Window to the West: How Television from the Federal Republic Influenced Events in East Germany

By Dieter Buhl

A paper by Dieter Buhl, spring 1990 fellow, examines how television from West Germany influenced political developments in East Germany in the 1980s. Buhl’s study suggests that television functioned on at least two levels leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall: it educated people, feeding information from the West into millions of East German homes each evening, and it had a direct influence on political events. Buhl describes the demonstrations in Leipzig in 1989, the coverage of which ultimately fired the imaginations of the once-docile East Germans. During the demonstrations, television encouraged “extreme slogans” and “nationalistic hyperbole,” but it also converted a political aspiration into a nationwide demand for change, one that could no longer be postponed.

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