A final difficulty in dealing with postwar German history is the selection of an appropriate thematic focus that highlights some of its central developments. Should a historian stress the post-catastrophic learning processes that gradually "Westernized" the Federal Republic, Americanized its popular culture and consumption patterns, and helped it to reestablish a vibrant civil society? Such a focus would leave out the GDR's failed "Sovietization" effort, which remained superficial and was rejected as soon as the East German population had a chance to do so (7). Or should a historian instead stress newer transnational developments like the ebbing of the Cold War, the transition to post-industrial economic structures, and the emergence of postmodernism as a cultural trend? While the former contributed to the economic collapse of the GDR, the latter hardly managed to penetrate the Iron Curtain (8).
The subsequent documents should allow students to make up their own mind about the fundamental issues raised above. Instead of sticking rigidly to predetermined categories, these sources focus on sixteen major clusters of developments, which are roughly arranged in chronological order, beginning with the aftermath of building the Berlin Wall in August 1961 and ending with its undermining during the summer of 1989. To counteract the danger of ideological bias, this volume includes statements of contradictory viewpoints on especially contested questions. Within each cluster, the selections include East and West German examples so as to highlight their similarities and differences; but due to the eventual success of the Western model, more space is allotted to events in the Federal Republic than the GDR. Finally, this volume seeks to present a broad picture of events and commentary, starting with international and domestic politics, but extending to the economy, society, and culture, easing the challenge of thematic focus by offering a plurality of materials.
(7) Heinrich-August Winkler, Der lange Weg nach Westen. 2 vols. (Munich, 2000); Konrad H. Jarausch and Hannes Siegrist, eds., Amerikanisierung und Sowjetisierung in Deutschland 1945-1970 (Frankfurt am Main, 1997).
(8) Andreas Rödder, Die Bundesrepublik Deutschland 1969-1990 (Munich, 2004).