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An Expelled East German Dissident Explains the Peace Movement (July 21, 1983)

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I’m thinking of the Pentecost meeting of the FDJ [Free German Youth], of the striking television images. What is this thing that presents itself as the “official” peace movement? Is it only bureaucratically decreed mobilizations?

Yes, on the one hand, that’s what it is. But I don’t deny that the people who attend those gatherings have genuine emotions. It’s a very natural thing to oppose the NATO Dual-Track Decision.

The forms in which protests happens are prescribed. But other things come into play as well. It’s a Pentecost youth meeting and there’s everything that accompanies that, having a good time and so on. . . . You could certainly say that some people are manipulated, but most of them are just speaking out for the cause of peace. The problem is that no one is allowed to go beyond the officially prescribed slogans. Western depictions sometimes make it look as though everything here were decreed, for example: Maybe they aren’t even against it. That’s nonsense. I don’t know anyone in the GDR who supports the NATO Dual-Track Decision. Because when a weapon is aimed at you, you don’t support that weapon being aimed at you. And the Pershing II weapons are aimed at us in the GDR.

[ . . . ]

To what extent are the autonomous peace circles an isolated group in the GDR? Do they radiate outward into the rest of society, into organizations like the FDJ, for example?

That which is understood as autonomous peace work is supported predominantly by the Protestant church. And from there it radiates outward into the general population; there are, after all, many Christians.

With respect to those of us in Jena – and we also worked outside of the church – the reaction was quite varied. First of all, it was noticed. I’d like to mention three public actions: the moment of silence on Christmas, the rally on the anniversary of the bombing of Jena, and the FDJ peace demonstration on Pentecost Day. (For us, the content aspect of our work is also important, but I’ll explain that in a minute.) During public actions, there’s definitely a radiation outward into the population. The term “population” is actually too broad, since it’s mostly the cheering types [die Jubler] who go to the official rallies; the broad masses don’t really come out, except for the FDJ, since it’s mandatory for them. But many of the 15- to 16-year-olds in the FDJ are looking for something new, and they’re open to engaging with all kinds of ideas.

At the moment of silence on Christmas the population noticed that something was going on because of the large number of security forces. Some people say, “Oh, they’re crazy;” others participate in slandering us: they say that we’re anti-social. But a large segment knows what it’s all about and what we’re protesting. They know, but they still say there’s no point in protesting – because that’s the attitude of the opposition in the GDR, to say there’s no point. And another group of people say: that should be supported, what they’re doing is good.

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