ABSTRACT

The East German Protestant Church was generally characterized by numerically declining and often quite conservative congregations whose members struggled to support each other in the atheistic state. In a society where people told lies in order to survive, however, a powerful method of resistance was the insistence of many Protestants on what Václav Havel called ‘living within the truth’. This meant revealing the truth about emigration in the GDR. It also meant both supporting conscientious objectors to military service and promoting a different understanding of peace from that of the increasingly militarized so-called ‘Peace State’. Many pastors, too, refused to take part in the sham elections. However, the church was in no strong position to criticize the state’s dubiously fulfilled claim to gender equality, and its work on the heavily misrepresented economic situation was never strong. As the years went by, the church began to challenge the state’s reluctance to admit a share in the collective guilt for the Holocaust. Dissident Marxist writers and musicians seldom had much contact with the church institutionally, but individual congregations invited them in. All in all, despite pressure from the Stasi, the church stood by its values and fought the censorship to use its publications to tell the truth about crucial social and political issues.