The Collectivization of Agriculture

Author & Director:
Juergen Ast | Kerstin Mauersberger

Commissioning Editor:
Anette Boderke

2 x 45'

astfilm productions | for RBB

Spring 1960. The media in the German Democratic Republic calls it the "victory of socialism in the countryside", a big staged propaganda hype. The last village became fully cooperative on April 14th 1960. All over the country monuments arise in honor of the event that dramatically changed the life of farmers and villages for decades to come: the officially apostrophized step by choice, that the GDR farmers in real life often took under heavy pressure, the collectivization of agriculture, the step "from me to us".

Today, many of the monuments have disappeared, but the memories of the collectivization all over the countryside, the time of the so called "LPG", the agricultural production cooperative, stayed for hundreds of thousands former GDR citizens. But what was this "collectivization of agriculture" in fact? Who wanted it, who dared to resist? What did and think both the ones responsible in the government and the "ordinary" citizen of it? The film tells the stories of those that became "free-farmers on their own clod of earth" after the land reform. It also recalls the life of the families that for hundreds of years lived on the soil that nourished them. And it's the story of cooperative farmers that suddenly became "Industrial workers on the field".

The first part of the documentary looks at the very beginning and the background of the collectivization. At the first foundations of agricultural production cooperatives in 1952, planned as "beacons on the countryside", a time when most farmers participated out of their free will. But often their light faded soon, the problems increased despite of massive state aid. After the revolt on June 17th 1953, several cooperatives dissolved. The SED now adopted a more smooth line to the farmers, they feared that too many farmers could leave the GDR. The second part of the documentary tells of a time when under the pressure of General Secretary Walter Ulbricht the "forced collectivization" took place in the late 50's. And finally of the "socialistic spring on the countryside", of the absurd visions of "agricultural cities", and of the real daily life of the LPG farmers in the GDR.