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Peace and Human Rights (1986)

In November 1985, after a human rights seminar planned by various East Berlin peace groups was canceled at the last minute under pressure from the Ministry for State Security [the Stasi], preparation committee members Wolfgang Templin, Ralph Hirsch, and Peter Grimm decided to issue a call for a general discussion of human rights. In doing so, they took a decisive step away from a narrowly focused peace movement toward a more general opposition to the GDR dictatorship. Templin, Hirsch, and Grimm were active in the “Peace and Human Rights” Initiative, which, in the following years, became one of the most important opposition groups in the GDR. Within the peace movement, however, there were differences, most of which, as the second text shows, concerned the manner in which the movement was to be organized and represented.

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I. Spokesperson for the “Peace and Human Rights” Initiative (Human Rights Seminar)

Dear Friends!

Within the peace movement there is a growing consciousness of the close connection between peace and human rights. Many experiences in recent years prove that the goals of peace initiatives depend upon the implementation of basic democratic rights and freedoms. There is a tense continuation of the arms build-up in both political blocs, negotiations are being held behind closed doors, and peace movement activists are being prosecuted and sometimes criminalized, without any regard for those affected. As far as these practices are concerned, the “Western democracies” are right up there with our governing leaders. That’s the state of our experience – we didn’t know how to deal with it. We have yet to do any real work in the area of human rights, aside from reacting to isolated cases and spontaneously expressing concern. Last summer, people in various Berlin peace circles proposed the organization of a human rights seminar. At the first meeting, common experiences were to be discussed, ways of working on human rights issues reviewed, and contacts made. The proposed subjects and focal points were regarded as an impetus to discussion and were to aid in the later results of our work. Our statement regarding the postponement of the human rights seminar of November 16, 1985, and our letter to the synods of the Berlin-Brandenburg state church document the debates on the prohibition of the seminar.

This situation did not relieve us of our responsibility to organize a human rights seminar and to do further work in this area. In the preparation committee, additional agenda points were discussed and devised; working groups were formed to address them. In these groups, members of different church and autonomous peace groups worked together. We would like to inform you of the current state of our work.

Main focal points and working groups:

• Peace and human rights
• The right to employment as a basic human right
• Human rights and society (historical development)
• Human rights and the justice system
• Church and human rights
• Human rights and education/childrearing – youth
• Prospects for human rights work in the GDR
• Environment, health, and human rights
• Human rights in the military sphere

In all these areas of focus, we want to concentrate on the situation and on development in our own country; this does not rule out a discussion of human rights problems and cooperation and solidarity with human rights initiatives in other countries.

We aspire for our work to spread throughout the GDR. Presently, representatives of all the above-mentioned areas of focus and working groups are active in a preparatory committee that meets in Berlin and coordinates the content-related and organizational work on a regular basis.

The “Peace and Human Rights” preparation committee will be represented publicly by three spokespersons who will rotate annually. We wish and hope for your ideas, criticisms, materials, and participation. The current spokespersons are Wolfgang Templin, Ralph Hirsch, and Peter Grimm.

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