The Use of Propaganda in the GDR During the Cold War
More than any other wars, the Cold War was fought with words, mainly through the media as psychological warfare. Popular culture was used as a decoy to sway the opinions of the general public in support of various governmental institutions. In East Germany, political propaganda was frequently incorporated into film, journalism, and the mass media to promote socialism. East Germany was a close ally to the Soviet Union who fought to keep western influences and capitalism out of their culture. To do so, films and newspapers idealized socialism and steered clear of capitalistic ideologies. In 1961 a permanent blockade was built as an “iron curtain” to keep East Germany completely isolated from western culture, which allowed the government to have complete control over what political messages were introduced to its citizens. East German officials filtered all forms of entertainment such as music, books, journals, and movies in order to prevent Western influences from interfering with East German politics. Through a variety of institutions, the GDR manipulated the minds and ideologies of the East German people, in particular the youth to indoctrinate them with socialist ideas and instill in them guidance for leadership roles as the future of the GDR.
One fear in East Germany was the impact of Western popular culture on the younger generations who might be corrupted by racy and rebellious American pop culture, “people in the GDR associated Western capitalism with exploitative, consumer-oriented attitudes toward sex that were outdated and damaging” . Political authorities saw women as a particular target of the capitalists with the introduction of the department store. Advertisements had been using overtly sexual themes since the end of the late nineteenth century, and East Germany feared these selling methods would taint the gender roles and behavior of their youth: …The alleged connections between the consumption of mass culture, the oversexualization of women, and the feminization of men were particularly worrisome to East and West Germans in the 1950s. After the defeat of National Socialism and in the face of the Cold War, authorities in both states saw the success of reconstruction as dependent on reconfigurating and revalidating Germanness.
American influences, they feared, would take away from German identity. Both East and West Germany were in a fragile state of being and in order to reestablish themselves as two separate nations, it was important that the citizens were proud of their nationality. Because the youth represent the future of socialism and the GDR, political authorities were strict not to let Western culture taint their nationalism. As a way to keep American influences out of the picture, East Germany screened what its youth was exposed to and through propaganda methods used the media to reiterate socialist ideas instead.
The GDR controlled the education system and youth groups to mold the minds of the young and develop them into model socialists: “The policies and actions of the Freie Deutsche Jugend youth movement and the East German education system were designed to engender the individual youth with class-consciousness, present socialism as a youthful ideology with no alternative, and mobilize the state’s youth in the preservation and defense of East German socialism against the capitalist West” . The FDJ and East German education systems are both forms of propaganda that were used to instill socialism into the teenagers with no alternative information. Socialism was taught as the only form of government hoping that the future of the GDR could not be changed into a capitalist state. The government had total social control, keeping the GDR in a bubble from the outside world. The education system focused on encouraging youth involvement in politics and to have pride in the socialist system, “According to The GDR education...
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