Samstag, 11. September 2010

Bärbel Bohley is dead - R.I.P.

The former East German opposition activist and artist Baerbel Bohley died today of cancer aged 65.

Bärbel Bohley (24 May 1945 – 11 September 2010) was an East German opposition activist and artist. In 1983 she was expelled from the GDR artists federation (VBK) and was banned from travelling abroad or exhibiting her work in East Germany. She was accused of having contacts to the West German Green Party.

In 1985 she was one of the co-founders of the "Initiative for Peace and Human Rights". In 1988 she was arrested during a demonstration and was given a six month visa to the United Kingdom. She later returned to East Germany. In 1989 she was one of the founders of New Forum. It became the most prominent opposition group in the final phase of the GDR. The group advocated free elections, greater openness in East German society and a free press. East Germany opened its heavily fortified border on Nov. 9, 1989 after mounting peaceful protests helped undermine the communist government. New Forum's importance faded as Germany headed toward reunification in 1990.

Still, Bohley and other activists that year occupied the archives of the Stasi, East Germany's secret police — ultimately helping ensure that the public would be granted access to them.

After the unification of Germany in 1990 she was involved in several court trials because she publicly proclaimed Gregor Gysi to have been a Stasi informer, and actually spent several days in prison because she would not take the statement back publicly or pay a fine. In November, 1990, she supported the squatter movement in East Berlin and tried to prevent forcefully eviction of hundreds of squatters from houses in Mainzer Strasse by police acting in orders of the Senate of the recently united city.

In 1996, Bohley said that what had been achieved in Germany since reunification was "less than what we dreamed." - "But it is far more than what we had before," she said.

One of her later projects was a group help project near Sarajevo, where she put great effort into building homes in order to enable refugees to return after the armed conflicts in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

During the 1980s, the Gethsemane Church in East Berlin was an important meeting place for members of the opposition and the East German peace movement. After the opening of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, a central meeting of the New Forum took place there on November 10 and 11. The New Forum was the first nationwide opposition movement that tried to create a platform for the public discussion of East Germany’s manifold problems. Second from left: Rolf Henrich, Jens Reich, and Bärbel Bohley (with microphone). Photo: Volker Döring

In memory of Bärbel Bohley we will post some albums of dissident East German artists in the next days.

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