Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Kees Boterbloem, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Golfo Alexopoulos, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Stephan Schindler , Ph.D.

Committee Member

Darcie Fontaine, Ph.D.


German Unification, GDR, Stasi, Socialism


The East-German euphoria of unification in 1989 and the subsequent transition from a communist to a market economy that had promised West German standards and prosperity in East Germany vanished rapidly. A hastily negotiated unification treaty and emerging West German dominance – in numbers and economic power – resulted in vast unemployment, bankruptcies, and the large-scale collapse of the East German economy. In addition, East-German culture, accomplishments, and experiences were not respected and valued in a unified country that was focused on Western values, languages, and ways of life. With nothing to offer, East Germans became hopeless and resentful and developed a feeling of second-class citizens in their own country that is lasting until the present day. This dissertation examines how West Germans constantly and consistently disrespected and delegitimized East-German culture and accomplishments in politics, the arts, education, and everyday life. It argues that the work of East Germans and their accomplishments were not evaluated based on their merit but rather on their East-German origin or East-German party affiliation. For that, this dissertation focuses on the narrative of the leading conservative party of the unification chancellor Helmut Kohl, the CDU. Furthermore, it surveys the dominant West-German newspapers that largely contributed to a public scrutinizing and shaming of everything East German. And lastly, it provides a close reading of post-unification German films that illustrate the challenges East German faced when navigating in a new world. Recognizing the magnitude of this wide-ranging disrespect that is constantly and consistently manifested, provides a counter-narrative of the “Jammerossi” (the whining East German) as East Germans are often berated when complaining about the status quo.

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