Monday, September 5, 2011

Return to East Berlin

The last time I blogged was on 5 March which is far too long ago. To cut a long story short what happened was that I got caught up with the end of term and a research trip to Germany. Normally, these things ought not to have stopped my blogging. But, I felt unusually tired. Then, after my return from Germany the unexpected happened, I had a heart attack. In retrospect it explains my lack of energy and general lethargy.

Now I seem well on the way to a recovery and hope to take up my blog from where I left off. That was in Berlin in the early 1960’s. In my last blog I told the story of my encounter with a Russian officer who treated was very kind while carrying out his orders to destroy my photographs of a military instillation which I had taken by accident.

The Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park
A few days later we were given the choice of returning to East Berlin or sightseeing in the West. I chose to go back to the East. On this trip we visited the imposing Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park. Since I have written about it elsewhere I will not repeat myself here. Anyone wanting more information should look at my travel blog for 22 January 2011.

 At the end of this second tour of East Berlin we were asked if any of us would like to meet some young East Germans. I jumped at the chance and a meeting was arranged for the following Monday at a Pastor’s home in Tierpark. Only three or four of the group went along. At the meeting we met half a dozen East German Christians most of whom spoke good English.

The Church in Tierpark that the  East Germans we met attended.

They told horrific stories about the Stasi, East Germany’s dreaded secret police, and the way their families, all of whom were professionals, were treated for their refusal to embrace Marxism and continued allegiance to the Church. Years later the film The Lives of Others (2006) gave a fairly accurate depiction of the activities of the Stasi.

They too suffered and although they were all clearly very intelligent they were prohibited from attending university. This was a real blow because many of their parents were doctors or nurses yet they had to be content with gardening jobs in Berlin’s parks. Only if they publicly withdrew from the Church and attended the State’s secular confirmation was it possible for them to enter university.

Berlin's Stasi Museum
Consequently, a lot of our conversation was about the East German practice of secular confirmation which was a deliberate mimicking of Christian confirmation intended to instil a firm commitment to Marxist-Leninism. For these folk at least their future prospects in East Germany looked very bleak with no hope of betterment or obtaining decent work.

The fact that they chose to remain Christian in the face of such pressure was remarkable and a testimony to their very real faith.

Inside the Stasi Museum