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The Director of the Youth Institute Comments on the Progressive Alienation of the Young People in the GDR (November 21, 1988)

The director of the youth research institute, Walter Friedrich, drafted a memorandum for Egon Krenz, the leader of the state youth organization, the Free German Youth [Freie Deutsche Jugend or FDJ]. The memo details the growing alienation of East German youths from the state and calls for constructive countermeasures, such as granting more freedoms to East German citizens.

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Some Reflections on Mental and Cultural Processes in the GDR

1. Preliminary remarks

[ . . . ]

I think we are at the beginning of a period of cultural upheaval (perhaps a “mental, cultural transformation,” a “cultural revolution”) encompassing vast parts of the world. There are many indications that the Soviet Union, on the basis of the CPSU’s perestroika course, will be a major, perhaps even a decisive factor in this global cultural reformation (new ways of thinking, an atmosphere of new beginnings, the assertion of humanist ideals, Russian cultural heritage, etc.).

In any case, we are living in a period of social change that is characterized by great intensity and profundity, especially in the area of cultural-intellectual life.

This, too, will lead us to a reconsideration of central social values and objectives, especially to a re-evaluation of our society as a “dynamic system.” We will have to judge our socialist society more strongly (and not merely in a theoretical-declarative sense) in its far-reaching structural change and development, in its objective requirements and constraints in order to adapt to the changed reality. Only then can we assure the increased social effectiveness that is desperately needed in many areas – and our own survival.

2. Some background information on the underestimation of mental-cultural processes in our country

It is my impression that the extent and depth of the current changes in processes of thinking, feeling, and acting among the people, among the youth and the entire population, is not being taken serious enough, is not being registered clearly enough in a political sense. Evidently, the great significance of this change in mentality, this change in basic personality traits (in character), is widely underestimated.

[ . . . ]

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