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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Demystifying the Notion, "The West Is Better": A German Oral History Project
by Stanek, Jennifer, M.A., Bowling Green State University, 2011, 113; 10817834
Abstract (Summary)

I began my project in 2004 as an oral history project, involving four German women, with the purpose of finding out what motivated them either to flee East Germany before the construction of the Berlin Wall or stay. Five years later I wished to revive my project and interview all four women again, but with another purpose in mind. What had started out as a desire to understand my own family’s past turned into a desire to gain a better idea of the complexity of the notion, “the West is better,” and, therefore, an even better understanding of what moved a people across dangerous borders.

In this thesis I examine what the idea, “the West is better,” meant to real individuals, who chose a life in the West either before the construction of the Wall on August 13, 1961 or in the 1980s before the fall of the Wall. I examine how this notion applied to their experiences specifically, the GDR-refugees’ contribution to the creation and perpetuation of this idea, and how this concept has affected the German people since 1949.

The notion, “the West is better,” assumed much mythical character during the existence of the GDR, which it largely has not shed. This is apparent in the manner, in which it is still often expressed: as an idea whose origins can be found in nature, not in history, and one that often goes unexplained. Using Roland Barthes’ ideas on myth, I was able to spot mythical elements of the belief, “the West is better.” My interviewees’ narratives challenge many commonly perceived associations with this notion. A primary thread throughout this thesis is a discussion of the complexity of myth as well as the complexity of oral history.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Guenther, Christina
Commitee: Foell, Kristie
School: Bowling Green State University
Department: German
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: MAI 57/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: German literature, Foreign language education, Modern history
Keywords: Barthes, Roland, Berlin wall, Federal Republic of Germany, German Democratic Republic, Germany, Myth
Publication Number: 10817834
ISBN: 978-0-355-84411-5
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