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UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

Los Angeles









East German Journalists and the Wende:

A history of the collapse and transformation of socialist journalism in Germany











A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the

requirements for the degree

Doctor of Philosophy in History



by



Morgan Morille Schupbach Guzman





2015

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The Red Monastery: The Creation of Socialist Journalists
The Karl Marx University served as the official port of entry to the journalistic

profession. Aspiring journalists had to first secure an internship at an established media

organization. The Volontariat or internship was the first step in forming a professional

consciousness of the budding East German journalist, because–in the opinion of one journalist–it

allowed the young aspirants to see the practice of the profession in action and to experience first

hand the discipline needed to carry out the job.87 The next step was to gain admittance into the

“Red Monastery,” the journalism program at the Karl-Marx University. To be accepted,

journalists had to pass an interview, which evaluated potential students based on the following

criteria,

… Political and moral demeanor; second, the motives for entering the profession and
their existing understandings of the demands of the job; third, the ability of the individual
to complete the specific professional components of the job; and fourth, the person’s
willingness to enter the army.88

The descriptions of the training at the Karl-Marx University were relatively consistent

across the interviews. The program consisted of two pillars, an ideological pillar and a technical

pillar. The former was not unique to the journalism program. Marxism and Leninism (known

colloquially by the abbreviation ML) comprised the foundation for most if not all of the

advanced degrees in the GDR. These courses focused on the ideological canon and the essential

works of Marx and Lenin. Most journalists described this two-year basic study period of their

education as a boring nuisance. Susanne H. for example found this portion of her education

interesting, but ultimately so undemanding that she used this time to continue her French studies

on the side so that her language skills would not languish while in Leipzig.89 However this


87 Holterman, Das Geteilte Leben, 83.
88 Ibid.
89 H. and Guzman, Appendix 6: Susanne H. 557

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ideological foundation was a critical component of the journalist’s professional consciousness.

When asked about the nature of Leninist journalism, Eichhorn emphasized this point,

Naturally we were raised, educated in the principle that you allude to in subtext. The
Leninist principle of journalism was that journalists served the party. We are the
propagandists, or the other way around, we are the agitators, the propagandists, and the
organizers of the party. That was clear, it was stated openly. We lived in the GDR. I
studied [at the University] in the mid 1960s. [Regardless] if someone liked the party, or
the party feeling, everyone who studied there was clear on the fact that he served the
party. Yes, one simply has to state that from the beginning. That is effectively how we
represented ourselves.90

Although many found this ideological component secondary to their original goals of learning

the art of journalism, both Susanne and Frank Herold remarked on the utility of having a

formative ideology around which to frame one’s thoughts and problems. Susanne, for example,

continued to find Marx’s writings helpful to her understanding of capitalism and the economy in

the post-Wende period.91 And Herold remarked, “even this portion of my education that was

ideological, was not in vain, was not for nothing. … Rather it gave me something.”92

Beyond this first ideological pillar, the journalists in Leipzig were also trained in specific

practical elements of their profession. After completing a basic foundational curriculum as a

group, journalists were divided into sub-groups based on their eventual job placements.93 There

was little choice in this selection; the journalism program functioned as part of the planned

economy, and the number of radio journalists compared to print journalists was carefully

computed and tailored to the specific needs of the socialist media economy.94 In these smaller

cohorts the journalists were instructed on the particulars of television, radio, print, or news

service reporting. Students learned how to structure and formulate an article, commentary, or


90 Eichhorn and Guzman, Appendix 3: Alfred Eichhorn. 421
91 H. and Guzman, Appendix 6: Susanne H. 557
92 Herold and Guzman, Apendix 4: Frank Herold.468
93 Eichhorn and Guzman, Appendix 3: Alfred Eichhorn. 487
94 H. and Guzman, Appendix 5: Torsten H. 496

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Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1999.

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