Maaz, a psychiatrist in the former East Germany, recalls the Communist-ruled society of his country as a system of continuous coercion, manipulation, control and punishment, its symbols the Berlin Wall and the ubiquitous Stasi, or secret police. East German schools enforced a ruthless leveling of individual potentials; authoritarian parents rewarded conformity. In a remarkable, intimate psychological profile of a people scarred by 40 years of repressive Communist rule, Maaz depicts an infantilized, submissive population, kept in eternal childhood, for whom autonomy, self-awareness, responsibility and openness were extremely rare character traits. Beneath the average East German citizen's unemotional facade of respectability and discipline, he maintains, festered pent-up rage, pain and deep resentment at the more prosperous and freer West Germans. First published in Germany in 1990, the year of German reunification, this prescient study predicts that East Germans will have a tough time adapting to freedom of choice, social mobility and a market economy. (Jan.)
The recent reunification of East and West Germany has not proceeded as quickly or as smoothly as first hoped. Maaz, a psychiatrist who practiced at a church-based clinic in the former East Germany, explains the problem in terms of early upbringing. East Germany was handed directly from the authoritarian Nazi regime to the equally authoritarian Communist regime. Thus, for 60 years, submission to authority, lack of initiative, and evasion of personal responsibility were taught to East Germans from earliest childhood, producing a "deficiency syndrome" in most personalities and a collective social pathology. The implications of this syndrome and of attempts to compensate for it explain many of the current social problems of East Germany. This novel perspective on current events adds a new dimension for serious students of the region.-Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York
Written in a white heat of liberated indignation soon after the Communist regime collapsed, this piece of social psychology loses none of its punch in the passage of five years. Maaz was a psychotherapist in East Germany, and he diagnoses life under the socialist system in psychopathological terms. Repression, denial, alienation, and a clutch of similar concepts define the problems his patients brought to him. Because the scope of complicity in the state's policies was nearly universal, Maaz rather despairingly believes, based on the thousands of cases he has treated, that it will take a long time for East Germans to become responsible members of a democratic, free-market Germany. East Germans find it difficult to face the fact that they parroted vapid official phraseology on every public occasion or scraped all their lives for a meager standard of living, which, when compared to the West, made their efforts seem pointless. Euphoria over the end of the Wall has given way to dysphoria; and dismaying as Maaz's analysis is, readers following affairs in Germany (where this work was a best-seller) will benefit from its gloomy insights.