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November 24, 2020 -

What does East Germany's rise and fall have to do with pigs? A lot, actually

What does East Germany's rise and fall have to do with pigs? A lot, actually
Slaughtered PigArtist: Geschlachtetes Schwein

The communist state’s approach to industrial pig farming foreshadowed its demise, a University of Rochester historian argues

Thomas Fleischman has been obsessed with pigs for the better part of the last decade.

Tracing the history of East Germany’s birth in the immediate aftermath of World War II to its sudden collapse in 1989, the assistant professor of history at the University of Rochester has examined the socialist country’s history exclusively through the lens of pig farming. In his new book, Communist Pigs: An Animal History of East Germany’s Rise and Fall (University of Washington Press, 2020), Fleischman argues that agriculture under communism was in many ways not that much different from capitalist agriculture.

“Pig and pig farming provide a clear case study of convergence,” says Fleischman, who spent years combing national and local archives in the US and former East Germany, as well as interviewing and visiting former industrial pig farmers in the now-defunct German Democratic Republic (GDR), an authoritarian satellite state of the Soviet Union.

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