Working Paper 109

Collapse and Creation: the rise and fall of religion in East German offender rehabilitation programmes

Irene Becci

Department ‘Resilience and Transformation in Eurasia’

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Working Paper 109

German unification has been hugely debated among politicians and intellectuals who all seem to agree that its impact on the whole country was probably underestimated. The aim of this paper is to suggest that by going its own path, by appropriating the changes, East Germans have found a way of affirming a new identity which, in some aspects, represents continuity with the socialist past while in other aspects breaks with it. This text draws on the example of offender rehabilitation programmes in Berlin, Brandenburg, and Saxony-Anhalt as a product of the interplay of religious and secular institutions that emerged after 1989. The paper shows the particular understanding of religion amid secularity dominant in Eastern Germany. The author argues that such an understanding has most powerfully come up during the 1990s, a time that is often mentioned nowadays in the narratives of East Germans and in those of the analysed institutions.

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