Abilities to Mourn: Musical Commemoration in the German Democratic Republic, 1945-1989


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Music History and Theory


This dissertation examines the experience of World War II and its cultural ramifications in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) with a focus on musical practices of mourning and commemoration. While competing public and private versions of the recent past prevailed in the postwar years, official mourning in the GDR eventually revolved around the selective commemoration of “anti-fascist” heroes. Previous scholarship has neglected the music that accompanied commemorative practices, regarding it as a mere extension of communist propaganda. This study demonstrates that musical compositions contributed a multifaceted space to rituals of commemoration, where competing narratives of the past could coexist, thus offering a "performing cure" for working through the traumas of both personal loss and national destruction.