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The Christian Peace Movement in the GDR (1983)

Responding to the arrest of peace movement members, the East German group “Women for Peace” turned to church leaders in Saxony, Berlin-Brandenburg and Anhalt, reminding them of the church’s special role in mediating with East German state authorities and requesting immediate help.

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The arrest of Frau Kathrin Eigenfeld has struck us profoundly. We are stunned by the fact that this occurred at a moment when we were in the middle of preparing a children's peace festival, one day before World Peace Day.

In addition, two young men who were closely involved with the organizational aspects were themselves arrested temporarily on World Peace Day. It should be emphasized that this was a church event. According to the church leadership in Halle, Frau Eigenfeld was charged on the basis of Paragraph 106 of the penal code (subversive agitation), a much over-used paragraph at the moment. We take "subversive" to mean, in the first instance, "unconstitutional." We recall, however, Article 19, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution: "Free from exploitation, oppression, and economic dependence, every citizen has equal rights and varied opportunities to develop his abilities fully, to expend his energies freely for the benefit of society and for his own use in the socialist community. Thus shall he realize his freedom and the dignity of his personality." Article 21, Paragraph 3 offers an impressive confirmation of this point, as it states: "The realization of the right to co-determination and participatory action is, at the same time, a high moral obligation for every citizen."

We see no breach of the constitution in the fact that we engage ourselves, by word and deed, on behalf of peace and the environment. We do so with a sense of full responsibility for the people in our society. One can say this still more clearly, precisely from this very sense of responsibility. In the words of (the writer) Stephan Hermlin, on the value of the "Berlin Encounter" (December 1981): "They should cause citizens of the GDR and other states to think out loud, people who are not only from different countries and social systems, but who in many cases also have highly personal opinions about the 'important questions of our time.'" (Neues Deutschland, December 7, 1981)

Unfortunately, this kind of thinking out loud is seldom possible for us. Should ideas about peace that deviate from official opinion be sufficient grounds for discrimination? In this connection, we consider the extreme application of Paragraph 106 to be inconsistent with the Constitution.

The adherents of the Christian peace movement have always striven for coexistence. "Dare to trust" remains our guiding principle, for we want to do something here for our society and its survival. We have not submitted an application to emigrate, and we do not seek to. But we would like to avail ourselves of our constitutional right, also vested in international law, to the free expression of opinion, without being prosecuted in court. We are aware, however, that we are in constant violation of Article 23, Paragraph 1 of the Constitution; for we are pacifists. All of our peace activities are determined, in word and deed, by this fundamental position. Pacifism is publicly rejected as unconstitutional (see SED Politburo member Werner Walde, Neues Deutschland, November 21, 1981).

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