East-West German Transborder Entanglements through the Nuclear Waste Sites in Gorleben and Morsleben

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Astrid Mignon Kirchhof (Humboldt University, Chair of Modern and Contemporary History)

Published Dec 25, 2018


This article examines the porosity of national borders using the examples of two nuclear facilities at Gorleben and Morsleben located at the West German municipality in the state of Lower Saxony as well as the former Börde district of Saxony-Anhalt (former East Germany). Gorleben and Morsleben became known for their final nuclear waste repositories located directly at the German-German border. Debates and protests surrounding the facilities began in the 1970s and continued after the wall came down. Since opponents had to deal with two different political systems, protests differed in their duration, effect, and methods, even though the border as such was not the problem since West Germans were allowed into the GDR. Transboundary relations were much rather limited by the dictatorial regime on the one side, by the absence of anti-nuclear groups in the GDR until the mid-1980s, and by sufficient coalition partners for West German activists in their own country. Since the disclosure of environmental data by the East German government and the Chernobyl accident a few years later, transboundary relations increased and activists interconnected in many ways. With their protest they indicated that even if the border was a fact, concerns of people in both states transcended it and that borderlands are often characterized by relationality and entanglement.

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