Truth Commission: Study Commission for the Overcoming of the Consequences of the SED Dictatorship in the Process of German Unity
Duration: 1995 - 1998
Charter: Act No. 13/1535
Commissioners: 36
Report: Public report

 

Truth Commission: Study Commission for the Overcoming of the Consequences of the SED Dictatorship in the Process of German Unity (Enquete-Kommission "Überwindung der Folgen der SED-Diktatur im Prozess der Deutschen Einheit”): 1995-1998.

Dates of Operation: July 1995 - June 1998 (3 years)

Background: The 1995-1998 German study commission was the second parliamentary commission to report on the consequences of the dictatorship of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands, SED) after the first study commission completed its work in 1994. The first SED study commission could not report on all aspects of communist rule in East Germany from 1949 to 1989, and therefore members of parliament set up a successor commission to complete the work.

Charter:  Act No. 13/1535 (PDF-174KB), June 22, 1995

Mandate: The Study Commission for the Overcoming of the Consequences of the SED Dictatorship in the Process of German Unity was set up to investigate the practices of the East German government between 1945 and the fall of the SED regime in 1989, document human rights abuses that occurred during that time, and assess the politico-historic, economic, ideological, and societal factors of the dictatorship as well as the misuse of environmental resources. These were the same tasks given to the first commission as well, but it was determined that more time was needed to complete the work.

Commissioners and Structure: The study commission was comprised of thirty-six members of parliament, divided into nine thematic working groups. The commission was headed by East German Parliamentarian and human rights activist Rainer Eppelmann. The members were selected by the parliament.

Report: The second SED study commission published a 14 volume final report with more than 15,000 pages as well as an intermediary report on the establishment of a permanent foundation. The intermediary report was released on October 8, 1997 and the final report was presented to the parliament on June 10, 1998. Nomos/Suhrkamp published he commission’s report in hard copy (see sources).

Findings:

Conclusions

  • The final report analyzed the structural conditions and perspectives of the reunited German Republic to overcome the repressive past of the SED dictatorship. The volumes focused on economic, social and environmental policies as well as education, science, culture and daily life in East Germany.
  • In contrast to the first study commission’s report, the second commission’s report focused on everyday aspects of repression, such as blanket discrimination against women and the severe restrictions on consumption of goods, as opposed to more violent atrocities.

Recommendations

  • The commission recommended the use of national holidays, memorials, documentation centers, and the mapping of government buildings used by SED institutions to educate the public about past abuses.
  • The intermediary report recommended the establishment of a permanent independent foundation to promote and support projects focusing on investigations of the communist past, preserve archives and provide psychological and legal assistance for victims of political persecution.

Subsequent Developments:

Reparations

  • The Bundestag (German Parliament) approved the establishment of the suggested government foundation devoted to the examination and reappraisal of the Communist dictatorship in East Germany (Stiftung zur Aufarbeitung der SED-Diktatur) on June 5, 1998.
  • In June 2000, the Berlin House of Representatives approved a law to establish a memorial at a former detention facility in Berlin-Hohenschönhausen. A foundation was mandated to investigate the history of the facility between 1945 and 1989 and inform the public about acts that took place there and their consequences.
  • On August 21, 2007, the German Bundestag adopted a law providing for further reparations for former political prisoners during the SED dictatorship. The Stiftung zur Aufarbeitung der SED-Diktatur participated in the drafting of the law and is pursuing efforts to expand the existing reparations programs to other victims groups; such as those whose health was impaired or those who were persecuted as students. The foundation also provides psychological and legal assistance for victims of political persecution.


Special Notes: The second commission’s report included “Sondervoten” just as the first commission.  “Sondervoten” or “special votes” were expressions of individual commissioners’ own assessments if they dissented with the views of the majority of commissioners.


Sources:


Eckhard, Jesse. "Zwischen SED-Diktatur Und Deutscher Einheit - Dickleibiges Werk Der Enquête-Kommission." Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 2001. Available at http://www.ddr-im-www.de/Buecher/Enquete-Kommission/Enquete1.htm (accessed June 10, 2008).

Errichtungsgesetz Der Stiftung Zur Aufarbeitung Der SED-Diktatur Bundesunmittelbare Stiftung Des Öffentlichen Rechts. June 12, 1998. Bundestag. Bundesgesetzblatt ed. Vol. Teil 1. Bonn: 1998. Available at http://www.stiftung-aufarbeitung.de/errichtungsgesetz-1081.html (accessed October 26, 2011).

Germany. Bundestag. Materialien Der Enquete-Kommission "Überwindung Der Folgen Der SED-Diktatur Im Prozess Der Deutschen Einheit": (13. Wahlperiode Des Deutschen Bundestages). Baden-Baden; Frankfurt am Main: Nomos; Suhrkamp, 1999.

Hayner, Priscilla B. Unspeakable Truths: Facing the Challenge of Truth Commissions. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Kritz, Neil J. and Nelson Mandela. Transitional Justice: How Emerging Democracies Reckon with Former Regimes. Vol.3, Laws, Rulings, and Reports. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1995, 286-289.

Kuhn, K. "Materialien Der Enquete-Kommission, Überwindung Der Folgen Der SED-Diktatur Im Prozess Der Deutschen Einheit"." Historische Zeitschrift 274, (2002): 542-545.

McAdams, A. James. Judging the Past in Unified Germany. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Mählert, Ulrich. "Die Enquete-Kommission Des Deutschen Bundestages „Überwindung Der Folgen Der SED-Diktatur Im Prozeß Der Deutschen Einheit“." Aktuelles Aus Der DDR-Forschung 1996, no. 3. Available at www.stiftung-aufarbeitung.de/downloads/doc/3-96l.doc (accessed June 10, 2008).

Peterson, Trudy Huskamp. Final Acts: A Guide to Preserving the Records of Truth Commissions. Washington, D.C.; Baltimore: Woodrow Wilson Center Press; Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005. Available at http://www.wilsoncenter.org/book/final-acts-guide-to-preserving-the-records-truth-commissions (accessed October 26, 2011).

 

Related Publications

Education and Training in Nonviolent Resistance

Education and Training in Nonviolent Resistance

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

By: Nadine Bloch

Civil society around the world has demonstrated the ability to bring about change without violence. Critical to civil society’s success is preparing communities to undertake safe and strategic nonviolent action (NVA) movements. Previous research on NVA has focused on three broad methodologies: protest and persuasion, noncooperation, and intervention. This Report contributes to the knowledge on NVA by highlighting key strategic functions and outcomes of education and training–a fourth and crit...

Education & Training; Nonviolent Action

Security and Justice in Post-Revolution Libya

Security and Justice in Post-Revolution Libya

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

By: Fiona Mangan; Christina Murtaugh with support from Ferdaouis Bagga

Three years after the death of Muammar Qaddafi and the end of the revolution in Libya, security and justice are stalled and elusive despite the proliferation of security providers. The power of the gun prevails over the rule of law. Many see no end in sight. Based on a nationwide survey and drawn from interviews and focus group sessions, this report—supported by the USIP and the Small Arms Survey—tracks security and justice in Libya from before the revolution through today, its realities, and...

Justice in Transition in Yemen

Justice in Transition in Yemen

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

By: Erica Gaston with Nadwa al-Dawsari

This research is part of a three-year United States Institute of Peace (USIP) project that explores how Yemen’s rule of law and local justice and security issues have been affected in the post-Arab Spring transition period. A complement to other analytical and thematic pieces, this large-scale mapping provides data on factors influencing justice provision in half of Yemen’s governorates. Its goal is to support more responsive programming and justice sector reform. Field research was managed b...

Civil Defense Groups

Civil Defense Groups

Thursday, July 31, 2014

By: Bruce “Ossie” Oswald

More than three hundred defense groups provide security to local communities in states around the world. While it is true that such groups can be a resource-efficient means for states to provide law and order to their communities, it is also true that they can worsen security.

View All Publications