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  • Bibliotheken, Bücher und andere Medien in der Zeit des Kalten Krieges
  • Laura Bradley
Bibliotheken, Bücher und andere Medien in der Zeit des Kalten Krieges. Ed. by Peter Vodosek and Wolfgang Schmitz. (Wolfenbütteler Schriften zur Geschichte des Buchwesens, 40.) Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. 2005. 216 pp. €59. isbn 3 447 05287 2.

Since the end of the Cold War, East Germany's archives and libraries have faced major changes. Some municipal libraries, such as Schwerin, have been almost entirely restocked, and academics have begun to sift through the vast quantities of newly declassified archive material. Bibliotheken, Bücher und andere Medien in der Zeit des Kalten Krieges puts the spotlight on German libraries and archives themselves, [End Page 90] together with the media, during the Cold War. The book comprises the papers originally presented at a conference in the Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, in 2002.

The volume, edited by Peter Vodosek and Wolfgang Schmitz, strikes a good balance between East and West Germany. Papers on GDR archives are complemented by articles on newspapers and American libraries in the US-occupied zone, and some contributions compare media across East and West Germany. Others deal with individuals who crossed the borders between the two states, from Rudolf Hoecker, a West Berliner who headed East Berlin's leading library in the immediate post-War years, to Reiner Oschmann, who served as a GDR foreign correspondent in London and Paris for over half of the 1980s. Besides libraries and archives, the volume also covers cartoons, review periodicals, and radio broadcasts. Surprisingly, though, film and television remain conspicuous by their absence.

The personal testimony of Claudia-Leonore Täschner and Karlheinz Blaschke offers a fascinating insight into the closed world of GDR libraries and archives. According to Täschner, librarians sometimes took over two years to catalogue proscribed books by the likes of Wolf Biermann and Reiner Kunze, as they wanted to read the texts while they still had the chance. Although historians have often seen Erich Honecker's appointment as First Party Secretary in 1971 as the start of a period of relative liberalization, Täschner and Blaschke agree that GDR state archives actually became stricter in the 1970s. Archivists could no longer make their catalogues publicly available and were banned from having any contact with Westerners, including their own relatives. As state archives were under the control of the Interior Ministry, former policemen and security officers were drafted in to head GDR archives — partly to guarantee Party control of the institutions, and partly to provide officials with a sinecure.

Louise S. Robbins's investigation of American libraries in West Germany provides a strong counterweight to the discussion of GDR archives. In the only English-language contribution to the volume, Robbins charts the mounting pressures from Joseph McCarthy on American libraries in West Germany, and explains how a powerful campaign from US librarians for 'freedom to read' generated substantial press interest and secured the support of President Eisenhower. The campaigners were motivated primarily by the fear that domestic libraries would otherwise be McCarthy's next victims. Although the pressures facing American libraries in West Germany did not disappear overnight, the situation did slowly improve.

In a discussion of Cold War cartoons, Wolfgang Marienfeld takes readers right through the Cold War, from the wartime allies' initial unity, through Germany's division, to détente and reunification. Although Cold War cartoons were rooted in opposing ideologies, Marienfeld shows that cartoonists in both East and West used fascism as a shorthand for attacking each other. By covering so much ground, Marienfeld inevitably cuts corners, and it is the analysis that occasionally suffers. For instance, he notes that GDR cartoonists treated the Star of David and the swastika as interchangeable symbols during the Six Day War, but passes no comment. He also fails to provide references for any of the primary quotations in the article. Even so, Marienfeld has brought together some excellent material, and his thirty-one illustrations are a highlight of the volume. [End Page 91]

The same cannot, unfortunately, be said of Alexandra Habermann's contribution. She provides the reader with ten pages of background information on the early Cold War before...


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