Germans campaign for memorial to victims of communism

By News from Elsewhere... found by BBC Monitoring

Image source, Gedenkstätte Berlin-Hohenschönhausen/Gvoon
Image caption,
The old Stasi prison is Berlin's current memorial to the victims of communism

The campaign to put up a memorial in Berlin to political prisoners who suffered under East Germany's communist government has taken a first step forward in parliament.

Two MPs - Social Democrat Siegmund Ehrmann and Christian Democrat Marco Wanderwitz - say they are "working hard behind the scenes" to have a parliamentary resolution passed to approve a monument this year, Germany's public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports.

Some Berliners are planning Mauergleiche (Wall Equal) parties on 6 February to mark the fact that the Berlin Wall, which divided the city for 10,316 days, will have been gone on that date for exactly as long as it was standing.

This has focused the minds of campaigners on the 250,000 or more people who were imprisoned by the Stasi secret police on political charges, which usually amounted to just seeking to flee to the West.

The former Stasi headquarters and the Hohenschoenhausen prison, both in the Lichtenberg suburb, are now museums, but the Union of Associations of Victims of Communist Tyranny has been lobbying for a decade to put up a specific memorial in Spreebogen, near the seat of government.

Few Stasi officers were prosecuted after the unification of Germany, as courts ruled that they had acted in conformity with East German law, while former prisoners are still angry that they often had long battles to quash their criminal convictions and receive a 300-euro ($370; £264) monthly compensation payment.

But there is also some public nervousness about any suggestion of comparing the Stasi with the Nazis' reign of terror, especially in a city that has several memorials to those killed under Hitler, as Der Tagesspiegel newspaper's Malte Lehming noted back in 2013.

Deutsche Welle's culture correspondent and regular writer on Berlin, Gero Schliess, has called for the memorial to be included in the ongoing coalition talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats.

"It won't leave much time, but with the 30th anniversary of the 1989 end of the communist terror fast approaching, it wouldn't be a day too soon," he said.

Image source, Times/Wikicommons
Image caption,
Campaigners want a memorial in Spreebogen, near parliament

Reporting by Martin Morgan

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