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The Parallel Lives reader will include five stories from each country participating in the project. They are stories that the creators came across while doing their research at the archives of communist secret police organizations and which they have composed in an original way. Diverse stories of people whose lives were fatally influenced by the secret police, are to serve as a memento of the oppressive totalitarian regimes. They are a mosaic of human stories whose tragicality indicates the nature of the communist regime’s power mechanism, and which raise questions as to how we deal with our recent past. They are not precisely historiographical material,but given their documentary character, they, pars pro toto, reflect our recent history whose dark side must never be forgotten.

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FIVE STORIES – GERMANY

Clemens Bechtel

 

THE WRITER

A. grows up in the 1960s and 1970s in a village in the Ore Mountains which form a natural border between Saxony and Bohemia together with his brothers and parents. His father dies early. A. has plenty of plans for the future.

“I’m a great music fan. And collect autographs. I wonder why Bay City Rollers didn’t reply to my letter. After all, I’m only fourteen, how would I know that the letters are being censored by the State Security? In my spare time I write for the youth edition of the Sächsische Zeitung newspaper. I’d like to become a journalist.“

A. is a member of the Free German Youth (FDJ, the only officially approved organisation in the GDR) and a convinced socialist, which is the cause of constant quarrels with his elder brothers who do not approve of his zeal for the governmental system. A. first encounters problems after graduating from secondary school and joining the army. In the National People’s Army (NVA) he gets irritated by the meaninglessness of his doings. He gets into trouble with his superiors and allegedly has bad influence on his fellows. For this reason A. is not admitted to study journalism although he had previously been assured they would keep a place for him.

“Well, maybe this is the right way. Maybe in this country it is better not to become a journalist. Instead of Bay City Rollers I now listen to Led Zeppelin. And instead of working for the newspaper I currently keep myself busy with microelectronics. I still believe in the possibility to reform this system, although at work, too, they not only ignore my suggestions, but even consider them an attack against socialism.“

In the enterprise where A. works he is elected a trade union representative. But no one cares about his suggestions for improvements related to productivity and security. A. is angry, he’s thinking about turning to higher officials. After all, he only wants to help improve the conditions. He eventually sends his suggestions to a TV show. There is a big fuss about this. Berlin sends in people from the highest offices. Naturally, not to improve the conditions of the working class, but to put A. into line. They try to set A.’s colleagues against him, his behaviour is labelled as arrogant. In spite of that, A. still believes it is possible to reform the system.

“Problems can’t be solved by not talking about them. On the contrary. Hidden from people’s eyes they grow reaching such dimensions that after bursting open they become impossible to handle. And that is why I speak openly:

‘An ever growing number of people leave this Republic both legally and illegally. This is not my path. Too many quality people have left already. If right now all of us do not grab the chance to reform our socialist system, if we do not start to openly discuss things, then…’“

However, those in high office are not open to discussion. They do not feel threatened by people like A. They secretly search his flat, install a bug in it (unfortunately right next to an electric heater, so they can hardly hear anything), they employ secret collaboration agents to watch him:

Surveillance records
13.25: Surveillance over A. commenced at his workplace on Grenzstraße, 8060 Dresden.
13.45: A. left his workplace and headed towards Königsbrücker on Landstraße and further to a tram stop (tram No. 7) on Grenzstraße. At the tram stop M. greets him with a handshake.
14.00: They both take tram No. 7 to go to the town centre. At the Louisenstraße stop A. gets off the tram at 14.18 and walks the route toward a block of flats at 81 Louisenstraße where he lives and which he enters at 14.25.
16.15: A. leaves his house carrying a canvas bag. About a minute later on Bischofsweg Street he greets V. with a handshake.
16.20: A. continued walking toward Otto-Buchwitz-Straße. There he visited some stores, but did not get anything.
16.48: On Louisenstraße A. took tram No. 7 and got off at the Platz der Einheit square.
17.00: He entered the popular Gutenberg bookstore and did not leave until
17.30. He showed great interest in a most diverse selection of books. Subsequently he headed toward Aulanstraße and did some shopping in a local supermarket.
18.05: A. entered his block of flats at 81 Louisenstraße and left it again at 19.35. At 19.40 he entered the Literatur Café at 21 Martin-Luther-Platz square, 8060 Dresden.
20.00: The “Film at a Club“ event was taking place there, showing a movie called Interrogation of Witnesses produced by the state-owned film studio DEFA. A. sat next to U. and E. at a table for six. After the film ended, at 21.30 A., S., U. and E. left the Literatur Café and at 21.35 entered the Stadt Rendsburg hotel where they sat down at a table for four and chatted eagerly, while having some meals and drinks.
23.05: The persons left the restaurant facility and together headed to the block of flats at 81 Louisenstraße, which they entered one minute later. A. opened the door of his flat and let the rest of the company in. At 23.30 the surveillance was interrupted and resumed again on 13.2.1988 at 7.45 in front of A.’s block of flats. The whole material on the operational procedure requires further detailed processing and liquidation of the suspect. In this respect, it is recommended to use offensive measures from 1 to 8 May 1989.

A. hardly notices he is the subject of secret surveillance, neither he suspects there is a bug installed in his flat. He still hopes for reforms to come and recent events in the rest of the Eastern Bloc countries nourish his hopes.

“Glasnost and perestroika. Openness and restructuring. The events in the Soviet Union are proving me right, after all. Gorbatchev. The system can be reformed. I’ve been saying this for years. We only have to do what they have done. Learning from the Soviet Union means learning to win! This sentence suddenly has a whole new meaning. In autumn 1988 everything changes for me. Having breakfast. It’s Saturday. As every day, I’m reading Das Neue Deutschland. On the second page there is a note written in very small letters saying the Sputnik magazine has been excluded from the postal newspaper service offer. At first I am shocked. It’s a declaration of war. A ban for Sputnik means that reforms won’t be taking place here. I don’t know what to do, I run out and through the fields, I’m running and screaming, all I can feel is rage and helplessness. It’s as though for all those years I had been running against a wall. And now I too can feel that a wall is closing in around me. I feel that I live in a completely paralysed society. Nothing is in motion here. In this very moment I lose all my hopes, it’s over. I can’t go on living like this. But still I don’t want to leave.“

A couple of days later A. decides to take action.

“On Monday morning I set out for Dresden. I paint a poster: DSF1 + Sputnik > DSF – Sputnik. I want to go to the House of German-Soviet Friendship, but they catch me on Alaunstraße. They take me to the police station on Katharinenstraße, from there to another one on Schiessgasse street. They interrogate me and late at night they let me go. It’s late and I’m walking across a bridge. In this moment I almost feel like a winner…“

Today A. works as an educator. He will soon turn 50 and recently has become a father. A. published all his writings on the internet. Anyone can read about the efforts the State Security exerted in order to liquidate him. Even today A. is extremely critical of the current political system. Same as back then, even now he still believes in the possibility of reforming it. Sometimes he asks himself whether he is not just naive.

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