A Crossroads In East German Football: Some Clubs Are Adapting to the Future, While Others Are Mired In the Past

In November of 2014, Germans will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. For decades, the Wall conjured up a number of negative feelings. While some said the Wall was built to keep East Germans from fleeing to West German, it can also be argued that the Wall was built to keep West German ideas from making their way to the East. Either way, the idea behind the Wall was to have a physical, social and economic divide between the two parts of Germany.

During the time of the Wall, one of the many divides that existed was in football. While the West German Bundesliga thrived with successful clubs, the same could not be said for the DDR-Oberliga. With the exception of some moderate success in Europe, which saw FC Magdeburg make it to the Cup Winner’s Cup final in 1974, most of the league was dominated by only three teams, which included FC Madgeburg, as well as Dynamo Dresden and Berliner FC Dynamo. In comparison to their West German counterparts, these teams did not have the caliber of coaches, staff and overall talent, and were rarely able to compete at football’s highest level. In the case of Berliner FC Dynamo, their connection to secret East German police, the Stasi, led to them winning ten straight championships between 1979 and 1989, mostly through corruption, intimidation, match fixing and a slew of other ethical questions.

Today, many East German football clubs still have had a hard time adjusting to a unified German Bundesliga. Some clubs, such as Berliner FC Dynamo and Dynamo Dresden, have decided to keep their communist past, as well as their East German-connected names, alive and well today. Other teams, such as FC Erzgebirge Aue, have shed most of their communist history and are concentrating on the present.

Even with this transformation, there is one thing that each team shares, which is a common connection to the idea of East Germany. Even the most anti-GDR establishment clubs, such as FC Union Berlin, still identify themselves as East German. While not necessarily supporting old East German values, they do show a sense of pride in being, if you like, Ost-Enders.

All of this might be explained through the idea of “socialist socialization”. After the end of World War II, Germany was eventually split up into East and West Germany. But what did it mean to be “East German”? Prior to 1945, Germans simply referred to themselves as Germans, since there was no distinction between East and West. This is mainly because the East-West lines were purely a result of post-WWII policy.

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  1. tb July 12, 2013
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