East Germany

There was hardly a more eloquent symbol of the Cold War than this country divided by the Iron Curtain, and its capital divided by a wall. And that was well in line with the nature of the local regime. We were under permanent surveillance and shooting was very very difficult. The East Germans, compared to the others, had two advantages: relatives in the West and the chance to watch West German TV, the only exception being around Dresden, which was a kind of a blind spot for the transmitters. It was interesting that in statistical terms this was where the highest number of refugees to the West came from. With slight exaggeration one might say that West German TV had a stimulating effect beyond the Iron Curtain, as it distracted people from the reality of East Germany. For two days, maybe more, we waited in Berlin to get permission to shoot in an industrial combine, but nothing was happening. And it was necessary to shoot that stillness, which was another problem. This meant not only congresses or parades, the outer ritualisation, but also the empty public spaces, so typical for the regime, as every gathering of people was suspicious and as such was not permitted. In the end we were able to shoot an interesting alternative Protestant association, Kirchentag von Unten, where pastors were found who tolerated independent meetings at their churches. It was obviously a risk for them, but they got away with it. Young people went there who had no direct political requirements but were close to the Green Party on the other side of the Berlin Wall. There was an “alternative” atmosphere there. They took advantage of a loophole in the regime; the church sensed it and thus provided a shelter for independent activities.

Jacques Rupnik

Interviews

Monika Maron

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