East Germany - State Church And Youth
A level History. Looks at the difficult relationshop between the East German State and the Church with particular reference to young people
Date : 11/01/2016
Focus How similar and how different were the churches and youth treated in East Germany when compared to the Naziís?
Task. Using the main text and the supporting sources #150 break the issues down Ė Churches, similarities and differences, Youth- similarities and differences. Then an overall assessment that makes a supported judgement.
Relations between church and the East German state have changed and varied over the years. In general the state does not tolerate organizations outside of those officially sanctioned by the SED. All organizations within the socialist structure of society are designed to work together in developing a new socialist person and in restructuring society. The regime, moreover, is committed to an atheistic philosophy that views organized religion as an "opium of the masses" and, consequently, a tool of capitalist societies
During the 1950s, the state implemented a series of measures aimed at diminishing the influence of the church. The state gradually assumed control of many of the functions traditionally under the overview of the church. Church youth groups were prohibited, and substitute youth groups under the supervision of the SED were formed, e.g., the JP and the FDJ. Religious instruction was forbidden in the schools and was replaced by the teaching of "socialist morality." Secular and socialist rituals were initiated to rival religious rituals and sacraments. A socialist name-giving ceremony replaced the traditional christening of infants, and a socialist marriage ceremony and funeral service were given official sanction
The most significant of the new rituals, however, was the Jugendweihe (youth dedication). The Jugendweihe is an old ritual first performed in Germany in the mid-1800s. It was reintroduced by communist officials in 1954 as the official ceremony marking the entry of the youth into adulthood. Normally the Jugendweihe takes place near a child`s fourteenth birthday. It is a rite of passage that corresponds to the Christian confirmation or the Jewish bar mitzvah. The child receives political ideological instruction before his or her formal initiation, which includes a vow of loyalty to the socialist state. The churches unsuccessfully resisted the Jugendweihe, at first threatening to deny confirmation to youths who had participated in the socialist ceremony. The church, however, was fighting a rearguard action in this instance. By the late 1970s, over 95 percent of all eligible East German youths had participated in the Jugendweihe. Participation was a virtual necessity for any young person who wished to secure a higher education or a good job
Despite the restrictive measures adopted by the regime in the 1950s, however, the churches were not the object of brutal repression. Church leaders had fought Nazi fascism during the war, and many had been imprisoned along with communist leaders. A certain amount of mutual respect, therefore, had developed between the two groups. Although some clergy and local lay officials were incarcerated when the communists came to power, no top church officials were jailed, and the regime later released those who had been imprisoned
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