Saturday, January 3, 2009: 9:30 AM
Madison Suite (Hilton New York)
In Cold War Germany, intense East-West rivalry fostered the development of utopian and dystopian visions of a nuclear future. Nuclear technologies occupied a central place in high modernist visions of progress through science and technology, which reached a peak in the 1950’s and 60’s in both East and West. Competing East and West German narratives were embedded in Cold War conflict, which spawned not only inner-bloc cohesion, but also messier transnational flows of ideas and images. U.S. policies and media had a tremendous impact in West Germany, just as the German Democratic Republic was much influenced by the Soviet Union. However, Soviet discourses also influenced leftists in West Germany. And U.S. culture and technology made themselves felt in the East bloc, as I have demonstrated the in my book, Red Prometheus: Engineering and Dictatorship in East Germany, 1945-1990
(Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 2007).
In this book, I also argue that technocratic elements, present in all East-bloc countries, were particularly strong in East Germany because of the older German tradition of engineering. This tradition provides a cultural link to West Germany, where (as Joachim Radkau and others have shown) there was initially tremendous enthusiasm for atomic power. This was reinforced by the American “Atoms for Peace” program. As far as atomic warfare goes, West Germany was firmly ensconced in the Western alliance system. Where, then, did the West German anti-atomic power and peace movements of the 1970’s and 80’s come from? I seek answers in popular narratives. My paper is based on systematic analysis of relevant articles in three illustrated magazines, the East German Neue Berliner Illustrierte, the West German Stern and Life, as well as on archival research in Washington, D.C. and Berlin.