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After the End of "Little Moscow": Memories, (Re)Construction, and Appropriation of Space in Wünsdorf

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This article focuses on the context and lasting consequences of the withdrawal of the Russian troops from the small town of Wünsdorf in East Germany (Brandenburg region) in 1994. The headquarters of the high command of the Soviet forces in Germany had been located in Wünsdorf since 1954. The locals lived in close proximity to the Russians. In the German Democratic Republic, the (limited) real and imagined encounters, interactions, and perceptions of the “other” were highly determined by traditional images, and were most likely influenced by the tabooed official discourse of “occupiers” vs. “friends”. This ambivalent potpourri of different memorial dimensions has strongly shaped negotiations of the past and remembrance of the transition period (1989/1990-1994), as well as of the post-Soviet/Russian phase up to the present. By analyzing individual and collective modes of handling a problematic and highly conflictual military force, as well as the German Democratic Republic’s past, different ways of (re)constructing and appropriating the post-military space become apparent.
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https://doi.org/10.7592/FEJF2017.70.lorke
AFTER THE END OF “LITTLE MOSCOW”:
MEMORIES, (RE)CONSTRUCTION, AND
APPROPRIATION OF SPACE IN WÜNSDORF
Christoph Lorke
Department of History
Westfälische Wilhelms University, Münster, Germany
e-mail: christoph.lorke@uni-muenster.de
Abstract: This article focuses on the context and lasting consequences of the
withdrawal of the Russian troops from the small town of Wünsdorf in East Ger-
many (Brandenburg region) in 1994. The headquarters of the high command of
the Soviet forces in Germany had been located in Wünsdorf since 1954. The locals
lived in close proximity to the Russians. In the German Democratic Republic,
the (limited) real and imagined encounters, interactions, and perceptions of the
“other” were highly determined by traditional images, and were most likely inu-
enced by the tabooed ofcial discourse of “occupiers” vs. “friends”. This ambivalent
potpourri of different memorial dimensions has strongly shaped negotiations of
the past and remembrance of the transition period (1989/1990–1994), as well as
of the post-Soviet/Russian phase up to the present. By analyzing individual and
collective modes of handling a problematic and highly conictual military force, as
well as the German Democratic Republic’s past, different ways of (re)constructing
and appropriating the post-military space become apparent.
Keywords: Cold War, German Democratic Republic’s past, German reunication,
identity, (contested) memory, military heritage, otherness, space
On August 31, 1994, Matvei Prokopevich Burlakov, the last Commander-in-
Chief of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, reported to President Boris
Yeltsin: “The intergovernmental treaty regarding the conditions of the tempo-
rary residence of Russian troops and the withdrawal modalities are fullled.…
Today was the last day of the past” (König 2010). According to Article 4 of
the “Two Plus Four Treaty” (“Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to
Germany”, September 12, 1990), the Soviet Union was obliged to withdraw its
troops stationed in East Germany within four years, i.e. by the end of 1994. On
August 31, the largest relocation of troops during peacetime in history, which
brought about an unprecedented demilitarization of land and property, was
realized four months earlier than originally planned. The Western Group of
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Christoph Lorke
Forces1 was considered an elite unit of the Soviet Army and included 550,000
people, of whom 380,000 were members of the army and 170,000 were civilians
(among whom there were 90,000 children). The troops were based in more than
one thousand locations all over East Germany. The country was considered an
immensely important geostrategic, military, and, not least, symbolic-political
forward post, located right on the Iron Curtain.2 There were many important
military bases,3 and many of them4 in the immediate vicinity of East Berlin.
One of the main reasons for this military cordon was to be ready to quell po-
tential riots, as happened when the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany helped
suppress the Uprising of 1953 in East Germany (Fig. 1).
Figure 1. Western Group of Forces in the German
Democratic Republic, October 3, 1990 (Naumann
1996 [1993]: 345).
Folklore 70 21
Memories, (Re)Construction, and Appropriation of Space in Wünsdorf
By far, the largest number of troops were based in Wünsdorf. Since 1954 the
headquarters of the high command of the Soviet Forces in Germany had been
situated in this small town, less than fty kilometers south of Berlin. Wüns-
dorf was a divided – military and civilian – location during the Cold War. The
gures vary, but it can be assumed that between 40,000 and 70,000 soldiers
and civilians were living and working there. Thus, the place was an immensely
important strategic outpost and, because of its location close to the Cold War’s
geographical border, the Western Group of Forces were regarded as the “chosen
ones”, “the proud and favorite children” of the entire Soviet Army.5
When the last soldiers left in 1994, a 600-hectare area with tens of thousands
of rounds of ammunition and explosive ordnance remained, including almost
680 buildings, 45,000 cubic meters of rubbish, waste oil, paint, chemicals, bat-
teries, used tires, and asbestos, as well as 404 cats, twenty-six dogs, one goat,
and one wild sheep (Kaiser & Herrmann 2010 [1993]: 199–200). In the common
parlance of the locals, the military area of Wünsdorf was generally known as
“Little Moskwa” or the “Forbidden City” (Verbotene Stadt). With few exceptions,
natives were not allowed to enter this zone and the whole settlement, includ-
ing the daily life of the Soviet families, was taboo. Nevertheless, living in close
proximity led to the fact that the Russians were omnipresent in the daily lives
of the German residents before the transition period (1989–1994). The result
was the emergence of conictual situations and memories, which – as has been
discussed regarding other examples of Soviet military bases in the German
Democratic Republic (GDR) – have often lasted until the present time (e.g. von
Wrochem 2003). As a consequence, noteworthy tensions between the collective
and communicative memory, on the one side, and the public commemorative
culture, on the other, could be observed (for denitions of the collective and
communicative memory, see Assmann 1997 [1992]; Welzer 2002; Erll 2005).
By far the largest base of Soviet/Russian soldiers prior to 1994, the military
Figure 2. General Matvei P. Burlakov
and Manfred Stolpe. Wünsdorf, June 11,
1994 (Gehrke 2008: 74).
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Christoph Lorke
district of Wünsdorf appeared in many respects to be a “non-place”, with its
distorted, inconclusive relationship between history and identity (Augé 1992).
This article discusses the memorial dimension of the Soviet/Russian past
in Wünsdorf, as well as the symbolic (re-)construction and the collective and
individual appropriation of this particular space after the Soviet/Russian with-
drawal in 1994. By analyzing hegemonic forms of public (primarily involving
politics and the media) and individual remembrance of the “foreign” Soviet/
Russian past within the (post-)socialist GDR society (Obertreis & Stephan
2009), the social, discursive, and symbolic (re-)shaping of space and its symbolic
(pre-)determination can be illustrated (Assmann 2009; Keller 2016). Focusing
on these aspects, Wünsdorf exemplies double-layered, closely intertwined ne-
gotiations with a conictual “problematic” past with regard to 1) the GDR as
a whole and 2) the Soviet/Russian occupiers as “foreign” forces. This contribution
deals with the different modes of managing conictual and dissonant heritage
in the individual and broader political and public dimensions (Tunbridge &
Ashworth 1996; for the relation between cultural heritage and war, see Sö-
rensen & Viejo-Rose 2015) by focusing on the following questions: how did the
long-standing presence of the “foreign” shape the remembrance of Wünsdorf’s
recent past? How do certain layers of memory interact with each other? What
kind of “master narratives” of that time were (and are) dominant, and why?
How can German and Russian perspectives be integrated when dealing with
the still “smoking” past (Tuchman 1964)?
To answer these questions, I analyzed research, scholarly and popular publi-
cations on the matter, and media narratives since 1990. Furthermore, in spring
and summer 2016, I conducted twenty interviews with German contemporary
witnesses. I contacted the interview participants through a press call that
was distributed via local media.6 The call explicitly asked for witnesses who
remembered not only the process of withdrawal but also the time before. Thus,
most of the interviewees were – and, in most cases, still are – local residents.
The guided telephone interviews usually lasted one or two hours.7 The oldest
interviewee was born in 1929, and the youngest in 1954. This range allowed
for further insights regarding the relationship between generations and space,8
its different symbolic constructions, performances, and acquisitions, as well as
the generational temporalization of the space in question (Grothusen 2014).
Signicantly, nineteen of the twenty people who answered the call were male;
this obvious gender imbalance requires explanation (Leydesdorff 1996). It seems
that the topic of (military) history and its aftermath is much more interesting
for men. Due to traditional, dualistic gender stereotypes and corresponding
attributions regarding “male” and “female” spheres of interest and awareness,
it is also possible that men consider themselves “more important” and “more
Folklore 70 23
Memories, (Re)Construction, and Appropriation of Space in Wünsdorf
competent” witnesses of this time period. The tabooed topic of rape also may
have inuenced the willingness of people to answer the call (von Wrochem
2003: 67–68).9 Thus, the “voluntary” aspect of the call signicantly distorted
the sample. However, this article does not claim to be a representative survey,
but rather a glimpse into the widely encountered patterns of memory and their
presence today. Therefore, a gendered perspective on the story is built into the
study. After a quick glance at the military history of Wünsdorf in the twentieth
century, the paper discusses the circumstances and forms of remembrance of
the process of withdrawal from today’s perspective. In the last chapter, I will
outline the most common ways of dealing with the Soviet/Russian past in the
context of the “conversion” after 1994.
FROM WÜNSDORF TO ВЮНСДОРФ AND BACK: A GARRISON
TOWN AND ITS MILITARY HERITAGE
The history of Wünsdorf as a military site is suspenseful, as well as full of
fractures and new beginnings (for an overview, see Kaiser 1998). Wünsdorf
was a small village with less than 900 inhabitants when an Infantry School
was opened in 1910. During World War I the rst mosque on German territory
was built there at the request of the Ofce for Foreign Affairs, when a camp for
prisoners of war was opened in Wünsdorf. The “Half Moon Camp” housed up
to at least 15,000 Muslim prisoners of war until 1918, mainly Tatars, Indians,
Moroccans, Algerians, and Senegalese. After the end of the war, the camp served
as a shelter for Russian emigrants, mostly Muslim Tatars, many of whom had
decided not to go back to their home country. The camp was nally closed in
1922 and the mosque was torn down two years later because of dilapidation
(Abdullah 1984: 18–20; Höpp 1997). During the Third Reich, the area served
as a military gymnastics school, and was used as a training camp for athletes
to prepare for the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936. There was an enormous
barracks area, a military training area, and a ring range. Beginning in 1938,
the headquarters of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces (Oberkom-
mando der Wehrmacht) was situated in Wünsdorf. On April 20, 1945, the area
was occupied by Soviet troops; the command staff and Marshal Georgy Zhukov
stayed there during the nal battle of Berlin. Beginning in 1946, the area was
used by the 1st Belorussian Front.
In February 1954, the place became the headquarters of the High Com-
mand of the Soviet Forces in Germany, and the Soviet military housing rapidly
expanded: 175 local families, 800 people in total, had to leave their houses,
apartments, and property, and were resettled to make way for the Soviet Army
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Christoph Lorke
and its personnel (Kaiser & Herrmann 2010 [1993]: 138). Elderly citizens still
remember this time as a deep disruption of their personal mobility and lives.10
At this point, the highway F 9611 – by then the longest highway within the GDR
and the most important direct connection to its capital, Berlin – was closed to
transit trafc until 1994, dividing Wünsdorf into two. Ordinary people who
did not have authorized transit permission (propusk) had to make a laborious
detour of more than ten kilometers (Fig. 3).
Henceforth, the military area was closed to GDR civilians, and even the
Socialist Unity Party of Germany’s (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands,
SED) ruling elite was not allowed to enter until 1960, when Willi Stoph, the
then Minister of National Defense and subsequently Deputy Prime Minister
of the GDR (1964–1973), paid a visit to the troops. Most GDR citizens were not
aware of the existence, size, and importance of Wünsdorf as a military site and a
control center of the Soviet Army during the Cold War. From there not only was
armored protection organized during the construction of the Berlin Wall under
Marshal Ivan Konev, but also aviation security for the entire GDR airspace
was guaranteed. Both the suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968 and the
change in the GDR government in 1971, when Walter Ulbricht was replaced by
Erich Honecker as the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the ruling
Figure 3. Map of Wünsdorf. Garnisonsmuseum Wünsdorf, March 10, 1994.
Folklore 70 25
Memories, (Re)Construction, and Appropriation of Space in Wünsdorf
party, were coordinated and commanded from Wünsdorf. Doubtless, this place
could be regarded as the st of Soviet policy in the GDR (Kowalczuk & Wolle
2010: 126; for the circumstances of the occupation, see Satjukow 2008; for the
broader context, see Loth 1998). There was a daily military train to Moscow for
Soviet soldiers and their families at 8 pm every evening, which departed from
what was called Russen-Bahnhof (‘Russians’ Station’).
The closed doors of the “Forbidden City” – also a popular term to describe
other Soviet military places in the GDR, such as Hillersleben, Neuruppin,
Naumburg, and Weimar – stimulated speculation, and not only in regard to the
quantity of troops and civilians stationed in Wünsdorf, which was a proper city
with schools and kindergartens, medical care, a theater, sport facilities, and
its own hairdressers and shops. In this context, the ideologically justied and
politically imposed “friendship” between the occupants and the natives was full
of suspense and was decisively inuenced by 1) the former ideas of the highly
ideologically and racially connoted image of the “Bolsheviks” and 2) the perception
of the Russenkasernen (‘Russian barracks’) in daily life. As the historian Silke
Satjukow asserted (2004: 237–240; 2005; 2009: 57–58), many residents did not
perceive the barracks as places of safety, but rather of unpredictability and
hidden danger due to unpleasant noises and odors, incoming and outgoing tanks
and helicopters, damage along public roads or agricultural areas, explosions,
aviation noises and resulting impairments. Furthermore, because of trafc
accidents, “unnatural deaths”, brawls in restaurants, robberies, and sexual
attacks, the barracks became places of danger and foreignness (Behrends 2003;
Müller 2011: 163–189). This refers to specic modes of inclusion, exclusion, and
xation of the “foreign” within a certain space, in this case the “Forbidden City”
(with reference to Georg Simmel: Geenen 2002: 223–239).
On the other hand, the forbidden zone also had considerable appeal, which
the Wünsdorf locals experienced notably in the area of consumption. It is sig-
nicant that almost half of the interviewees mentioned several aspects which
referred to a well-functioning partnership of convenience, especially in later
decades. The special Russenmagazine (‘Russians’ stores’) sold many sought-after
products. Party functionaries and a few people who were working within the
restricted area were holders of propusks, entry tickets into the restricted area,
and they described how they beneted from certain privileges. Popular, but
usually very rare products, such as building materials, Czech beer, Hungarian
ham, tropical fruits, tinned sh, confections, and even smoked eels from the
Baltic sea were sold, and thus represented another dimension of encountering
the “foreign”: culinary delights and accouterments. In retrospect, such ex-post
constructed imagined behavior patterns could obviously also evoke the aftertaste
of unjustied, “conspicuous consumption” (Veblen 1899), which is very evident in
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Christoph Lorke
the example of Gerhard Dombritz (born in 1942). He was a local political activ-
ist in the 1990s and described himself as “not a Russian whisperer”. Dombritz
stated, “more by hearsay than by personal experience”, that, in his memory,
the lifestyle of the ofcers was exorbitant. Furthermore, the high-ranking ofc-
ers’ food and supplies were even “more snobbish”12 than in the secure housing
zone for leading functionaries in Wandlitz, about thirty kilometers northeast
of Berlin. Senior party members of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany lived
there; the area remained off-limits to ordinary East Germans until 1990.
This statement illustrates that, in terms of more than boarding and lodging,
the interviewees remember a massive discrepancy between German and Soviet
higher ranks. In addition, the differences and prosperity gaps between the mili-
tary ranks – and thus, inevitably, between the locals and the lower ranks – were
also immense. Hence, there was self-ghettoization of the Soviet troops, which
was not surprising since it helped to limit the soldiers’ “Western experience”,
especially with regard to consumption. In the eyes of many ordinary Soviet sol-
diers and in comparison with their own situation after the end of World War II,
the Germans lived “off the fat of the land” (Satjukow 2004: 225–249). Thus,
rigorous spatial isolation, poor accommodations, low salaries, strict regulations
regarding contact with the locals, and prohibitions against fraternization were
implemented by the military administration, as those seemed to be the safest
means of avoiding disciplinary violations (Bassistow 1994: 46–48).
However, in the case of Wünsdorf, as everywhere else, German-Soviet contact
could never be prevented entirely, exceeding the usual scope of highly formal-
ized, prepared and stage-managed ofcial encounters, and not only because
of the approximately 1,000 Germans who worked in the garrison at the end
of the GDR; instead, “friendships” or “friendly relations” – terms frequently
used in the interviews – and even a few love affairs developed. Nonetheless,
the Waffenbrüderschaft (‘comrades-in-arms’) were, just like everywhere else
in the GDR, apparently limited to the ofcer corps (Müller 2005: 128–132).
While the lower ranks lived in comparatively meager accommodations – al-
though ush toilets, washbasins, and showers were not standard in the Soviet
Army – service in the GDR forces was particularly advantageous for ofcers
and generals: between 800 and 1,000 marks per month, a family allowance of
up to 250 marks, and a signicantly better range of products available. Four
or ve years in the GDR forces made it possible to procure goods and clothes,
and even to save some money. In short, service in Wünsdorf was regarded as
an honor for the “favored few” Soviet Army soldiers, in particular in terms of
living standard (Bassistow 1994: 49–50; Kaiser & Herrmann 2010: 144). For the
locals, the image of Wünsdorf was strongly marked by the presence of soldiers.
Hence, they resigned themselves to living in a city of “occupiers”; for many, living
Folklore 70 27
Memories, (Re)Construction, and Appropriation of Space in Wünsdorf
with the Russians became a part of the everyday routine, eventually not only
in Wünsdorf, but in other Soviet military bases, too. This routine was suddenly
and unexpectedly shaken by the fall of the Berlin Wall in the autumn of 1989.
TIMES OF CHANGES, TIMES OF UNCERTAINTY: THE INTERIM
PHASE, THE WITHDRAWAL, OLD AND NEW CONFLICTS
In many respects, the early 1990s in reunied Germany can be characterized
as a transition period, although the break was usually much more abrupt and
intense for East Germans than for West Germans (Danyel 2015). The presence
(and later, withdrawal) of the Russian troops is one of the many different,
overlying, and partially interwoven passages between the “old” and the “new”.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunication of Germany in October
1990, the Russian military command initially regarded the desire of many
Germans for unity, freedom, and sovereignty as ingratitude. Little by little,
understanding grew, while at the same time concerns increased with regard to
the period after the withdrawal. Uncertainty and psychological stress among
the soldiers increased (Arlt 1998: 619).
The majority of the East Germans, however, welcomed the withdrawal as
a “second” or even “real liberation”, since now there was a way to express long-
repressed sentiments. Sensationalist press articles and simple stigmatizations
supported a shift in liability, a deection of responsibility regarding the failures
and the end of the GDR, which served as mental exculpation. The Russians,
who were previously praised, were in this emotionally charged phase defamed
as “uncivilized occupiers” (Satjukow 2009: 62) and thus represented the “other”,
anti-civilization, now in contrast to the West. Emphasizing a narrative of wild
upheaval, the media landscape was full of lurid articles dealing with crime, cor-
ruption, and immorality, half-barbaric behavior, a shadow economy, maa-type
actions, bribes, the ourishing “black market”, drug trafcking, unexplained
murders, and contract killings. The “ogging” of all manner of things – including
food, cars, and guns – from which both the Russian and (West and East) Ger-
man traders had beneted, was one of the main topoi. Wünsdorf was especially
pointed out as an important trading center. Other sensationalist comments
involved the Russians’ lax handling of environmental problems.13 By appeal-
ing – both intentionally and unintentionally – to anti-Soviet prejudices and
feelings, these media narratives enjoyed great popularity among the reunied
German public.
These discourses seem to have strongly inuenced, shaped, and strengthened
individual perceptions and imaginations. The same applies to the debates about
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Christoph Lorke
the GDR as a “Stasi state” or Unrechtsstaat (‘illegitimate state’), which for many
East Germans involved a symbolic general devaluation of their biographies and
overlapped with the discourses regarding the Russians (for an overview, see
Großbölting 2010; Kollmorgen 2010; Sabrow 2012). After 1990, opinions and
prejudices regarding the Russians, which had been taboo due to the propaganda-
imposed glorication of the Soviets as heroic liberators, were able to emerge
directly. It seems that very soon after 1990 many East Germans – and thus, of
course, Wünsdorf locals – regarded the Russians as a complementary element of
the new society, which helped to strengthen a new specic, occasionally ostenta-
tious, and condently performed East German sense of unity (Satjukow 2009:
65). In contrast, others saw the derogatory judgments regarding the Russians
as personal attacks on themselves. Provided this brief sketch of a conictual
and contested scenario, many Wünsdorf residents remember feeling joy and
relief, as well as compassion and uncertainty, when the Russian troops left.
Probably because they knew that the end of the transition period was near and,
at the same time, recognizing the importance of the armed forces to the local
economy, they felt a certain empathy with the soldiers. Local businessmen in
particular were even very sad, as Günther Heisig (born in 1933), at that time
the owner of a shoe store, remembered.14
From a source-critical point of view, personal statements about the “Soviet
occupiers” involved problems: whether the statements served as a subsequent
smoothing, or reected actually existing sentiments, varied from individual
to individual. Quite a few respondents’ descriptions of their experiences with
Soviets/Russians were most probably affected by contemporary stereotypes
or their opinions on present-day Russia. However, in Wünsdorf – as in many
other military bases in East Germany – concerns about the remaining soldiers
did arise, and with alarming openness. There were occasional demands, such
as “Civilian Russians Go Home”, “Leave, Russian Parasites” or, as residents
painted in Cyrillic on the road to the department store: “Get Out, You Bas-
tards”.15 The environmental damage – in the end, a cost borne by the Federal
Republic of Germany – in all likelihood strengthened such negative sentiments.
According to Arnold Klein (born in 1954), who felt melancholy after the
withdrawal, thefts and vandalism were the order of the day,16 and even physi-
cal assaults targeting soldiers and their families were observed. Even though
these were only scattered incidents, these years were characterized by wild-
ness, confusion, and a new form of uncertainty. Ilse Bollman, who had worked
for more than twenty years inside the “restricted zone”, said with regard to
crime and the attacks: “During this period, you could trust no one – neither
Russians nor Germans”.17 Both Winfried Bläse (born in 1950) and Bernhard
Michel stated that after the withdrawal, Wünsdorf was dead, an utter ghost
Folklore 70 29
Memories, (Re)Construction, and Appropriation of Space in Wünsdorf
town.18 When the rising unemployment and the closing of businesses became
more evident – after the initial phase of euphoria and relief – very quickly an
atmosphere of disillusionment and uncertainty developed among many locals.
They considered the period after 1994 a standstill or even a decline, and thus
mourned in many respects the passing of the good old days.19 It is obvious that
the assessments of those days were highly linked to the respective individual’s
perception and valuation of the Soviet/Russian troops.
A closer look at the “other” side reveals further insights: for the Russian
soldiers, the shift was apparently even more radical. The psychological effects
of the ideological collapse and the instability in their home regions, and the
pronounced feeling of being unwanted and unwelcome guests undermined self-
condence: for many of the soldiers, withdrawal meant social decline. They felt
like “beaten winners”, as the last Minister-President of the GDR, Lothar de
Maizière, stated in Moscow in spring 1990. Due to the insecure future, a sig-
nicant proportion – according to estimates, up to one-third – of all returned
families split up (Locke 2014).
Another serious problem was the slow process of the housing program. De-
spite the eight-billion-mark support by the Federal Government, there were
signicant delays. Although 45,000 apartments were built in Russia, Ukraine,
and Belarus between 1992 and 1996, 50,000 families had no suitable housing
after their return (Foertsch 1994: 125–127). Preparing for their withdrawal,
many soldiers bought household appliances, technological items, or second-hand
cars in order to sell them in Russia. There were rumors of secret arms sales –
according to recent surveys, 81,000 tons of ammunition went unaccounted for
(Kaiser & Herrmann 2010 [1993]: 184) – and Kalashnikov for used car swaps
(e.g. Liebold 1991). “Taking everything that was not nailed down” was a phrase
often mentioned in the interviews. In contrast, Heinz Bremer (born in 1936),
who generally pleaded for an “objective analysis” of those developments, ex-
pressed an explicit warning against a derogatory attitude toward the situation,
especially by those who did not know the actual living conditions in their home
countries very well.20
The ofcial farewell celebration, which was initiated and orchestrated by
the Russian commanders, was intended to symbolize the departure of Russian
troops from all of Germany, and to make people forget any negative feelings.
Thus, the narrative Heimkehr / Abschied in Würde (‘Leave in Dignity’) was
established in bilateral contracts after 1990 in order to express caution, gentleness,
and tact (Burlakov 1994; Foertsch 1994; Nawrocki 1994; Abschied in Würde
1994). However, even though the withdrawal was performed in a calm, formal
atmosphere that could be considered a “logistical tour de force” (Gießmann 1992:
177–209; Kaiser & Herrmann 2010: 182; for a meticulous chronological
30 www.folklore.ee/folklore
Christoph Lorke
summary of the withdrawal, see
Hoffmann & Stoof 2013), the aim
of a “worthy” nal stage of the
Russian troops in Germany was
only partially successful. The
farewell parade in Wünsdorf,
broadcast live by the regional broadcaster Ostdeutscher Rundfunk Brandenburg
(ORB),21 was an essential part of this project, and was meant to symbolically
prove the new openness of the Russian troops. On June 11, 1994, thousands of
people had the opportunity to observe the “inner life” of the former “Forbidden
City”. For an entrance fee of ten marks, most of the citizens of Wünsdorf could
visit the inside area for the rst time. In his farewell address, the Prime Minister
at the time, Manfred Stolpe, thanked the Russian troops for their prudence in
1989 and 1990. “It was a folk festival, and everybody celebrated. We ate cake
and solyanka, drank vodka, and
I had tears in my eyes”, Winfried
Bläse, one of the interviewees,
remembered. This observation
sheds light on the perception
of “foreign” food culture in the
town with respect to the Russian
“tradition” and its consequences of
inter-cultural learning dynamics
(for West Germany, see Möhring
2012). Born in 1950, Bläse had
grown up with the Russians, and
he and his family proted greatly
from them. The period between
1990 and 1994 was, he added,
“the best time of [his] life”,22 not
Figure 4. Open house in Wünsdorf,
June 11, 1994. Civilians were given the
opportunity to observe the ‘inner life’ of the
former “Forbidden City” (Gehrke 2008: 74).
Figure 5. The bilingual poster reads,
“Homeward, to the motherland. Fare-
well, Germany!” Wünsdorf, June 11,
1994 (Gehrke 2008: 75).
Folklore 70 31
Memories, (Re)Construction, and Appropriation of Space in Wünsdorf
despite but rather because of the presence of the Soviet/Russian forces. The
celebrations in summer 1994 were regarded as the symbolic culmination of
a felicitous relationship.
While these festivities were remembered positively by some, they also evoked
serious political inconsistencies, and this still plays a key role in many memories:
on that day, politicians from the Brandenburg state government came, but no
representatives from the federal government or the federal armed forces were
present (Kampe 2009: 49). In most of the interviews, people mentioned their
disappointment, describing how they interpreted this as a sign of arrogance,
and thus a downgrading of the Russian troops by the Bonn government, which
seemed to reect an ongoing lack of respect for the Eastern Germans’ lives,
as well as for the Russian Army. Moreover, the Russian withdrawal was ac-
companied by different, either intended or unintended, forms of “tactlessness”,
misconceptions, and friction. One prominent example is the appointment of
Hartmut Foertsch as the director of the liaison organization between the Ger-
man and Russian Armies. Foertsch’s father Friedrich had served as a general
during the 900-day siege of Leningrad in 1941.
Figure 6. Spectators at martial arts performances in Wünsdorf.
June 11, 1994 (Gehrke 2008: 61).
32 www.folklore.ee/folklore
Christoph Lorke
In meetings with representatives of the German Federal Armed Forces (Bun-
deswehr), which were doubtless full of clear and mutual reservations, quite
a few of the Russian commanders were dismayed at the fact that their property
and goods had become (almost) valueless. Walter Meining, who took part in the
negotiations with the Soviet Army, described the meetings as full of arrogance
on the part of the Germans, “with only a few exceptions”: Meining, for example,
mentioned General Werner von Scheven, the Chief Ofcer of the Federal Armed
Forces in the newly-formed German states, as a very fair-minded person who
dealt with the Russians “eye to eye”.23 Siegfried Marquart (born in 1947), a for-
mer high-ranking ofcer of the National People’s Army (Nationale Volksarmee),
remembered a “fundamental arrogant stupidity”, intended to show the “other”
(Russian) side that “we were back again”.24 In the terms of the American so-
ciologist Harold Garnkel (1956), we may interpret these forms of (direct and
indirect) encounters as “rituals of degradation” (for the administrative sphere,
see Gravier 2003). These specic transitional rituals were typically associated
with a discrediting of the past and thus indicated a revaluation of the past.
As the sociologist Nina Leonhard recently stated, these rituals were a funda-
mental condition for the negotiation of new identities among former members
of the National People’s Army after their integration into the Federal Armed
Forces in October 1990. In this process, the label “army of unity” was invented
(Leonhard 2016: 133–144). At that time, only a small number of soldiers were
taken on permanently, which caused additional problems in accepting the new
(military and societal) order. The views expressed above came from someone who
spoke Russian uently, spent several years in the Soviet Union, studied at the
military academy in Moscow, and thus had countless encounters with Soviet/
Russian (civilian and military) citizens. These individual experiences shaped
his perceptual patterns and may explain his feeling of being downgraded. Vice
versa, this perceived devaluation most likely strengthened his already close
attachment and solidarity with the former “brothers’ army” further.
The circumstances of the parting ceremony evoked other notable moments
of irritation, which had repercussions for the Wünsdorf locals and their re-
membrances, too. First, there was a great deal of astonishment over the idea
of organizing the farewell ceremony for the Russian troops not as a common
event with the British, American, and French military forces, but instead as
a singular event held not even in Berlin, but in the National Theater in Weimar.
“This is not our place”, Matvei Burlakov said angrily, apparently referring to the
liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp in April 1945 by the American
army and the following running of the camp by the People’s Commissariat for
Internal Affairs (Narodnyi Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del, NKVD). Until its
Folklore 70 33
Memories, (Re)Construction, and Appropriation of Space in Wünsdorf
dissolution in 1950, more than 7,000 people died of starvation, malnutrition,
and disease in Special Camp No. 2.
It was not until the Social Democratic Party’s (Sozialdemokratische Partei
Deutschlands, SPD) leading politicians, including Wolfgang Thierse, Friedrich
Schorlemmer, and Manfred Stolpe, sent a letter to Helmut Kohl asking him
to change the location so as not to humiliate the Russians, that the chancellor
settled on Berlin. Nonetheless, Bundeskanzler Kohl was still against a “joint
and equal leaving of all allied forces in Germany” (Kaiser & Herrmann 2010
[1993]: 185–186). Although according to a survey, 75% of Germans supported
a common celebratory ceremony, the German government opposed this idea,
as they too deeply felt the ideological divide (ibid.). “Our soldiers do not leave
as occupiers, but as partners and friends,” Yeltsin stressed in his speech on
August 31, 1994, during the ofcial farewell ceremony in Berlin. But even
the highly symbolic joint laying of a wreath at the Soviet memorial in Berlin-
Treptow and the emotional singing of the specially composed song titled “Lebe
wohl, Deutschland, wir reichen dir die Hand” (‘Goodbye Germany, We Reach
Out Our Hands’) could not hide the fact that the day was experienced and re-
membered as a “second class” leaving (Kaiser & Herrmann 2010: 185–186).25
This symbolic and real distinction is also reected in the interviews. The
majority of the interviewees remembered the ceremonial dimension as being
important and dignied because it symbolized gratitude, especially in the con-
text of the Peaceful Revolution in 1989, when the Russian Army remained calm.
In general, the interviewees would also have preferred a common ceremony
with all four allied forces to prevent the Russian Army from appearing in an
outsider role. However, four interviewees explicitly emphasized the importance
of holding separate ceremonies. A separate event expressed the “hierarchy”
among the occupying forces, with the Red Army being the least respected. Her-
bert Wüllenweber (born in 1951), who strongly supported separate ceremonies,
explained his opinion via a biographical and generational experience: his father
had been a front-line soldier on the Eastern Front, ghting against the Soviets.
“I am in no way a friend of the Russians,” he added, and he also mentioned the
overly “arrogant and dolled-up Russian women” (Russenweiber) and not least
the current political developments (“I am anything but a Putin whisperer”26).
He clearly demonstrated that the interpretation of the past is always affected
by knowledge of the present (Sabrow 2014: 36–37; for the context of the military
transition, see Ehlert 2013; Thoß 2007). The feeling of cultural superiority may
also have played a central role in retrospective descriptions and the reproduc-
tion of pejorative stereotypes like the ones discussed above (von Wrochem 2003:
62; for an overview, see Müller 2005).
34 www.folklore.ee/folklore
Christoph Lorke
This mixture eventually also shaped the present-day perception and evalu-
ation of Wünsdorf (and its desired future). In general, it is striking how the
symbolic space of the former military base was inuenced and dominated by
a clear dichotomy regarding the images of the Soviets/Russians, which oscillated
between idealizing descriptions and demonizing horror stories. While some of
the interviewees tended to idealize the time with the Soviets and speak of it as
the “most wonderful period of their lives” referring directly to the post-Russian
time, which was in their eyes characterized by “disorder, decline, and dirt”,
and which transformed Wünsdorf into a dead ghost town, others did not even
try to conceal their Russophobia. In the interviews, which were by no means
free of polemics, a self-referential split was most clearly expressed via external
and self-attribution and the categorization of “Russian friend”, “whisperer”,
or “enemy”,27 which very likely was not only the case in Wünsdorf but also in
other former garrison towns, even outside Germany.
A noteworthy differentiation can be concluded regarding 1) the size and
importance of Wünsdorf in the military network in the GDR and the whole
Eastern bloc and, even more important, 2) the specic context of the reunited
German society, which lies transversely to these processes of appropriation
and negotiation and, subsequently, the (new/old, visible/invisible, open/sub-
tle) borders which affect memories, narratives, and emotions. In this society
different “arenas of transition” happened to occur: conicting elds that rep-
resent problematic, conictual, and often contradictory processes of merging,
identication, and self-understanding (for a rst draft of these “arenas”, see
Großbölting & Lorke 2017).
As one example of an “arena”, the case of Wünsdorf in its (Soviet/Russian)
past and present claries the overlapping of current and long-lasting conict
situations in different dimensions: the military, political, social, cultural, me-
morial, collective, and individual. The Wünsdorf case represents not only how
the different modes within the GDR past were negotiated repeatedly, but also
how encounters with Russians (and references to them) before and after the
period of 1989–1994 were highly determined by biographically acquired, avail-
able, and activated reservoirs of cultural and national clichés and stereotypes.
Yet, there was also a recursiveness in the handling of the individual’s past
(Gallinat & Kittel 2009; von Plato 2009) and in the negotiation of GDR and/or
East German identity (Pollack & Pickel 1998), which for many Wünsdorf locals
even today is closely interwoven with the Soviet/Russian presence until 1994.
Folklore 70 35
Memories, (Re)Construction, and Appropriation of Space in Wünsdorf
THE (LASTING) PROCESS OF CONVERSION:
WÜNSDORF BETWEEN “HOBBYHORSE” AND “HUMBUG”
When the last Russian soldier left Wünsdorf in September 1994, ownership
of the property was assigned by the state of Brandenburg. The restructuring,
renovation, and conversion of former military sites were great challenges nan-
cially, logistically, and symbolically. For Brandenburg, above all, the immense
size of former military areas was a huge burden: about 120,000 hectares were
transferred to the state by the federal government after the withdrawal in June
1994. In comparison to the other four New Länder, Brandenburg was the area
most affected by military utilization of land and conversion. Thus, the impor-
tance of this task was codied in the Constitution of the Land of Brandenburg
(Article 40; “Grund und Boden”).28 Quickly, the conversion of this intersection
of German, European, and Soviet military history came to be a prestige project,
the “hobbyhorse”29 of Prime Minister Manfred Stolpe (SPD), which took place
under the heading Von der Konfrontation zur Kooperation (‘From Confrontation
to Cooperation’). But what can be done with an area six kilometers long and
800 meters wide, with a mix of contaminated soils and sites, approximately
three million liters of kerosene, 300,000 tons of waste, ammunition, and a na-
ture reserve, and how can the different layers of the past be integrated within
a more or less “consistent” memorial narrative (Kaiser & Herrmann 2010 [1993]:
204–205; Gießmann 1992: 199–206)?
One of the rst major measures, aside from the return of property and
houses, and one of the most notable elements of commemoration among the
interviewees, was the reopening of federal highway B 96, which had been closed
to through trafc since the 1950s. There are reasons why almost all of the in-
terviewees mentioned the reopening. By 1991, several local initiatives had tried
to reopen the highway, leading to an ongoing battle between the locals and the
Russian troops. More than 1,000 applications arrived in the community’s ofce.
Eventually, the Russian commanders refused these requests on the grounds of
possible noise pollution and the running out of goods in the Russian shops (Für
die Wünsdorfer 1991). According to a journalist’s observation, at that time the
“German-Russian climate was extremely tense” (Liebold 1991). All the greater
was the joy when the highway was eventually opened to public trafc in 1994.
Many interviewees regarded this as a symbolic new beginning,30 and one of
them even saw it as the “only positive effect of the withdrawal”.31
The development company Landesentwicklungsgesellschaft (LEG)32 had am-
bitious plans, and in 1993 cited locational factors, such as its close proximity
to Berlin, the labor potential, favorable trafc links, and landscape (Wieschol-
lek 2005: 51–62).33 Eventually, nine development scenarios were proposed,
36 www.folklore.ee/folklore
Christoph Lorke
ranging from a zero solution (i.e. renaturation), and an eco-city (“Architecture,
Ecology, and Art”) to Germany’s largest city for refugees (which, according to
a documentary, led to many objections from the locals (see Richter 1993)),34
a leisure, service, technology, and innovation center like Silicon Valley, and
a bureaucratic and satellite town with up to 20,000 inhabitants (“Good Night in
Fresh Air”) (Kaiser & Herrmann 2010 [1993]: 201–202; Brüske 1993; Hénard
1993). In April 1995, there was a cabinet decision to maintain the character of
the area and, using the name Waldstadt (‘Woody City’), which today is a part of
the community of Wünsdorf, create a place for living, trading, administration,
education, and working within an attractive environment. Furthermore, eighty
million marks in aid money was made immediately available (Wieschollek 2005:
Figure 7–8. Glimpses of Wünsdorf after the withdrawal of Soviet
forces in 1994. Garnisonsmuseum Wünsdorf.
Folklore 70 37
Memories, (Re)Construction, and Appropriation of Space in Wünsdorf
70). In the end, none of the plans were realized. Considering the unemployment
rate of up to 20% in Wünsdorf in the mid-1990s, the price of commercial spaces
was presumably too high. On the other hand, there was no complete break-
down either, not least due to an immense amount of aid money from private
initiatives and the European Union. Nowadays, there are approximately 6,500
inhabitants in Wünsdorf, half of whom live in Waldstadt.
By 2009, 80% of the former military sites had been sold (Kaiser & Herrmann
2010 [1993]: 204). However, as almost everywhere in East Germany, especially
in rural areas, there is still a comparatively high number of empty properties
in Wünsdorf, although that number has decreased slightly during the last ten
years (for an overview, see Kratz 2003). Additionally, most likely as a strategic
decision, the Brandenburg state agency for the road sector and the state ofce
for the preservation of order are based in Wünsdorf and have several hundred
employees.
The causes of this situation are complex and multilayered, as well as contro-
versial: unused potential, conicts over use, the lack of sufcient development,
and the premature development of common visions, and missing or overesti-
mated infrastructure are some of the general aspects which were mentioned
regularly (Lohnes & Kucera 1997; Wieschollek 2005: 131–160). Due to high ex-
pectations, the term “conversion” often has a negative connotation. In contrast,
the interviewees were less squeamish, and they often used such phrases as
utopian, unrealistic ideas, fantasies, “humbug”, sinister and clandestine machi-
nations and intrigues by third-class incompetent West German professionals,
and unfeasible and useless ideas full of lobbying, trickery, and wheeling and
dealing in the context of restructuring the former military property.35 For some
of the interviewees, with the withdrawal of the Russians a part of the imagined
GDR past left, too. Such statements may be interpreted as a delimitation of the
“new time” and/or of the West Germans and, thus, a reaction to the perceived
devaluation of the individual and collective life’s work (Müller 2011: 368).
Today, there is a special focus on the touristic potential and European-wide
important military history of Wünsdorf related to the Kaiser, Hitler, and the
Russians, along with ties to the arts, culture, and nature. In September 1998, the
rst and only German “book town” was founded here, following a British model,
in order to promote humanistic ideas, appreciation of books and the closed bun-
kers as symbols of peace, and to encourage a sensible approach to the past and
present.36 The private limited company Bücherstadt-Tourismus GmbH organizes
different thematic guided tours through the “Forbidden City”, accompanied by
campres, the serving of stew from a eld kitchen, military-historical seminars,
encounters with military vehicles, an “underground Sunday” in the “zeppelin”
signal bunker, and readings. Even though the book town project is regarded as
38 www.folklore.ee/folklore
Christoph Lorke
Figure 9–10. Glimpses of Wünsdorf
after the withdrawal of Soviet forces
in 1994. Garnisonsmuseum Wünsdorf.
a success (e.g. Arlt 2010: 672), it is in a constant struggle for its existence: of the
twenty original antiquarian booksellers, only three have survived, and there
are 400,000 books waiting to be sold (Mallwitz 2015). There is also a garrison
museum, Roter Stern (‘Red Star’), which is supported by a local booster club
and gives an interesting but quite uncritical overview of the Soviet/Russian
stay in Germany, with both permanent and changing exhibitions showing the
didactic and educational efforts to preserve the memory of Wünsdorf’s military
past (Fischer 2000; 2010).
It is evident that these developments shaped memorial representations as
well as the practical aspects of managing the former military past. In Wünsdorf,
there are still initiatives to deal with the military heritage in general and the
withdrawal of the army in particular. In order to preserve the memory of the
Soviet presence, a ring road in Wünsdorf was named after Pjotr Koschewoj,
a former Soviet marshal who was based there for several years. The renaming
Folklore 70 39
Memories, (Re)Construction, and Appropriation of Space in Wünsdorf
was a response to the failed initiative of the Freunde der Bücherstadt Wüns-
dorf (‘Friends of the Wünsdorf Book Town’) to rename another street after the
controversial commander Burlakov (Degener 2014a). As a common initiative
of the Bücherstadt Wünsdorf and the Russian embassy, on the 20th anniver-
sary of the withdrawal, in 2014, Anton Terentjew, who was a colonel general
in Wünsdorf in 1993 and 1994 and thus played a signicant role in the process
of the withdrawal, returned and thanked the locals for their “maintenance of
tradition” (Die Rückkehr 2014; Degener 2014b). On that day, gratitude for Eu-
rope’s liberation from fascism was expressed in Wünsdorf, including greetings
from local and national politicians, although at that time the conict between
Russia and the Ukraine was underway.
Among Russians, there is signicant interest in and willingness to visit
Wünsdorf, and especially among the younger generation there is a vibrant online
culture of commemoration, for example, in the social medium VK.37 The lively
exchange of class photographs may not be merely a surrogate for remembering
their “homeland”, and many plan to visit the place of their childhood as potential
“homesick tourists” (provided they have the nancial ability to do so).38 This
specic double perspective was also registered by the locals and emphasized
in some of the interviews: for many Russians, Wünsdorf became their “home-
land”, as Dietrich Meyer (born in 1943) highlighted, and their withdrawal was
“tantamount to a catastrophe”.39
Figure 11. A glimpse of Wünsdorf
after the withdrawal of Soviet forces
in 1994. Garnisonsmuseum Wünsdorf.
40 www.folklore.ee/folklore
Christoph Lorke
CONCLUSION: REINTERPRETING THE MILITARY PAST
IN WÜNSDORF
As discussed above, the permanent presence of Soviets/Russians has left deep
traces in Wünsdorf regarding the creation of (new) cultural and spatial, as well
as social and individual, identities. The variety of the collective and individual
handling of the legacies of the Cold War in Wünsdorf nowadays illustrates dif-
ferent forms of appropriating, updating, reinforcing, neglecting, and excluding
certain elements of the Soviet/Russian past. Opinions about the Russians before
1990 are cross-generational and still present today, and they now stretch the
full range from anti-Russian sentiments and the commemoration of a highly
negative concept of “foreign domination” to feelings of belittlement and con-
tinuing melancholy.
This nding corresponds with a survey of East Germans by the Institut für
Demoskopie Allensbach (‘Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion Research’)
in 1994, when 32% of the respondents assessed the Russian troops as “mostly
friends and allies”, while 42% regarded them as “mostly an occupying power”
(Müller 2011: 144). Even if one concedes that the sample of the present study
represents a multiple skewed perspective – those who responded to the press
call had “something to say” and a special “need for communication” – the conclu-
sions strengthen the argument presented by historian Evemarie Badstübner-
Peters, who claimed that the Soviet (Russian) inuence was a constant and
highly relevant factor in everyday life, to a far greater extent than assumed
previously. Its impact is noticeable even today. The “difcult handling of the
difcult foreignness” (Badstübner-Peters 1997a; 1997b) most likely not only
inuenced behavioral and orientation uncertainties after 1990, in regard to deal-
ing with foreign cultures and lifestyles, but also led to different ways of coming
to terms with the past, which reects a highly ambivalent memorial landscape
and current (geo)political and diplomatic developments. These ndings can be
classied as selected practices of “othering” in terms of a certain space, where
“foreignness” can be interpreted as a result of everyday interaction, construction,
identication, and irritation. This also reects on both existing and obsolete
ideas of social, economic, cultural and ethnic order within a certain space, and
the embedded role of the “foreign” that over many years signicantly inuenced
the local symbolic order (Geenen 2002: 245–247; Reuter 2002).
In terms of the future, many residents place plenty of hope in the comple-
tion of a major airport for Berlin. The Waldstadt page advertises a “space for
visions”, an “exceptional environment”, the “best infrastructure and transport
link”, a place with a historical location, vivid culture, and “enchanting lake
Folklore 70 41
Memories, (Re)Construction, and Appropriation of Space in Wünsdorf
scenery”, which is, however, still in a “deep sleep”. The “very low commercial
tax rate” and, above all, the proximity to the future Berlin airport would offer
“unlimited opportunities”.40 Many interviewees mentioned this scenario too,
and not only the relocation of “noise refugees” (i.e. people escaping the noise of
city life), but also the existence of a major Russian investor were mentioned.41
Taking a quick glance at its current status, in the past year approximately
1,500 refugees were admitted for the rst time to live at the former military
base in Wünsdorf (Fischer 2015). In May 2015, two local right-wing youths
attacked the complex with reworks. The local initiative Wünsdorf wehrt sich
(‘Defending Wünsdorf’) organized several demonstrations last autumn, warn-
ing against crime, disease, and sexual assault. At the end of the event, the
crowd loudly demanded the withdrawal of Chancellor Angela Merkel and sang
the national anthem (Brockhausen & Rohowski 2015). Their Facebook page
has more than 3,100 likes (as of September 2017), much more than the 643
likes for the local refugee aid campaign from the same month, and notable
statements by their followers include: “I really preferred the Russians much
more”, or “If only the Russians were still here”. Statements like these again
powerfully demonstrate how for many locals the unloved past can be updated
(and upgraded) when new symbolic hierarchies are required and new borders
have to be established. For the time being, the question must remain open, as
an interviewee suggested, as to whether some of the residents have difcul-
ties handling any type of foreignness: “Fear of Russians, fear of wolves, fear of
refugees – this is a constant feature of Wünsdorf’s history”.42 The last statement
indicates a divergent type of “foreignness”, which privileges the Soviet/Russian
past in Wünsdorf. It again proves that how to deal with former Soviet bases
in Germany is strongly inuenced by the different layers of the aftermath in
the context of the German reunication and the lasting effects of the “power of
unofcial memory” (Burke 1991: 300).
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I would like to thank Sabine Kittel and Lilith Buddensiek for the rst, unofcial
proofreading. I would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers along with
the editors for providing indispensable suggestions on how to more effectively
structure this essay.
42 www.folklore.ee/folklore
Christoph Lorke
NOTES
1 This was the name beginning in 1988. From 1954 the name was the Group of Soviet
Forces in Germany. The Soviets stayed based on the “Treaty on Relations between
the USSR and the GDR” (1955).
2 For a summary of the locations, see the database edited by the Militärgeschichtliches
Forschungsamt (‘Military History Research Ofce’), available at http://www.mgfa.de/
html/standorte_einleitung.php, last accessed on August 23, 2017.
3 For example: Altengrabow, Karl-Marx-Stadt, Dresden, Grimma, Halle, Hillersleben,
Jena, Magdeburg, Merseburg, Rostock, Schwerin, Stendal, Weimar, or Wittenberg.
4 Bernau, Cottbus, Dallgow, Eberswalde, Fürstenberg, Jüterbog, Perleberg, Potsdam,
Neuruppin, Neustrelitz, Rathenow, or Vogelsang, to name only a few.
5 See the contribution by Evgeny V. Volkov in this volume.
6 In detail: “Märkische Allgemeine”, “Wochenspiegel”, “Blickpunkt”, “Teltow-Kanal”,
“Stadtblatt Zossen”, and the homepage of the community of Zossen (available at www.
zossen.de, last accessed on August 23, 2017).
7 The questions were: 1) What part did the Soviet troops and the place of Wünsdorf play
for you before the year 1989? 2) How would you describe or characterize the “interim
phase” between 1989 (the fall of the Berlin Wall) and 1994 (the withdrawal of the
troops)? 3) How did you experience the process of withdrawal: the mood in Wünsdorf
among the local residents as well as among the soldiers? What has happened to this
place since then? These open questions allowed enough space for additional remarks
by the interviewees and also for further inquiries on my part.
8 This is not the place to propose a broader discussion of the term “generation”. Very
briey, subdividing these people into generations (Ahbe & Gries 2006), eight inter-
view partners (40%) belonged to the Aufbau-Generation (“Construction Generation”),
born between 1920 and the mid-1930s, seven (35%) to the funktionierende Generation
(“Functioning Generation”), born from the mid-1930s until the end of the 1940s, and
ve (25%) to the integrierte Generation (“Integrated Generation”), born in the 1950s.
What is important here is the fact that the majority of my interview partners were
from the Aufbau- and funktionierende Generation, which shows their interest as well
as personal/emotional involvement.
9 The only interviewed woman mentioned that in the context of the end of World War II
the locals were “frightened”. Interview with Ilse Bollmann (born in 1929), February 26,
2016. To protect their privacy, all names of the interviewees have been ctionalized
and created by the author.
10 Interview with Ilse Bollmann, February 26, 2016.
11 “F” stands for Fernverkehrsstraße; in 1990, the name was changed to B 96 – Bundesstraße
(‘Federal Highway’).
12 Interview with Gerhard Dombritz, February 18, 2016.
Folklore 70 43
Memories, (Re)Construction, and Appropriation of Space in Wünsdorf
13 Only a small selection: Sowjettruppen 1990; Schwelien 1991; Maa 1991; Unsere
Leute 1993; Habbe 1993; Militär 1994; Zwischenbilanz 1994.
14 Interview with Günther Heisig, February 19, 2016; similar statements were men-
tioned in the interviews with Walther Meining (born in 1935), March 1, 2016, and
Willy Tuchscherer (born in 1932), March 5, 2016.
15 See, for instance, the following selection of media articles: Furman 1991; Lippold 1991;
Schwelien 1991. Resentment was mentioned in detail in one interview, with Gerd
Langer (born in 1931), March 3, 2016. These verbal attacks were addressed both to
soldiers and the families of higher ranks.
16 Interviews with Arnold Klein, February 25, 2016, and Bernhard Michel (born in 1939),
March 19, 2016.
17 Interview with Ilse Bollmann, February 26, 2016.
18 Interviews with Winfried Bläse, March 3, 2016, and Bernhard Michel, March 19, 2016.
19 For example, in the interviews with Werner Schmidt (born in 1933), February 28,
2016, and Harald Weber (born in 1951), March 3, 2016.
20 Interview with Heinz Bremer, March 8, 2016; see also Kowalczuk & Wolle 2010: 223.
21 Die Russischen Truppen verabschieden sich. ORB, June 11, 1994; 02’20, Deutsches
Rundfunarchiv Babelsberg, No. 9400834. See also a short extract available at https://
www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShYQFoh2290, last accessed on August 23, 2017.
22 Interview with Winfried Bläse, March 3, 2016.
23 Interview with Walther Meining, March 1, 2016.
24 Interview with Siegfried Marquardt, March 7, 2016.
25 See also Staatsfeiern 1994; Hénard 1994; Jelzin-Besuch 1994.
26 Interview with Herbert Wüllenweber, March 15, 2016.
27 Interview with Gerhard Dombritz, February 18, 2016.
28 See https://bravors.brandenburg.de/de/gesetze-212792, last accessed on August 23,
2017.
29 Hobbyhorse. Märkischen Allgemeine Zeitung. January 25, 2002.
30 Interview with Walther Meining, March 1, 2016.
31 Interview with Winfried Bläse, March 3, 2016.
32 Landesentwicklungsgesellschaft (state development corporation). In June 1995 the
LEG, which was operating in decit, was succeeded by the Entwicklungsgesellschaft
Waldstadt Wünsdorf/Zehrensdorf (EWZ). For further background information, see
Wieschollek 2005.
44 www.folklore.ee/folklore
Christoph Lorke
33 Infrastructural and nancial limitations (mainly, being far from Berlin’s sphere of
inuence, a remarkable workforce potential that was concentrated only in a few eco-
nomic sectors, and a lack of investor interest) were discussed, too.
34 Following this article, observations could be made that Wünsdorf local residents oc-
casionally stated that foreigners would be the least favorable new neighbors.
35 Interviews with Günther Heisig (born in 1933), February 19, 2016; Winfried Bläse,
March 3, 2016; Herbert Wüllenweber, March 15, 2016; and Bernhard Michel (born
in 1939), March 19, 2016.
36 Bücher und Bunkerstadt Wünsdorf. Bücherstadt-Tourismus GmbH. Available at www.
buecherstadt.com, last accessed on August 23, 2017.
37 For instance, see GSVG ZGV VIuNSDORF WUNSDORF GDR DDR,
available at https://new.vk.com/wunsdorf; Vse kto sluzhil v Viunsdorfe GSVG i ZGV
(Everyone who served in Wünsdorf in the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany
(GSFG) and in the Western Group of Forces (WGF)), available at https://new.vk.com/
club4598721; Shkola 89 GSVG/ZGV Viunsdorf (School No. 89 GSFG/WGF), available at
https://new.vk.com/club156004; ZGV. Viunsdorf. Shkola 1 (WGF. Wünsdorf, School
No. 1), available at https://new.vk.com/club58542; ZGV Viunsdorf NIKEL’ p.p.35714
(WGF Wünsdorf Nikel p.p.35714), available at https://new.vk.com/club1056642; http://
wunsdorf.livejournal.com, all last accessed on August 23, 2017.
38 Wunsdorf, DDR – Posledniaia osen’ / / Letzten Herbst. Available at https://www.
youtube.com/watch?v=LEOeTtfCigo, last accessed on August 23, 2017.
39 Interview with Dietrich Meyer, March 10, 2016.
40 Die Waldstadt Wünsdorf. Available at http://www.waldstadt-wuensdorf.de, last
accessed on August 23, 2017.
41 Interview with Bernd Holtzschke (born in 1939), March 8, 2016; see also van der Kraat
2014.
42 Interview with Heinz Küstner (born in 1935), March 8, 2016.
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com/watch?v=LEOeTtfCigo, last accessed on August 23, 2017.
... The training grounds built in Germany covered an area the size of the federal state of Saarland. Most of the locations were situated in the area of the present-day state of Brandenburg, where the supreme command of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany was located, and specifically in Wünsdorf (Kowalczuk -Wolle 2010: 228; see also Lorke 2017). The extent of this infrastructure alone already indicates the logistical challenges associated with the withdrawal. ...
... However, as I will argue in this paper, the withdrawal was accompanied by signs of unrest, especially in the mass media, who, for their part, were in a process of 'discovery' after 1990... The Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union at the time, Eduard Shevardnadze, had called for a'withdrawal with dignity'during the Two Plus Four negotiations, but this was anything but self-evident (for context, see Lorke 2017). Some of those involved in the actual withdrawal viewed the process as 'almost peaceful and dignified', such as Hartmut Foertsch, the director of the liaison organization between the German and Russian armies (Foertsch 1995;see also Foertsch 1994). ...
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When it was decided in the late summer of 1990 that the Soviet troops would withdraw completely from the recently unified Federal Republic of Germany by the end of 1994, the modalities and logistical details of the withdrawal of people and material soon developed into a heated political issue. The 'Russians' and the spaces they had occupied since the end of the Second World War quickly became important topics in the newly unified German society, and their impact during this highly dynamic and confusing period cannot be underestimated. In particular, the German mass media played an immensely important role in the public and symbolic imagination of these perpetual 'strangers' and their spaces. In some parts of the media, these spaces were portrayed as requiring an urgent transformation so that they could become 'German' again. Via the social images of the post-Soviet military bases, this article discusses the immediate and long-term consequences of attributions and categorizations of the 'Russian' past and argues that those contested images also allow insights into the functioning of society's self-understanding discourses in reunified Germany.
... Tomek (2017) explores the legal (and illegal) use of spaces in Milovice, a Soviet military city in the former Czechoslovakia, for paintball games and as destinations for car club meets, raves and 'urban explorations'. Lorke (2017) highlights the creation of bodily and sensory tourist experiences following the withdrawal of Russian troops from Wünsdorf in former East Germany in 1994, which included guided tours, hands-on experiences with military vehicles and re-enactment of daily life. Former military bases commonly become destinations for tourists seeking education (and often entertainment) about particular conflicts, or military history in general (Demski, 2017;Strömberg, 2013), and, in these sites, the very materiality of military landscapes is essential to the re-use of these spaces since it is arguably 'the original military features and aesthetics that attract tourists' (Seljamaa et al., 2017, p. 13). ...
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