Photo. Refugees waiting to be admitted to the Marienfelde Refugee Center, August 14, 1961
© DHM-Schirner

June 2013

History Notebook – Essays – 8th Grade, 1953

History Notebook – Essays – 8th Grade, 1953

“The Village in the Five-Year Plan” is a topic that eight grade students in East Berlin had as homework on April 17, 1951. Student H's essay discusses the advantages of the plan, which must be completed “to secure a better life for the future.” Constant discussion is required to reach or surpass the plan's quotas. Only in the collective will this be possible. The essay ends with these words: “This is why a collective economy is appropriate, since then each farmer must help the others.”

Our Object of the Month shows how students were raised in the GDR's political-ideological philosophy. In addition to the GDR's understanding of itself as an anti-fascist state, critiques of capitalism and the class struggle were central course topics. The GDR claimed to be the “better” German state based on those beliefs. The goal was to bring up all-around socialist personalities. Not only was the curriculum geared towards a Marxist-Leninist view of history - so were teacher training and the textbooks and other materials used in schools. As this object vividly shows, even notebook covers were designed to legitimate the GDR's propaganda.

Student H. left the GDR two years after he wrote this essay. He was denied high school graduation and training in business – his chosen career – since his father, a businessman, had been arrested for “economic sabotage.”
History Notebook – Essays – 8th Grade, 1953History Notebook – Essays – 8th Grade, 1953


Every village has a five-year plan. This plan will and must be completed in order to secure a better life for the future. There is the M.A.S. [a communal station for farm equipment">, which stands by the side of the farmers with tractors and other machines. In order to grow a good harvest, the farmer must meet with his neighbors beforehand to discuss how best to accomplish specific tasks. There are “club rooms” in every village, where problems can be discussed and solved. Each issue can be discussed on its own. Suggestions for improvements can help all the farmers at once. Only in this way can the five-year plan be completed and surpassed, since without discussion there can be no plan. This used to be very different. When one farmer had a bad harvest and his neighbor a good one, the other would laugh at his neighbor and abandon him. But now, with the five-year plan, that farmer would support his neighbor with help and advice so he could also meet his quota. This is why a collective economy is appropriate, since then each farmer must help the others.