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"Be active before you become radioactive" the threat of nuclear war and peace politics in East Germany, 1945--1962

Petersen, Cari.
"Be active before you become radioactive" [electronic resource] : the threat of nuclear war and peace politics in East Germany, 1945--1962 / Cari Petersen.
Online Resource
[Bloomington, Ind.] : Indiana University, 2004.
242 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Indiana University, 2004.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Other contributors
Indiana University, Bloomington.
Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 66-01, Section: A, page: 0297.
Supervisor: James Diehl.
Title from dissertation home page (viewed Oct. 12, 2006).
When the United States Air Force attacked Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, the world was changed by the atomic bomb not only because it was a devastating military weapon, but also because it was a tremendous political power. This fact is especially true in the postwar history of East Germany. My project investigates the political-cultural response to atomic weapons in the Soviet Occupation Zone and German Democratic Republic (GDR) from Hiroshima in 1945 to the building of the Berlin Wall and the introduction of Peaceful Coexistence in 1962.
Divided into two opposing states positioned between the world's largest nuclear powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, the German people of the postwar were trapped in a uniquely precarious position in the history of the nuclear age. When it came to conflict between East and West, Central Europe was the designated nuclear battleground. For Germans, the next war would not only mean civil war, but also total nuclear destruction. Whereas the reaction to this nuclear predicament in West German history has been addressed, in the case of East German history it remains largely unknown.
Given the fact that West Germany served as the Western bloc's largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, the danger of nuclear destruction for the inhabitants of East Germany was real. Nevertheless, the GDR government did not consider the actual danger as perilous enough. By reconstructing the opening of the Atomic Age in East Germany, this study reveals how the East German government capitalized on the threat of nuclear war for its own purposes. East Germans were to believe that West Germany and its allies were tenaciously preparing to unleash an imminent nuclear World War III against their country. Ultimately, the American atomic bomb, at first a weapon which served the United States in the postwar, became an effective political tool of the Socialist government of the GDR to vilify the West, justify its own political behavior in the Cold War, and create a sense of legitimacy for its dictatorial rule.
Subject headings
History, Modern.
History, European.
Host item
Dissertation Abstracts International 66-01A.


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