Valuable document of contemporary history

Great response to Berthold Dücker’s reading on October 20, 2023

Report by Jürgen Körber

“From dictatorship to dictatorship” was the title of the reading by Berthold Dücker, who was born and grew up in Geismar and was editor-in-chief of the Südthüringer Zeitung for many years, and it met with a great response. Doris Heim, Chairwoman of the Förderverein Kunst Kultur und Wissenschaft Geisa e. V., was delighted to welcome numerous visitors, including the District Administrator of the Wartburgkreis, Reinhard Krebs (CDU), and the Mayor of the town of Geisa, Manuela Henkel (CDU), as well as the Head of the Johann-Gottfried-Seume-Gymnasium Vacha, Beate Dittmar. She even attended the reading together with interested pupils.

In her brief opening speech, Doris Heim pointed out that the association wanted to expand the variety of events on offer by inviting Berthold Dücker to read. Christoph Witzel, managing editor of the Südthüringer Zeitung, accompanied and moderated the reading and the lively discussion that followed. The history-loving visitors listened attentively to the author’s presentation of his 35-page manuscript, in which he painted an impressive picture of the two German dictatorships that followed one another almost seamlessly.

Even now and in this form, Dücker’s text is a moving and thought-provoking document of contemporary history with a family and regional connection. Among other things, he quotes his father, describes the Hitler dictatorship and its end, the devastating consequences of the Second World War and aptly characterizes what came afterwards with the words: “The red dictatorship had replaced the brown one”. Dücker made it clear that he did not want to equate Hitler’s dictatorship with the SED dictatorship, but he pointed out, in a comprehensible and historically proven manner, the comparisons, countless similarities and certainly appealing and admonishing parallels to the here and now. With the words “Nazi Germany lay in ruins. The dream of a thousand-year Reich had been shattered”, he referred to the end of the brown dictatorship. Among other things, he recalled the persecution of the Jews and the Reichskristallnacht, the more than 60 million dead and the many war invalids, the women of the rubble, an entire generation of traumatized war children and – with reference to the current refugee problem – the millions of German war refugees after the end of the war.

With the words “Wars are the worst thing that people can do to each other”, he hit the nerve of the times and met with the undivided approval of his audience. In his remarkable notes, Berthold Dücker does not fail to mention what Nazi propaganda had done to people’s minds – and that later many did not want to have known what had happened during the Nazi dictatorship, while some would have mourned the demise of the Nazi empire for a long time to come.

The glorification of history and historical-political ignorance regarding the two dictatorships is omnipresent, and it is therefore particularly important to make young people in particular aware of Germany’s recent history – especially the history of the former GDR dictatorship and what essentially characterized it, said Dücker.

Meticulously researched, authentic and documented with concrete examples and fates from the region, the author describes the “transition from the brown to the red dictatorship” and what the dictatorship of the GDR regime, known as the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, actually consisted of. At the beginning of his description of what followed the Hitler dictatorship, Dücker made an insight that was as frightening as it was true, quoting his father as saying: “Actually, things went on as they had before, only the flags had different colors.

“The post-war period was an emergency situation, shortages were omnipresent” is how the author describes the situation. Fears, but also hopes, which were quickly dashed in the area of the so-called Soviet occupation zone (SBZ), shaped people’s thoughts. To this day, few people know that the Buchenwald concentration camp continued to be run by Russians and Communists after the end of the war and that politically unpopular people were imprisoned there.

With the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany and the establishment of the GDR, the division of Germany was sealed, with the building of the Wall and the closing of the border, which left deep wounds for the people affected throughout Germany, and thus also in the region around Geisa, seemingly irrevocable facts were created. “People were locked up, traditions, families and friendships were torn apart, the most basic rights and freedoms were restricted; the border not only divided Germany, Europe and the world – the border divided into freedom and lack of freedom,” says Berthold Dücker. His explanations of forced resettlements, expropriations, the nationalization of farms and forced collectivization in agriculture visibly affected the audience emotionally – as did the stories about the persecution of political dissidents, the naming of farms that had been razed and families affected, and descriptions of the border system with minefields and automatic firing systems. All of this was clearly taken up again in the lively discussion that followed.

Pointing out the dangers of historical ignorance, Berthold Dücker and his audience agreed that it was necessary to pay more attention to recent German history and to focus more on political education.

Characterizing the nature of dictatorships in an impressive way and pointing to the inestimable value of freedom and democracy, Berthold Dücker has created a valuable document of contemporary history. The audience agreed that it was worth presenting to the public in printed form and including in school lessons. The applause for the presentation only underlined this.