The Rhetorical Crisis of the Fall of the Berlin Wall: Forgotten Narratives and Political Directions
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The accidental opening of the Berlin Wall on November 9th, 1989, dismantled the political narratives of the East and the West and opened up a rhetorical arena for political narrators like the East German citizen movements, the West German press, and the West German leadership to define and exploit the political crisis and put forward favorable resolutions. With this dissertation, I trace the neglected and forgotten political directions as they reside in the narratives of the East German citizen movements, the West German press, and the West German political leadership between November 1989 and February 1990. The events surrounding November 9th, 1989, present a unique opportunity for this endeavor in that the common flows of political communication between organized East German publics, the West German press, and West German political leaders changed for a moment and with it the distribution of political legitimacy. To account for these new flows of political communication and the battle between different political crisis narrators over the rhetorical rights to reestablish political legitimacy, I develop a rhetorical model for political crisis narrative. This theoretical model integrates insights from political crisis communication theories, strategic narratives, and rhetoric. My analyses then test this model by tracing the narrative trajectories and rhetorical transformations of the narrative enactments by the East German citizen movements, the West German press, and the West German political leadership. As recent historical research revealed, Helmut Kohl favored what others refers to as the “pre-fabrication model” for German and European unification, which entails the expansion of West German and European legal, political, and economic systems eastward. Using Sarotte’s research about Kohl’s prefab model as a rhetorical anchor, my reconstructions of the different political crisis narratives reveal how the individual narratives support or weaken Helmut Kohl’s pre-fabrication model for German and European reunification. Finally, while the West’s rhetoric of practical politics, economic necessity, and rapid unification offered short-term solutions for political and economic integration, it concealed long-term narrative possibilities for German and European integration. Thus, this dissertation discusses the hidden rhetorical possibility for German and European political integration as they reside within the discourse between the East German opposition groups, the West German press, and the West German political leadership.
Ehrl, Marco (2018). The Rhetorical Crisis of the Fall of the Berlin Wall: Forgotten Narratives and Political Directions. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from