Lieber Sandmann

Mass Media and the Construction of a New National Identity in Eastern Germany

By André Francischetti Moreno

“Sandman, dear Sandman, it’s not over yet; we’ll first see the evening regards; before every child must go to bed; you certainly still have time!”

If you come from Germany, or at least lived there, you have probably listened to this song from the children´s cartoon Unser Sandmännchen while you were growing up. In fact, in despite of the apparently naïve lyrics of the opening song, the cartoon´s origins relate to a not so-long time ago when Germany was still divided in two, during most part of the Cold War.  What most people do not pay attention, however, is on how the then government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) used the cartoon to build a new national identity. Indeed, national identity is not an inherent feature of human beings, rather it is something that must be constructed and disseminated. Smith (1988) goes further and argues that the concept itself can be regarded as a “political myth” as it holds that mankind is naturally divided into different nations. In 1949, the foundation of the GDR disrupted more than 78 years of German identity-building and set an important challenge to the new administration: “How to locate the newly formed East German State in the present, past and future of the common German experience” (Nothnagle, 1993, p. 93). The Unser Sandmännchen cartoon is a substantial example of how the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) used mass media to create a new national identity through the redefinition of values and historical aspects of the German society, differentiation and use of national symbols.

Firstly, Unser Sandmännchen conveyed a very important tenet of SED, which was the redefinition of the historical Heimat. The concept of Heimat, explored by Becker and Applegate (1992), denotes a homeland. It involves values and history, and thus may be used to legitimize a state, leading to a greater appreciation of the surroundings and a genuine and democratic patriotism (Palmowski, 2004, p. 369, 377). Essentially, the socialist Heimat was determined by class relations and proposed that socialism was the only way to become a fair society. (Schwarz, 1956). Emphatically, Peter Blümel, the former director of Unser Sandmänchenn, stated that the cartoon was projected to “reflect life in east Germany, transmit class consciousness and feeling of solidarity” (Molen, 2015). Moreover, historical approximation was also involved in the cartoon, endorsed by the “German-Soviet friendship myth” (Nothnagle, 1993, p. 103). The appearance of socialist symbols and, more subtly, Sandmann´s favorite place to spend holidays, Moscow, are examples of this shift. Volker Petzold, a Sandmann historian, said that it was made by and should convey a communist belief in a better and more just world, whose model was the Soviet Union.

Secondly, the government quickly recognized the political potential of the socialist Heimat and used it to differentiate the principles and policies of the new Eastern German State. Above all, the government utilized it to induce pride in the GDR’s achievements vis-a-vis the Federal Republic of Germany (Poiger, 2000). Unser Sandmännchen clearly represented the attempt of policy differentiation, when the little puppet traveled to Vietnam, in the middle of the Vietnam war, and to young nation-states in Africa and the Near East spreading the values of socialism (War´s, 2019). Furthermore, Sandman, who sometimes used a spaceship, traveled to space both fictionally and in real life (when in 1978, during the Space Race, the East-German astronaut, Sigmund Jähn took a puppet with him to the Soviet space station).

Thirdly, symbols were also used in order to construct a new national identity. As it comes to the transition from the old Germany to the GDR, the Eastern leaders agreed on five official ideological phases of the GDR development, of which one was the era of “Socialist Construction”, from 1952 to 1989 (Von Buxhoeveden, 1980). According to KolstØ (2006), national identity must be learnt, and audiovisual aids such as flags, coats of arms and national anthems play a crucial role in nation building and nation-maintenance). This can be seen when Sandmann and young pioneers board on a type of plane and fly over a Berlin full of GDR flags.

In brief, one can see that the GDR government used mass media to construct a new national identity in Eastern Germany and that the cartoon Unser Sandmännchen was an outstanding example of it. First, SED was able to reach its goals through the redefinition of values and historical aspects of the German society by creating the socialist Heimat and nearing German and Soviet history. Second, it differentiated its policies by exhibiting its achievements and political engagement. Third, national symbols such as the national flag were present to consolidate a national feeling. As one can see, “Communication is (understood as) the means through which a nation forges a common identity, a common purpose, and a common resolve, and mass media are the forum in which this communication occurs” (Grossberg, Wartella & Whitney, 1998). Luckily, from now on you will have a much broader idea over the cartoon, and more ideas to frame your dreams.

Photo by Barbara Evening on Pixabay

References

Becker, C. A., & Applegate, C. (1992). A Nation of Provincials: The German Idea of Heimat. The German Quarterly, 65(1), 55. doi: 10.2307/406805

Grossberg, L., Wartella, E., & Whitney, D. C. (1998). MediaMaking: Mass Media in a Popular Culture. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Kolst⊘, P. (2006). National symbols as signs of unity and division. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 29(4), 676–701. doi: 10.1080/01419870600665409

Molen, A. (2015, September 8). Documentary: The lost world of communism part 1/3 (East Germany) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znb_X48WXUg

 Nothnagle, A. (1993). From Buchenwald to Bismarck: Historical Myth-Building in the German Democratic Republic, 1945–1989. Central European History, 26(1), 91–113. doi: 10.1017/s000893890001997x

Palmowski, J. (2004). Building an East German Nation: The Construction of a Socialist Heimat, 1945–1961. Central European History, 37(3), 365–399. doi: 10.1163/1569161041445661

Poiger, U. G. (2000). Jazz, Rock, and RebelsCold War Politics and American Culture in a Divided Germany. doi: 10.1525/california/9780520211384.001.0001

Schwarz, S. (1956). Die Liebe zur Heimat: Ein wesentliches ziel unserer patriotischen erziehung (Doctoral dissertation). Berlin, Germany: Humboldt University.

Smith, A. D. (1988). The myth of the ‘modern nation’ and the myths of nations. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 11(1), 1–26. doi: 10.1080/01419870.1988.9993586

Von Buxhoeveden, C. (1980). Geschichtswissenschaft und politik in der DDR: Das problem der periodisierung. Cologne, Germany.

War´s, D. (2019, October 18). Fernsehen in der DDR: Sandmann, propaganda und ein kessel Buntes [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTpRRm2cxm0

The EU's struggles to end Daylight Saving Time (and why they are so hard to solve)

By Lea Schiller

When daylight saving time was first introduced during the First World War, the goal was to maximise the use of summer daylight and conserve fuel. By moving sundown to an hour later in the day, it was possible to sustain daily routine while burning less fuel for light. First introduced in Germany, the scarcity of wartime helped it spread throughout Europe to the United States. Though abandoned after peace was established, some European countries picked up the practice again during the oil crisis of the 1970s. In 1996, the European Union adopted legislation that requires member states to conduct clock changes in March and October of every year to keep differing time zones from destabilising the single market.

In September 2018, after conducting an online public consultation on the clock change in the European Union, the European Commission decided on the goal of ending the seasonal time changes in 2019. With about 4.6 million respondents, this consultation ended up generating the highest number of responses ever received in any public survey of the European Commission, though most of the votes originated from Germany and Austria. 84% of those who voted decided in favour of abolishing the seasonal time changes, with over 70% of all voters reporting they had a “Very negative” to “Negative” experience with the clock change – only 10% of described their experience to be “Very Positive”. The seasonal time change has been associated with causing short-term jet lag, similar to the experience after travelling through different time zones. This disruption of the biorhythm not only causes sleep disturbances and mood swings in the short run, but increases the risk of developing chronic illnesses like diabetes (Deutscher Bundestag, 2016).

By the end of March, the European Parliament had voted in favour of discontinuing the time changes, leaving the governments of the individual member states to decide whether to stay in daylight saving time or maintain standard time. Naturally, the need for a coordinated approach was evident, as a patchwork of timezones could have disastrous consequences for Europe’s closely knit transportation and communication systems – not to speak of the active cross-border trade. Especially for neighbouring countries, differing time zones could cause massive complications to the schedule of international trains and cross-continent flights. The Parliament amended its proposal, stressing the importance of coordination and long-time certainty in this operation. But this certainty appears to be waining. Most countries face domestic disputes over which time to keep, or are instead in conflict with their neighbouring states, trying to cooperate in order to avoid a patchwork of timezones. Meanwhile, Britain is wondering whether EU law will even apply to them by the time the discontinuation comes into force (O’Hare, 2019). Just a month after the Parliament’s decision, the General Secretariat of the Council (2019) published a note saying they had only received positions on the time change from a small amount of member states:

“It appears that most Member States need more time to conclude relevant national inter-ministerial and stakeholder/citizen consultations, as well as consultations with neighbouring countries before finalising their position.”For now, the EU has abandoned its goal of abolishing the seasonal time changes by the end of this year. The new goal is set for 2021 – as long as all member states submit a plan on how to deal with the consequences by the end of October 2020.

Photo by Bryce Barker on Unsplash

Resources

Deutscher Bundestag (2016). Studien zu gesundheitlichen Folgen der jährlichen                                                Zeitumstellung auf die Sommerzeit. Retrieved from: https://www.bundestag.de/resource/                         blob/407624/d1fa2b547812da531f580ce77f348b4f/wd-9-044-14-pdf-data.pdf

Council of the European Union (2019, May 27). Retrieved from: https://data.consilium.europa.eu/                  doc/document/ST-9414-2019-INIT/en/pdf

European Commission. Seasonal clock change in the EU. Retrieved from: https://ec.europa.eu/                          transport/themes/summertime_en

European Commission (2018, August 31). Summertime Consultation: 84% want Europe to stop                                   changing the clock. Retrieved from: https://ec.europa.eu/transport/themes/summertime/                        news/2018-08-31-consultation-outcome_en

European Parliament (2019, February 15). Retrieved from: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/                   document/TA-8-2019-0225_EN.pdf?redirect

Es ist Winterzeit – Wissenschaftler gibt Tipps gegen die Müdigkeit (2019, October 26). Welt.                                Retrieved from: https://www.welt.de/vermischtes/article202237376/Zeitumstellung-2019-                        Es-ist-Winterzeit-Wissenschaftler-gibt-Tipps-gegen-Muedigkeit.html

O’Hare, M. (2019, October 25). Europe will change its clocks for the last time in 2021. Should                          Britain bother? The Independent. Retrieved from: https://www.zeit.de/politik/2019-10/                        winterzeit-zeitumstellung-eu-kommission-jean-claude-juncker

Schaverien, A. (2019, March 27). EU votes to end mandatory switch to daylight saving time. The                     New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/27/world/europe/                                 daylight-savings-time-european-union.html

Winterzeit: Zur Abschaffung der Zeitumstellung fehlt der EU die Einheit (2019, October 25). Zeit                    Online. Retrieved from: https://www.zeit.de/politik/2019-10/winterzeit-zeitumstellung-eu-             kommission-jean-claude-juncker

MEP Marietje Schaake on the European Parliament’s Present and Future

Our first event of 2018 is here!

On the 2nd of February, Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) will join EUSA to talk about her work and share her views on the future of the European Parliament.

Ms Schaake has been a member of the Parliament since 2009 and focusses on topics such as international trade and the digital single market. During her visit, Ms Schaake will firstly reflect on her day-to-day activities within the Parliament and shed light on the topics she deals with.

Afterwards, the discussion will turn to the institution itself. The aftermath of the Brexit vote and the 2019 European elections have set in motion discussions across the EU about the future of the European Parliament. How can we strengthen the connection between European citizens and the Parliament’s daily activities? Shouldn’t we be able to vote for European, rather than national parties? And what to do with the 73 seats which will remain once Britain leaves the EU?

We look forward to welcome you all to this interesting discussion, taking place on the 2nd of February, from 16:30 to 18:30, at KOG (Law Faculty Building) in the Grotiuszaal (A051).

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/944520952368350/

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EUSA’s new Treasurer: David Naus

IMG_8348Meet EUSA’s Treasurer for 2017/2018!

Name: David Naus

Studies: History

Function: Treasurer

David Naus: “The European Union, a project hitherto unrivaled on the world theater in its ability to interlock sovereign states in an economic and political union has been one of my greatest interests for as long as I can remember. So, it is a great honour for me to be able to join the next board of EUSA. My first-ever experience with European integration was back in December 2001. A month before the Euro’s official introduction as the new currency, the Dutch government gave all its citizens a blue book encased with 25 guilders worth of Euro’s. After I proudly opened my new book it dawned me that I was witnessing something significant. I was little at that time, but I knew that the Yugoslavian Wars ended just a month before. This new currency seemed momentous because multiple European nations had just been at each other’s throats and now twelve other European nations decided to come together in pursuit of some sort of higher goal. From that moment on I wanted to know more about his magnanimous project that is the European Union.

This union celebrated its sixtieth birthday this March and we all need to take stock. Has the intrinsic duality of a supranational and intergovernmental superstate given the EU a prospect of exponential growth or is it holding further European integration back with its rigid bureaucracy? In which way is the internal European market a valuable resource of sustainable economic growth and when do member states deem it necessary to accept the authority of EU institutions of law above their own? All these questions are relevant in understanding and debating the European Union, the place that 510 million people call home. The board of 2017-2018 is going to organize a great year, with interesting speakers, debates and numerous other EU-related activities. I invite all the current and future members to join in, discuss and learn more about the European Union.”

Would you like to join David in the new EUSA board? You can still apply for the functions Secretary, EUSA Ambassador and Student Parliament Coordinator. More information about the positions: eusaleiden.com/the-board/. Apply now by sending your cv and motivation to eusaleiden@gmail.com!

Like and Win!

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LIKE AND WIN!

Felix Klos – our first speaker in our lecture ‘Exploring Brexit: an unprecedented story’ next Monday – is a a young historian who published a well-received book on Winston Churchill’s vision on European integration and the way his legacy was used in the pro-Brexit campaign.

Do you want to have this book? To win this book:
Like this post

Like the EUSA Facebook page

We’ll pick the winner on March 17!

And don’t forget to come to the lecture next Monday! https://www.facebook.com/events/1078064585671623/ See More