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Elizabeth Nijdam

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Creating Social Identites: Albrecht Dürer in East Germany




Like all countries, the former German Democartic Republic (GDR) was concerned with the formation of an nation-specific sense of nationhood. However, due to the close proximity of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), which left the GDR under a constant cultural threat, East German authorities sensed the importance of creating a GDR-specific national identity to a greater extent than most nations. After East Germany’s inception in 1949, it became clear that there were no sites of memory belonging to the GDR that were not also shared by its composite regions in West Germany. If the party wanted to establish East Germany as a legitimate ‘nation’ and ensure its viability, it was essential that it construct seemingly valid claims to these sites of shared memory. By rewriting the cultural legacy of Germany and imbuing important figures in German history with Marxist qualities, East Germany redefined places, events and people of all-German importance in exclusive relation to the GDR. This presentation investigates how East Germany posited Albrecht Dürer as a revolutionary figure in edited volumes and exhibitions of his work. Through the close study of the three commemorative stamps released to celebrate Dürer’s 500th birthday, it examines how Dürer’s character aided East German authorities in legitimizing the Marxist teleology of their socialist state while outlining the problems with the assertions they made about the artist’s history.

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

Central, Eastern, and Northern European Studies
Buchanan Tower 222
1873 East Mall,
Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z1, Canada

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