Questions to the narrator
TranscriptPlease note that this transcript is based on audio tracks and doesn't have to match exactly the video
I changed the question …
(German Translation) Could you tell us in which way you were forced to leave the DDR?
Yes, I was in prison for one year, ’76 – ’77, I was accused of not writing along official lines and I was also friendly with Wolf Bierman the songwriter who was expatriated and those were sufficient reasons to force me to leave the country, i.e. either to remain in prison or to leave. I left. In order to write.
Is there militarisation in the DDR? And can you give some concrete examples of this, drawn from your own experience?
(German Translation) Is there militarisation in the GDR and can you give us concrete examples from your own life?
Yes, there is militarisation, the DDR is a standing army, she attaches great importance to a centralised outlook working it's way from top to bottom, many of her political notions and ways of approach in the sector of school and education are military, orders are playing a big role, subordination and superiority, and the concrete examples which are best found, is how children are being brought up, how schools are being run and what is happening in kindergarten. How children are familiarised with the soldier, the image of the soldier, which is made a positive image and how, the notion of enemy is created, insinuating that the other one in the other state which the child doesn't know is the bad one. And the second example I would like to quote is, many young men are being stirred up and worked upon to remain in the army longer, which is what they then do, a lot of them do, and a very high percentage of university graduates, i. e. students wanting to go into the professions are recruited as reserve officers. This means a commitment whereby they remain in the civil service; however, they can be transferred into the active military service at any time and they therefore subject themselves totally to the command of the state. They are then officers and those are two examples of how society is tied to military notions.
(German Translation) Can you give us any concrete examples from your life or from the life of your friends?
‘Overcontrolled’ is a good expression, you become conscious of it when there is a conflict. If there is no conflict you are not so aware of the control. A conflict, the year ’68, I was 16, 17 years old, Czechoslovakia was being occupied by the Warsaw Pact armies and one teacher was of a different opinion, he didn’t want to sign that this occupation was right. I was friendly with this teacher and all of a sudden there were people in the school saying: “Would you please come to the Principal’s room”, they produced ID cards and said: “Right, we would like to talk about this teacher, he is a friend of Dubček, a counter-revolutionary, we want you to tell us about him and you will continue to co-operate with us in the future.”
What are the reasons why more people in the DDR, like industrial workers, don't openly criticise or show their opposition to the regime?
(German Translation) Why don't more people, e.g. workers in industry, in the heavy industries, show more opposition to the government?
A difficult question, which I would briefly like to answer with the rest of the previous question. It is surely interesting whether this young pupil …, what he did. He said “No” to this co-operation, he didn’t want it and as a result, he got himself into trouble later on. It is therefore impossible to say “No”. When you address workers, or factories, you have to remember that legally there is no right to strike, that there is an experience of 17 June '53 where big demonstrations went wrong. And it's an expression of the fact that there is very little freedom of movement, little possibility to do something successfully - there is a lack of successful, well-done strikes – well-done actions – the democratic opposition, like that. And second component - we had Nazism, it was a dictatorship before ’45 in Germany – the trade union structures were smashed, the political parties and pluralism perished, and we have a destroyed democratic culture. And that is still having an effect.
(German Translation) Why aren't there more [unintelligible] in the GDR in general?
One had to do when a dictatorship, a party dictatorship like this lasts so long that discouragement is great. When so few oppositional impulses or open speech have succeeded and yet the laws are relatively harsh and when a border is like this, one has to deal with settling down, arranging people with everyday life. And the power of indifference is great. It has always been a violence, it is great, even there. It is a physical, also psychological, also mental consequence of dictatorship, this exhaustion, I would call exhaustion. And it has gone hand in hand with something called fear mongering. When you realise power through fear, if it lasts a long time and there is no change in sight, people can be exhausted. This condition is there and we have to consider that Germany has not had a pluralistic structure since '33. It takes a long time.
And the other thing is that those, who go into opposition, are expatriated o, leave for the West and there is nothing which authentically remains in the country and grows. They have succeeded, bit by bit, to chase all opposition which was organised, like writers for instance, out of the country. This is the result.
What is the real purpose of the “Jugendweih-Zeremonie”?
(German Translation) What is behind the “Jugendweih-Zeremonie”? What is the actual...?
It's a ritual, it's a celebration of the pagans, it's pagan. It's also a bit of a labour movement. A bit of socialist way of keeping the young generation welcome to adulthood, welcome to adulthood and it's a celebration for the young people. They are proud that they are adults now. They are addressed as “Sie”, it's a celebration, it's a cut. And at the same time, it is a connection to the state ideological structure. Not to the church, not to Eppelmann, not to culture of any other kind. But to the state. We don't know whether that will work.
Yes, it is no longer the bloody, harsh terror of the Stalin era, but the hallmarks I would call, for example, what you call purges, gulag, even the many dead are not discussed. One characteristic of this post-totalitarian situation is ‘no memory’, little memory, no memory, little to occupy. Inability to mourn, Mitscherlich has called it, here also – inability to mourn. At the same time – one is not very successful. Successful in the sense that not all people believe that this society is the only possible one. But society lasts. It lasts and it repeats itself. It gives one … the power is relatively stable. That is the experience. It is relatively stable, even if many dogmas crumble. Even when many things recant or change. It is stable. And for me, this society, as we characterise it, is also a product of our time. Namely a possible – I find the answer impossible rather – but a possible answer to the diversity of our lives. To the many confusions, contradictions, frictions, whether of a warlike or ecological or even social nature. It is the simple, mechanical answer. And people orient themselves to it and even if they find it wrong, they still orient themselves to it. That, for me, is a mystery of this society. It may not be successful, but it is stable.
Do you share the view often states in the West that with greater economic prosperity and modernization in socialist Europe there would be more political freedom?
(German Translation) Do you agree that if there were a better state of life, that there would be …
Standard of living is not everything. As one can say “work is not everything”. Technical development, taking in economic interdependencies are not everything either. I believe that these societies will only change if the people who live there are able to conquer their fear. I believe it is a more psychological, more idealistic matter. Then something can come out of it that questions or changes this society. And that has to do with whether there is another answer to the questions of our time, but one that is also valid, outside of this mechanical-simple answer, outside of the sectarian answer, outside of the shortened command response. Whether there is. Poland, Solidarność, many authors, other philosophical efforts, are trying, but it is a beginning.
In the short term, will Gorbachov's policies help economic reform and social reform in socialist Europe?
That is possible, that is a possibility. When you have walked for so many years on a unity road and people's thinking is diverse and you have spent so much also to always say only one answer, you have a desire and there is a great pressure to allow diverse answers. One wants to use this energy that one has used only in holding down, this, that one wants to use. That is also a demand of the times, economically, politically, socially. You can't live against the whole of society all the time. First point. The second, which I find, is that it is connected with hope. The great danger we are in is that Gorbachev will become a kind of cult figure, that everything will again be expected from above. Looking up – has the Messiah come? Yes, he has come. And that, for me, is the greatest danger – that in a situation where Eastern European countries and dictatorships in other countries – Chile, the Philippines – are changing in the direction of democracy, something is once again being projected onto a person, and moreover onto a state person, who was partly responsible in the past for what went wrong. At the same time, Gorbachev is an example of a faction that wants to get moving. But the danger I see is that people will wait and not act themselves. And this waiting will mean that Gorbachev will also fail. This direction can only prevail if it finds social answers. If, let's say, it is carried from below and if surprising, new possibilities arise. And the third aspect is that this staring at a leader, who may be good, entails weakening the authenticity of the democratic oppositions. And let's say, as it were, to bring an official response to the human rights demands and thus neutralize them.
Will Gorbachevism liberate the people of socialist Europe?
Included in the answer I gave: He definitely cannot, they have to liberate themselves.
Is Gorbachev the liberation of the peoples of Eastern Europe? These peoples must liberate themselves.
Jürgen Fuchs (1950–1999)
Jürgen Fuchs was born on 19 December 1950 in Reichenbach in Vogtland; he died on 9 May 1999 in Berlin. Fuchs was a German writer, civil rights activist and representative of the opposition in the GDR, who continued to be observed by the Stasi in the West even after his forced expatriation and was fought with measures of subversion.
Jürgen Fuchs came into conflict with the GDR authorities early on. His critical statements during the student protests and the Prague Spring in 1968 were punished by the school administration. Since the school administration had described him as “politically unreliable”, it took a petition before he could begin studying social psychology in Jena in 1971. In 1973 he became a member of the SED. He wrote poetry and worked with the Jena Literature and Poetry Working Group around Lutz Rathenow. After a joint performance with Bettina Wegner and Gerulf Pannach, the lyricist of the band Renft, he was expelled from the SED and the FDJ in 1975. Shortly before completing his studies, Fuchs was sentenced to "expulsion from all universities, colleges and technical schools in the GDR" by the disciplinary committee of the University of Jena because of his poetry and prose works and was forcibly de-registered politically. This meant that he was no longer able to work as a psychologist.
Fuchs then worked in a church social institution. After protests against the expatriation of Wolf Biermann, Jürgen Fuchs was arrested on 19 November 1976 for “anti-state agitation”. After 281 days in custody in the prison of the Ministry for State Security in Berlin-Hohenschönhausen and international protests, Fuchs was forced to leave the country in 1977 under threat of long prison sentences and deported to West Berlin. In his book Vernehmungsprotokolle (Interrogation Protocols), Fuchs recounts the interrogations from detention from memory. The Stasi files later confirmed his account. The historian Hubertus Knabe wrote: “If you read the 88 interrogation protocols and the more than 60 pages of interrogation plans, you are still shocked today by the mercilessness with which the Stasi staff put the young author through the wringer.”
In West Berlin, Fuchs worked as a freelance writer and, from 1980, also as a social psychologist. He was involved in the peace movement and kept in touch with the independent peace and civil movement in the GDR, the Czech Charter 77 and the Polish Solidarność and addressed taboos of real socialism such as state security and the ransoming of prisoners. The GDR's Ministry of State Security (MfS) opened an investigation (ZOV “Opponent”) against Jürgen Fuchs in 1982 and subjected him and those around him to numerous “decomposition measures”. These included a bomb attack in front of his house in 1986 and sabotaging the brake hoses of his car. Plans by the MfS Department VIII for Observation and Transit in 1988 included, as Stasi documents describe it, the temporary attachment by the West Berlin IM “Genua” of an unspecified “necessary object ... for a specific measure” in the ventilation shaft under Fuchs’ front door, but the order was withdrawn.
Since the fall of the Wall, Jürgen Fuchs has made a special effort to clarify the crimes of the MfS. From 1991, he worked for a time in the education and research department of the Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the former GDR, whose advisory board he left in 1997 in protest against the employment of former Stasi staff. In the same year, he fell ill with leukaemia. On 2 January 1992, he was one of the first people to be allowed to look into their Stasi files.
Fuchs died of the leukaemia in 1999. His death fuelled the suspicion that he had been deliberately exposed to gamma radiation as a prisoner of the MfS. His friend Wolf Biermann wrote about this: “His death at the age of 48 is one of the clues. Fuchs died of blood cancer, which indicates radiation damage.” Joachim Gauck, the then Federal Commissioner for Stasi documents, ordered a scientific investigation. After extensive research, however, the Gauck Authority was unable to establish that radioactive substances or X-rays had been used deliberately to harm opposition members. However, the investigation did reveal various careless uses of radioactive substances by the State Security, for example for marking banknotes sent in letters to help solve mail thefts, or for radioactive marking of manuscripts.