the GDR and Czechoslovakia. In response, angry local residents wrote numerous letters of complaint (or Eingaben) to the Ministry for...

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pp. 181-186

For all that was new about East German environmentalism in the 1980s, it is remarkable how vital tourism remained to debates about nature and nature protection in East Germany. Tourism and nature protection had long been linked in German history, at least as early as the homeland protection movement of...


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pp. 187-214


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pp. 215-230

E-ISBN-13: 9780472029723
E-ISBN-10: 047202972X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472119134

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Social History, Popular Culture, and Pol