IBs in Eastern Europe and the GDR


It was above all the GDR which became most obsessed with the Spanish Civil War.  The stories of those Germans who fought in Spain was a key foundation myth of the GDR state, naming streets, factories and schools after especially those who died.

The most prominent figure was that of German communist Hans Beimler who was killed on the Madrid  His name would come to be revered in East Germany, appearing on everything from street signs, stamps, to a ship in the East German fleet, and becoming the very model of the selfless anti-fascist fighter for schoolchildren. President Erich Honecker, the chief instigator of the Berlin Wall, even paid a visit to Montjuïc in October 1988, where he knelt at Beimler’s memorial and laid a wreath at the monument to the victims of fascism from Barcelona, followed by an emotional speech about East Germany’s anti-fascist foundation, referring to “my friend Hans Beimler, an honest anti-fascist”. The event was broadcast live on East German state radio. A year later the Wall fell.

According to Arnold Krammer, author of The Cult of the Spanish Civil War in East Germany [2004]:

However useful, the myth was costly to its creators, for the inescapable and exaggerated commitment to an enforced diet of anti-fascist and Spanish Civil War rhetoric was certainly a major factor contributing to the stagnation of the GDR [German Democratic Republic]. From that stagnation comes frustration and disenchantment – catalysts, perhaps, for far more dramatic changes ahead.