Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

First Advisor

Ruff, Julius

Second Advisor

Staudenmaier, Peter

Third Advisor

Ball, Alan

Abstract

This project examines public opinion in the Dresden Region of the German Democratic Republic from the end of World War II through the summer of 1953. I argue that the Socialist Unity Party (SED) projected its legitimacy through an official public sphere by representing publicness to its citizenry. Through banners, the press, and choreographed public demonstrations, it aimed to create the appearance of popular support. Even more significantly, the SED used radio to ground its legitimacy in a burgeoning post-war internationalism that bound residents of the GDR in an imagined community of socialist nations under Stalin’s leadership. At the same time, the regime’s opponents challenged its legitimacy and credibility through a rival public sphere. In this space, foreign broadcasters, especially Radio in the American Sector (RIAS), chipped away at the regime’s credibility and prestige while improvised news and rumor undermined the Party’s state building efforts. Tensions boiled over in the summer of 1953 when RIAS and rumor helped make revolution thinkable. On the seventeenth of June, East Germans took to the streets in hundreds of cities and protested the government. RIAS endowed the occasion with national imaginings before and after East German police and Soviet forces ended the protestors’ hopes for change.

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