Havarie: East German Society Facing Industrial Disasters

Severe industrial accidents leading both to major disruptions in production and a relevant number of casualties are examined in order to reconstruct consensus, collusion and conflict between the different social actors constituting the social world of communist regimes: workers, engineers, managers, party organizers, functionaries of the trade union and the state apparatus, the secret police and party leaders. On each level of the socialist state from the local enterprise to the district and county up to the very top level such accidents or Havarien (as they were called in communist jargon) prompted vast amounts of fact-finding examinations, police reporting, and political evaluations allowing for insights into the fragile and always precarious texture of the societal relations under communist rule. Approximately ten heavy industrial accidents from May 1959 (explosion of a steam generator in the power plant of Espenhain, causing 17 casualties) to Februar 1990 (explosion of a carbide furnace in the Buna works in Schkopau, 5 casualties) will be examined on the base of archival material from the communist party, trade unions, the secret police (Stasi), state ministries, local authorities, enterprises and oral history interviews. The findings will be used to write a short history of the GDR told as an incessant sequel of technological and human disasters: from Havarie to Havarie.


"Havarie". Reading East-German Society through the Violenc/se of Things, in: Divinatio 42-43 (2016), pp. 301-369. [1]

Accidents as Incidents: Reading Society through the Violenc/se of Things, in Divinatio 39/40 [2] (2015), pp. 183-202. [2]

Havarie. Die sozialistische Betriebsgemeinschaft im Ausnahmezustand, in: Thomas Lindenberger, Martin Sabrow (Hg.), German Zeitgeschichte. Konturen eines Forschungsfeldes, Wallstein: Göttingen 2016, pp. 242-264.

Prof. Dr. Thomas Lindenberger

Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung
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E-Mail: lindenberger [at] zzf-potsdam.de