A wave of euphoria hit millions of people when the GDR opened its borders on November 9, 1989. Three decades later, many of those persecuted at the time are still fighting for recognition and help.
Berlin – With a ceremony on Bernauer Strasse, Berlin remembered the fall of the Berlin Wall 32 years ago on Tuesday.
Candles were lit on the former death strip to commemorate the peaceful revolution in the GDR in 1989, but also the time of the turning point, which was difficult for many. The SED victim commissioner Evelyn Zupke used the historic date to demand more help for those politically persecuted in the GDR.
After a wave of refugees and mass demonstrations, the GDR leadership opened the borders on November 9, 1989. Less than a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, German reunification followed on October 3, 1990. According to Zupke, the opposition members who were spied on, persecuted or imprisoned in the GDR at that time are still suffering today – both healthily and financially.
In proceedings to recognize the health consequences of the persecution at the time, nine out of ten victims failed with their applications, said Zupke when she presented her first report to the Bundestag. The reason: Those affected could not clearly demonstrate the connection between the suppression of the past and today’s diseases.
Damage to health through experienced repression
“Fundamental changes are needed here,” demanded Zupke. “In the future, for example, political prisoners who suffer from damage to their health today could be dispensed with.” It should be sufficient for them to prove both the repression they experienced and damage to their health. “Together we have to prevent the victims from failing because of the bureaucracy,” said Zupke. In addition, she called for a nationwide hardship fund for those previously politically persecuted.
Zupke gave the example of a woman who was imprisoned in the GDR and ransomed by the Federal Republic. She studied dentistry and practiced it in Bavaria until anxiety occurred a few years ago. The consequences were debts and the abandonment of the practice. “To this day, she tries to get her consequential damage recognized, without success to this day,” said Zupke.
The former GDR civil rights activist has been the federal commissioner for the victims of the SED dictatorship since June. It assumes a six-digit number of SED victims, including 250,000 imprisonment victims and 50,000 to 100,000 people who were housed in youth work yards as young people.
Berlin’s Governing Mayor Michael Müller (SPD), Minister of State for Culture Monika Grütters (CDU) and Senator for Culture Klaus Lederer (left), as well as around 70 schoolchildren from Germany and France, took part in the commemoration of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Bernauer Strasse. Many participants put roses in the back wall. After a prayer, candles were lit.
Bernauer Strasse is a symbol of the division of Germany. When the Wall was built in 1961, the front of the street was to the east, the sidewalk to the west. After November 9, 1989, the division of Germany came to an end after around 40 years.
One of those people whose life changed significantly, and not just in a positive way, was Ibraimo Alberto. He was born in Mozambique in 1963 and went to the GDR as a contract worker in 1981. Alberto reported on racist experiences after the fall of the Berlin Wall. “Every day there were problems with bald heads and neo-Nazis,” he said of his experiences in Schwedt in Brandenburg, where he lived until 2014. Alberto now lives in Berlin again. dpa