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Christoph Lorke

The author

Research assistant at the historical seminar of the Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster.

Hooliganism in the late GDR in the field of tension between norms of decency, social discipline and societal margins

Since the 1980s, rioting by rioting fans could also be observed to an increasing extent at sporting events in the GDR. An approach to hooliganism in the GDR that tries to take into account both the perspective of state power and the social significance of this social phenomenon.



introduction

Since the late 1970s, a phenomenon has been evident across Europe: At sporting events, especially in football, rioting by rampaging "fans" increased. Starting from the west of the continent, such as initially England [1] and later the old Federal Republic, [2] violent behavior by football fans soon spilled over increasingly into the socialist states, which here too led to illegitimate, sometimes anti-subversive rituals of violence. [3] Even if there had already been riots at soccer games in the GDR [4], an accumulation from the mid-1980s onwards is virulent, and more incidents of "hostile-negative soccer attachment" were registered. Sources of various origins give information about this, including the fact that the Ministry for State Security (MfS) was heavily involved in these fan groups at that time.
Ten days before German Unity Day, after the cup match between local rivals 1. FC Union and FC Berlin (previously BFC Dynamo), there were tumults between the fan groups on September 23, 1990. (& copy Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1990-0923-300 ; Photo: Klaus Franke)
In the period 1981–1988, for example, the "rowdy football appendix" of the state-affiliated BFC Dynamo (Berlin) was dealt with; Happened at city rivals 1. FC Union Berlin. [6] The diploma theses and other scientific qualification theses on the topic, which were created especially in the years 1982–1989, point to a need for action that is obviously felt to be significant. In the eyes of state power, this fringe group of football fans was a subculture with an inherently dangerous political potential.

What may appear today as a bizarre, insignificant footnote in the history of the GDR, should not least be understood as a contemporary reflex of German-German and European developments that should hardly be underestimated. Because far less than the state and party leadership had wished, it was possible to shield people in the "closed" GDR society from the influences of western youth culture. [8] The aim of the documenting authorities was always to record "deviant behavior" of young people and to transform them into an "all-round socialist personality", if necessary even to exclude them completely through criminalization.

In the following, on the basis of general public prosecutor's office documents from the Federal Archives [9], a spotlight will be thrown on the functionality of hooliganism in the late GDR, especially from the perspective of state power. The picture obtained in this way is understood as a complementary addition not only to the recent efforts of (sports) historiography to illuminate the topic, [10] but also to the present self-statements of those involved [11] and thus provides further insights into perception, argumentation and Practices of action of higher-level government agencies in their confrontation with societal marginal phenomena.

The ethnologist Roland Girtler provides an instructive overarching approach to the interpretation of hooliganism. This came to the conclusion that football fans, regardless of their culture, are simply manifestations of "indecency" that are "in massive contrast to the generally accepted rules of a society" [12]. Accordingly, violent football fans were also in the late GDR - so the thesis of the following statements - a further antithetical counterpart to the demanded "appropriate" lifestyle in the sense of "socialism", which manifests itself in phenomena like mere violence, the chanting of anti-Semitic-neo-Nazi slogans and other provocation could express. With Thomas Lindenberger, an "indispensable symbolic meaning" [13] can be assumed for the socio-historical significance of such a societal marginal position, similar to "anti-social" for "the legitimation practice of SED rule". Hooligans also acted as a negative foil as a contrast to the rest of socialist society; attempts to point the finger and repair the system were based on them, and on it were the behavior and way of life of common workers and employees in "real socialism" defined.