American Historical Review

"In this long-awaited monograph, David Doellinger examines 'free spaces' that the Evangelical Church in East Germany and the underground, 'secret' Catholic Church in Slovakia cultivated between 1945 and 1989, with primary emphasis on the 1980s. He argues, unsurprisingly, that activists gradually extended these spaces into a nascent public sphere, where they challenged the power of the party-state. In East Germany, since the Evangelical Church enjoyed limited independence through a degree of cooperation with the regime (particularly after 1971), it was able to shelter working groups focused on peace, environmentalism, and other public issues, while in Slovakia the secret church aimed, until 1988, simply to preserve space for free religious practice. As a result, in the revolutions of 1989, the East German church was absolutely central, whereas activists from the Slovak secret church (with two prominent exceptions) played relatively marginal roles. In a short epilogue, Doellinger discusses some of the challenges the activists faced in adapting to the new situation after 1989. Though the general outlines of the East German story are familiar to many, Doellinger provides new details, and the story of the secret church in Slovakia has never been so well told in English."
Reviewed book: 
David Doellinger
$85.00 / €75.00 / £67.00