Research Project
Leipzig’s Sources of Knowledge in the Socialist Dictatorship

Typical and atypical trends in socialist transformation of East German librarianship based on a personnel and stock-related comparison of the Deutsche Bücherei Leipzig, Leipzig University Library and Leipzig Municipal Library from the end of World War II to the Library Reform in GDR (1945–1968/69)

Libraries (just as archives) are central institutions of study and research which, in democracies, provide plural contents publicly accessible and empower their users to get information and balance data critically, to correlate facts self dependent and – that way – gain knowledge. However, such individual and critical handling of information and knowledge is unwanted in authoritarian or totalitarian systems which ever want to un-differentiate society.

Contemporary German history reveals this thesis: Back in the days of National Socialism German libraries were under compulsion and learned personnel and stock-related restrictions the hard way. When the “Third Reich” collapsed, the oppression ended within a few months for the better part of German libraries – certainly not all.

With the Soviet occupation of eastern Germany after World War II the transformation of East German librarianship began as well. Despite of relief from National Socialism under the aegis of communism there was no chance to alter libraries in the former Soviet occupation zone and later GDR to ideological and political neutral spaces, therefore unbiased sources of knowledge. Rather libraries became anew ideological institutions which also had to contribute to the socialist society, especially in the area of education.

This research project focuses on the desideratum that there is no critical and systematic study which analyses the politisation and ideologisation of libraries in the “second” German dictatorship. Leipzig is well-suited for this kind of study for there is not only a multitude of specialised, scientific and private libraries since the turn of 19th century but also the city assembles three venerable and nationwide well-known institutions – Deutsche Bücherei, the University Library and the Municipal Library.

The results of the micro-study “Leipzig’s Sources of Knowledge in the Socialist Dictatorship” which will also pick up educational, economical and law-specific facts will be an essential contribution to contemporary library history as well as totalitarianism research.

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