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Friendship without Borders
Women's Stories of Power, Politics, and Everyday Life across East and West Germany
338 pages, 21 illus., bibliog., index
ISBN 978-1-78920-655-5 $149.00/£110.00 Hb Published (March 2020)
eISBN 978-1-78920-656-2 eBook
“Beginning and advanced students can learn much from this highly readable book. Its bottom-up view of postwar German history is revealing even to the expert. Its subtle and perceptive interpretations of attitudes about gender and womanhood, Heimat and the German past, politics and everyday life are enlightening. It provokes one to think about friendship, the psychology of groups, and ageing in new and refreshing ways. A most worthwhile read.” • German History
“The phrase ‘paradigm-altering’ is used in an inflationary way, but in this case of this book it seems appropriate. Friendship, Power, and Everyday Life will change the way we approach the social history of the twentieth century. In important respects, it alters our view of gender relations in the Third Reich, FRG and GDR.” • Mark Fenemore, Senior Lecturer in Modern European History
“Leask writes with great care for and due attention to the lives of the Schönebeck women. The reader is given a glimpse into their ‘unpolitical’ world, from the ins and outs of their daily lives—love, death, marriage, children—to their experiences living through some of the major ruptures of European history.” • Jane Freeland, German Historical Institute London
Across half a century, from the division of Germany through the end of the Cold War, a cohort of thirty women from the small German town of Schönebeck in what used to be the GDR circulated among themselves a remarkable collective archive of their lives: a Rundbrief, or bulletin, containing hundreds of letters and photographs. This book draws on that unprecedented resource, complemented by a set of interviews, to paint a rich portrait of “ordinary” life in postwar Germany. It shows how these women—whether reflecting on their experiences as Nazi-era schoolchildren or witnessing reunification—were united by their complex interactions with official power and their commitment to sustaining a shared German identity as they made the most of their everyday lives in both the GDR and the Federal Republic.
Phil Leask is an honorary research associate in the School of European Languages, Culture and Society at University College London. The author of numerous novels and short stories as well as scholarly reviews and articles, he has also contributed to several edited volumes: Becoming East German: Socialist Structures and Sensibilities after Hitler (ed. Mary Fulbrook and Andrew I. Port, Berghahn 2013); Ruptures in the Everyday: Views of Modern Germany from the Ground (ed. Andrew S. Bergerson and Leonard Schmieding, Berghahn 2017); and Psychodynamics of Writing (ed. Martin Weegmann, Routledge 2018.).