Beiträge zu den Beziehungen zwischen dem Hansischen Geschichtsverein und der Hansischen Arbeitsgemeinschaft in der DDR (1955-1990)

Persönliche Erfahrungen und Einschätzungen


  • Hugo Weczerka



Contributions to the relations between the “Hansischer Geschichtsverein” and “Hansische Arbeitsgemeinschaft” in the German Democratic Republic (1955–1990)
In 2011 Eckhard Müller-Mertens published a book about the Hanseatic association in the German Democratic Republic (“Hansische Arbeitsgemeinschaft”=AG). This association had been founded in 1955 as a part of the Association for Hanseatic History (“Hansischer Geschichtsverein” = HGV, seat: Lübeck), responsible for the HGV-members living in East Germany. All activities of the AG were meticulously watched by the relevant authorities of the GDR. Against the background of the GDR’s efforts to gain recognition as a state according to international law, the AG was pressed to dissociate itself from the HGV and to try to become an independent member of an international association for hanseatic studies. The anniversary of the foundation of the HGV one hundred years before was used as an opportunity to break off the connection to the HGV. The anniversary was to be celebrated in Stralsund (East Germany), where the HGV had been founded in 1870. Although the mayor’s invitation to come to Stralsund was limited by authorities, the HGV accepted it. Nevertheless, the AG was compelled to cancel the conference in Stralsund and to dissolve the connection to the HGV. As a pretext for the cancellation controversial formalities in the program papers for the conference were put forward.

The author of these contributions was in close contact with the HGV since the late 1950s, he was an assistant professor affiliated to the chair of Hanseatic (and East European) history at the university of Hamburg, he took part in editing the review “Hansische Geschichtsblätter” and was a member of the HGV-committee since 1965. Therefore he also had contacts with the AG and is now able to describe the connections between HGV and AG in crucial years, based on private papers and his own memories, as a useful addition to the statements of Müller-Mertens.

After a general introduction to the relations between the HGV and the AG the author comments on the participation of students from Hamburg University in conferences of the AG in East Germany, arranged by him 1960 –1966. While the Berlin wall was being built, he took part in a conference of the AG in Naumburg in 1961 and was able to impart news of the AG-committee to Lübeck. Difficulties in using western credits in East Germany are verified. The impending separation of the AG from the HGV could already be seen when the author was preparing an anniversary volume of the “Hansische Geschichtsblätter”. After the AG had left the HGV in 1970 historians outside Germany, above all in the Netherlands (Johanna van Winter) and in Poland (Maria Bogucka, Henryk Samsonowicz) tried to renew co-operation between historians of West and East Germany by founding an international organization for hanseatic studies, which could contain national commissions and associations in Western and Eastern countries, as the HGV and the AG. These efforts culminated in the Warsaw conference in December 1971 concerning the history of the Baltic area, arranged by the Polish Historical Society, followed by important discussions about an international society; under the leadership of Michel Mollat, chairman of the “Commission Internationale d’Histoire Maritime”, a “Committee for Organizing a Commission of the History of Europe’s Northern seas” was appointed. – In order to maintain direct connections between HGV und AG in East Germany, the author sometimes met the chairman of the AG in East Berlin (1970/71).