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Transitional Justice in the German Democratic Republic and in Unified Germany

Offe, Claus
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) In, Lukas H. Meyer, ed., Justice in Time: Responding to Historical Injustice. Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft. Pp. 239-269.

A new political regime does not spring from nothing; it emerges from an old or previous regime, write Claus Offe and Ulrike Poppe. Hence, the new regime must take into account the people and conditions of the regime passing or recently passed away, and it must provide some rationale for its relationship or approach to the former regime. These imperatives are especially true for a new democracy. Where an authoritarian regime might be able to repress and significantly eliminate traces of its predecessor regime, an emerging democracy must reckon more openly with the past injustices. Moreover, a new democracy must do so in ways congruent with and supportive of its presently avowed values and laws, and of its future stability and aims. As Offe and Poppe note, this threefold temporal reference – past, present, and future – is constitute of the problems of transitional justice in new democracies. With all of this in mind, then, Offe and Poppe concentrate on how backward-looking policies and practices evolved in unified Germany to deal with the past of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) after the GDR dissolved as a distinct German political entity. They look specifically at questions of interpretation of the GDR, key acts and actors in the history of the GDR, and issues related to legal and political sanctions.


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