Growing Apart: Farmers and the Division of Germany, 1945-1965

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Abstract

A variety of external forces led to the division of Germany after 1945, and, almost three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, division continues to persist as a social, economic, and political factor in united Germany. This article contributes to scholarly efforts aimed at delineating the ways in which division became a component in the self-perception of many Germans. Focusing on farmers, it shows that their attachment to the land was one such path. At the same time, it argues that farmers were among the first to contend with division in 1945 and, as the most numerous participants in the so-called Little Border Traffic (Kleine Grenzverkehr) between the two postwar states, were keenly aware of the growing division of Germany from its earliest days. The article highlights the choice that farmers made between living in East or in West Germany, arguing that because crossing the border was optional until the mid-1960s, and because land was much less available in the West than in the East, many East German farmers came to associate life in West Germany with the loss of land-and life in East Germany with an ability to keep it. When deciding to stay put, flee westward, or move from West to East, farmers prioritized the degree to which they were attached to their land and property. By making that choice, they cemented their self-perception as belonging to one of the opposing sides. This was not an ideological declaration per se, but rather one rooted in eminently practical considerations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-513
Number of pages21
JournalCentral European History
Volume50
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017

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