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Aleksanteri Conference







Tompkins, David

Israel as Friend and Enemy in the Early Cold War: Constructing a Pedagogical Image in Poland and East Germany

The construction and perceptions of external friends and enemies made up an essential element of the communist worldview, and proved thus crucial to the relationship between the party and population. Party members and sympathizers used these images to define the notion of both the ideal citizen and society by providing models to be emulated and avoided. With a stark perspective that allowed for few grays, communists in the Soviet bloc classified other countries and their citizens, and exhorted party members and their own societies to learn from these alleged successes and failures in order to shape an idealized socialist identity. This paper, with a particular focus on images of Israel in East Germany and Poland, will examine the penetration of the discourse of friends and enemies into the everyday life of the citizens of Communist Central Europe.

This paper will look at the formulation of these images by party leaders as well as the crucial stratum of artists, writers, composers, and scholars, who helped to formulate official positions and then translate them for public consumption. A particularly compelling source is that of delegations of artists and scientists traveling between the bloc and Israel. I will also examine constructions of friends and enemies through the mass media of newspapers, popular magazines, books, music, television, and film, as well as through the wide distribution of informational pamphlets and booklets on related topics. Public demonstrations and parades provide another fruitful arena of investigation, as speeches and slogans accompanied the many thousands of marchers and spectators.

Instead of examining more commonly-studied enemies like the United States and West Germany, or the Soviet Union as ultimate friend, this paper will focus on Israel. In the stalinist era, after several years of favor Israel was demonized. Upon Stalin’s death, relations with and the image of Israel improved somewhat, but in the wake of the Six-Day War in 1967, nearly all socialist countries officially broke diplomatic relations with Israel, thus turning the country into a full-fledged enemy.

Thursday 29 Oct, 16.15-18.15 SESSION 3
Panel: Images of Enemies: Representations and Projections