Crossroads: commemorative names in East Berlin, 1990–2010
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The memorial landscape has been a focal point in recent studies concentrating on postsocialist Central and Eastern Europe. This thesis contributes to this field by examining the names, naming, and renaming of former German Democratic Republic (GDR) streets, squares, and parks in East Berlin between 1990 and 2010. Political aspirations to influence Germany’s national memory and identity have been overtly present in the alteration of East Berlin’s memorial landscape. Contrasting narratives in the cityscape emerged as each political party –Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD)– assumed authority in the process of naming and renaming. While the political parties had overt control in the process, these debates over commemorative names was also taken up by and affected the lives of ordinary citizens. This thesis applies Owen Dwyer and Derek Alderman’s holistic approach to reading Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg’s landscape to analyse how inherited socialist dedications were re-interpreted (text), debated (arena), and protested (performance). A number of case studies in two East Berlin districts, Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg, highlight the competing versions of the past that emerged after the demise of the GDR. Mitte became a locus of contention in the battle over commemorative naming because the district was the political centre of a new German democracy. Prenzlauer Berg, a neighbouring district of Mitte, underwent similar disputes over its inherited GDR commemorative names but had very different outcomes. The aim of such a comparative study is to exemplify the power struggles surrounding commemorative names and how political parties and ordinary citizens use them to claim the right to retell the past.