Wednesday, 9 January 2008

"Freedom is always the freedom of those who think differently"

The quote is from Rosa Luxemburg, whose writings were fairly freely available in former East Germany. Twenty years ago this month at the January 17th official East German commemoration of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg (socialist heroes as a result of their execution during the 1918-19 revolutions), homemade banners were quickly unfurled by members of opposition groups. One of the banners read "Freiheit ist immer der Freiheit des Andersdenkenden" the quote from Rosa Luxemburg. Another read "Those who don't move can't feel their chains".
We're listening to a Radio Berlin Brandenburg programme where many of those who took part in this counter demonstration are telling their stories of arrest - many of them before they even got to the demonstration, and some of whom were arrested a week after the demonstration took place. One of the things that became clear is that there are still different understandings of what actually took place then, between, for example, those who hoped that by taking part in the protest would speed their explusion to the west, and those who wanted to stay in East Germany to work for political change. A number of those who wanted to stay in East Germany were transported from prison to the West.
Many of the peace and human rights groups met in churches; the printing press and environmental library violently closed by the state was in the Zionskirche; as news of the arrests spread so hundreds gathered to pray in Berlin, Leipzig, Magdeburg and Erfurt. Conviction took those people onto the street, determination to think differently.
Eighteen months later after the peaceful revolution of autumn 1989 many began to discover that it was in some cases those closest to them - the father of their children, the lawyer defending them - who had betrayed them.
Resistance and opposition is not an easy path. Nearly 90 years ago, being one of those who thought differently meant that Rosa Luxemburg herself met her death.