Local Lives, Parallel Histories: Villagers and Everyday Life in the Divided Germany

Marcel Thomas

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


The division of Germany separated a nation, divided communities and inevitably shaped the life histories of those growing up in the socialist dictatorship of the East and the liberal democracy of the West. This peculiarly German experience of the Cold War has so far mostly been seen through the lens of the divided Berlin or other border communities. What has been much less explored, however, is what division meant to the millions of Germans in East and West who lived far away from the Wall and the centres of political power. This book is the first comparative study to examine how villagers in both Germanies dealt with the imposition of two very different systems in their everyday lives. Focusing on two villages, Neukirch (Lausitz) in Saxony and Ebersbach (Fils) in Baden-Württemberg, it explores how local residents experienced and navigated social change in their localities in the postwar era. Based on a wide range of archival sources as well as oral history interviews, the book argues that there are parallel histories of responses to social change among villagers in postwar Germany. Despite the different social, political and economic developments, the residents of both localities desired rural modernisation, lamented the loss of ‘community’ and became politically active to control the transformation of their localities. The book thereby offers a bottom-up history of the divided Germany which shows how individuals on both sides of the Wall gave local meaning to large-scale processes of change.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

Publication series

NameStudies in German History
PublisherOxford University Press


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