Posted by: Christine Johnson | November 9, 2009

Which is better?

To live comfortably within oppression (even if you aren’t one of the ones being oppressed), or to struggle in freedom?
This woman believes to live comfortably with oppression is better. And I think that’s awfully sad.
On the other hand, how far are we from this mentality ourselves?

East Germans lost much in 1989, by Bruni de la Motte:

On 9 November 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down I realised German unification would soon follow, which it did a year later. This meant the end of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the country in which I was born, grew up, gave birth to my two children, gained my doctorate and enjoyed a fulfilling job as a lecturer in English literature at Potsdam University. Of course, unification brought with it the freedom to travel the world and, for some, more material wealth, but it also brought social breakdown, widespread unemployment, blacklisting, a crass materialism and an “elbow society” as well as a demonisation of the country I lived in and helped shape. Despite the advantages, for many it was more a disaster than a celebratory event. …

Click through to read the rest. (And you’ll want to read the comments, too, because it’s heartening to see that people are as disgusted as I am about this woman’s attitude.)

And here’s a moving video (part one of I-don’t-know-how-many) of the happenings of that night. Watch for the man who suddenly – and unexpectedly – runs into a family member who has lived in the West while he has been trapped in East Berlin.
An update from The Corner:

East Germany was ruled by a Communist elite that imprisoned dissidents, killed defectors who had managed to flee to West Germany, and had hundreds of thousands of informers in every neighborhood and every apartment house spying on their neighbors and even their own families. It is estimated that more than 1,200 people died trying to escape this horrible regime by crossing the 860-mile border. The last person killed in Berlin was 20-year old Chris Gueffroy, who died in a hail of bullets on the night of Feb. 5, 1989. The last known border-crossing victim died just days before the fall of the Wall in November 1989, attempting to swim across the Oder River at the German-Polish border.

East Germany’s ex-leaders and top Stasi secret-police officials always denied they had ordered soldiers to shoot people who were trying to flee across the Berlin Wall. But in 2007, a seven-page document surfaced in the Stasi archives that contained an explicit firing order, including women and children: “It is your duty to use your combat . . . skills in such a way as to overcome the cunning of the border breacher, to challenge or liquidate him in order to thwart the planned border breach. . . . Don’t hesitate to use your weapon even when border breaches happen with women and children, which traitors have often exploited in the past.”

When I visited Berlin, I spent time with my second cousin. Her father was a doctor who had settled in Berlin in the late 1940s. He was there during the Berlin Airlift, when the only thing that kept West Berliners free was the dedication of Allied pilots and the determination of an American president who used an air bridge to feed and supply West Berliners for more than a year. My cousin took us on tours of what had been the Eastern Zone, including one of the churches in East Berlin where the German revolution had simmered.

Many people don’t realize how important the churches were in helping inspire and give confidence to the East Germans who wanted to bring down the Wall and end the Communist dictatorship that ruled them. Although atheism was the state religion in East Germany, churches like the one we visited in Berlin or St. Nikolai Evangelical Lutheran Church in Leipzig remained open. The pastor at St. Nikolai in 1989, the Rev. Christian Fuhrer, held a weekly prayer service for peace that grew and grew as everyone from Christians to non-Christians to those who wanted to leave East Germany came to his services. There were always Stasi spies at the prayer services at St. Nikolai and the churches in East Berlin, but it seemed to make no difference to the attendees. People would leave the services and then march through the streets, holding candles and saying prayers. In October 1989, after the beating and arrest of protesters in Leipzig, St. Nikolai held another prayer service that was crammed full. The churchgoers then joined 70,000 other Germans to march through the streets.

My mother is from Silesia, which is southeast of Berlin. Fortunately, my grandmother, one of the most resourceful and bravest women I have ever known, managed to get herself and all four of her daughters out of what had become the Russian-occupied zone before the border was fortified. My mother and her sisters got out separately with family or friends. My grandmother and her youngest daughter, who was only eleven at the time, didn’t have to cross a mined border — they only had to dodge Russian army patrols (who were shooting escapees) in the woods in the dead of night….

I encourage you to read that in its entirety, too.

[photo source: Life Magazine archives]


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