Questions about Peace in the German Democratic Republic

William E. Yoder is a student In West Berlin and frequent visitor to East Germany.


1. In matters regarding the unity of the German nation, reunification and the easing of restrictions for visits between East and West Germans, the position of the GDR church is virtually the same as that of the West German government. In fact, the GDR church is sometimes accused by the state of being a lengthened arm of the West German government. Is this a proper calling for the East German church? Does the GDR church have a mandate before God to thwart the East German thrust toward the creation of two fully equal and mutually-recognized German states? Is it not conceivable that such efforts on the part of the GDR church endanger the credibility of their eloquent peace declarations, especially in the eyes of local Marxists?


2. The GDR church sees peace fostered by stressing the unity of the German people across all political and ideological boundaries; the state in contrast sees this as endangering their own security. For them, rapprochement or reunification implies that the weaker member will be swallowed by the stronger. The GDR state sees peace strengthened by fostering the security and independence of the GDR as a separate German state. It is an obvious fact that there are fewer restrictions for East Germans when their government feels strongest.


3. The GDR government is very suspicious of Christians coming from non-pacifist churches who suddenly claim to be pacifists. "Why weren't you pacifists previously," the party asks, "back when Hitler was in power?" The implication is, of course, that these Christians are pacifists simply because they are against a Marxist state: i.e., they would fight for capitalist and other rightist governments. I believe there certainly is some truth in the Marxists' suspicions.


William Yoder

Berlin-West, approx. 15 May 1981


Appeared in this form in the “Mennonite Quarterly Review”, July 1981, 284 words