Honors College Senior Thesis Presentations

Title

The Contradiction of the Welfare Dictatorship: The Stasi’s Role in Preserving and Undermining East German Human Rights

Presenter Information

Mallory WooldridgeFollow

Academic Level at Time of Presentation

Senior

Major

History, Spanish

Minor

German

List all Project Mentors & Advisor(s)

David Pizzo, PhD.

Presentation Format

Oral Presentation

Abstract/Description

Constructed four years after WWII in a kind of pendulum swing response to the Third Reich, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was an experiment in socialism. Under the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (The Socialist Unity Party of Germany, SED) no East German was to go hungry, unemployment would be eradicated, housing guaranteed, women treated as equals, and human rights interwoven into the fabric of this socialist society. However, SED socialism in practice did not conform to this original vision, and would eventually represent the disillusionment with the socialist project as a whole.

This project seeks to understand human rights in the GDR, both within East Germany itself and within a global context, with a particular emphasis on the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit’s (The Ministry for State Security/Stasi) seemingly contradictory role in simultaneously maintaining and undermining human rights within the GDR. This research draws on and expands upon current GDR scholarship in addition to incorporating Stasi-related documents from the German government’s online federal archives. This project was inspired by my own visit to the Stasi Museum (the former Stasi headquarters) in Berlin. Visiting the museum and subsequent research has revealed how the utopian political ideals of the GDR were threatened by the same institution charged with preserving them. This paradox of violating human rights in the name of advancing human rights remains important in the 21st century, especially in regards to the privacy vs. protection debate so pertinent in the post-9/11 era.

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Honors College Senior Thesis Presentations

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The Contradiction of the Welfare Dictatorship: The Stasi’s Role in Preserving and Undermining East German Human Rights

Constructed four years after WWII in a kind of pendulum swing response to the Third Reich, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was an experiment in socialism. Under the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (The Socialist Unity Party of Germany, SED) no East German was to go hungry, unemployment would be eradicated, housing guaranteed, women treated as equals, and human rights interwoven into the fabric of this socialist society. However, SED socialism in practice did not conform to this original vision, and would eventually represent the disillusionment with the socialist project as a whole.

This project seeks to understand human rights in the GDR, both within East Germany itself and within a global context, with a particular emphasis on the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit’s (The Ministry for State Security/Stasi) seemingly contradictory role in simultaneously maintaining and undermining human rights within the GDR. This research draws on and expands upon current GDR scholarship in addition to incorporating Stasi-related documents from the German government’s online federal archives. This project was inspired by my own visit to the Stasi Museum (the former Stasi headquarters) in Berlin. Visiting the museum and subsequent research has revealed how the utopian political ideals of the GDR were threatened by the same institution charged with preserving them. This paradox of violating human rights in the name of advancing human rights remains important in the 21st century, especially in regards to the privacy vs. protection debate so pertinent in the post-9/11 era.