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Soldiers, Citizens, and the State: East German Army Officers in Post-Unification Germany

  • Andrew Bickford (a1)

Despite official narratives of a relatively smooth transition, of the merging of “those things which belong together,” German unification and the formation of a new German state has been an uneven project filled with friction and animosity. While the West German government celebrated the “victory” of unification, and stated that all East Germans wanted unification, one group of East Germans did not look forward to the dissolution of the GDR: members of the East German military, the Nationale Volksarmee (National People's Army, or NVA). Disbanded immediately upon unification, the overwhelming majority of NVA officers were left unemployed overnight, stripped of their status as officers and portrayed by the West Germans as the “losers” of the Cold War. For these men, unification was not a joyous, desired event; rather, it represented the end of their careers, security, status, and the state they had sworn to defend. As such, the “fall” into democracy for these men was from the start fraught with uncertainty, disappointment, anomie, and a profound sense of loss.

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