Kicking Through the Wall: Football, Division and Entanglement in Postwar Berlin

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Hogg, Emmanuel




Seldom is the German capital referred to as a “Fußballstadt” (“football-city”). When Berlin and football are mentioned together, themes of corruption, hooliganism, the Stasi, and scandal dominate.  And yet, Berlin holds a rich footballing history that dates back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and has long played an important role in the lives of Berliners as spaces for sociability.  In the postwar period, two divergent competing states emerged, each with their own competing structures of football. Whereas in the Federal Republic football remained an autonomous but not apolitical space, it was explicitly politicized in East Germany. As an important form of “soft power” during the Cold War, the people’s game reveals the extent to which the Iron Curtain was much more porous and elastic than the imagery of the Berlin Wall suggests. Rather than view football as “war without the fighting”, a microcosm that interprets the German and Cold War past as simplistic, reductive, and dichotomous, this dissertation analyzes the sport’s inherent dynamism that presented Berliners on both sides of the Wall with unique spaces for social interaction. Although both German states tried to use the sport to assert their own interests, this dissertation argues that football simultaneously provided fans with a relatively free space authorities could not effectively control, opening the opportunity for German-German interactions. Revealing these spaces of German entanglement provides a nuanced interpretation for the ways division was experienced, constructed, and negotiated during the Cold War and after the Wende.


European History




Carleton University

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