no dream panorama!

In a comment to my previous post I was asked wether I “want back GDR”.

here my answer:

I don’t want to have the former GDR back.

But I think the bad deeds of e.g. the STASI are not automatically correlated to every GDR-feature. Like e.g. the GDR had a very good waste-management (sero-system) which was neglected in the west (images) for no good reason.

The former GDR was not – as it claimed with its name – a german democratic state. I visited the GDR rather often (most of my relatives lived in East Berlin) and in fact GDR-authorities were threatening me already as a ten year old for my political opinions (but thats another story).

People who were opposing the official politics were suppressed, where the methods ranged from occupational ban to imprisonment (and sometimes execution – according to Wikipedia there were 164 death penalties made to the order of the STASI).

Although torture was forbidden in the GDR (here an excerpt of the GDR constitution) some methods of the STASI, like sleep deprivation could be called psychological torture. Also the conditions within prisons (here a panorama tourr through the STASI-prison in Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen) could be seen as torture like in particular the socalled water cells which were cells without a window and no furniture and 2 cm water on the floor. As a torture not as immediate life-threatening as waterboarding but still scary and cruel.

15 Responses to “no dream panorama!”

  1. geologyprofesseur7e Says:

    I hope those STASI felons received an appropriate punishment!????

  2. nad Says:

    Psychological torture, also often called white torture leaves no physical traces, so it is hard to prove. Moreover partially this kind of torture and other ways of tormenting people was regarded as not in conflict with GDR law, so apparently not very many stasi people were punished for their deeds.

    Even the archaic death penalty was officially allowed in the GDR until 1987.

  3. Hope Stronghold Says:

    In the above link to the GDR constitution it is written that:
    “Folter oder andere grausame, unmenschliche oder erniedrigende Behandlung oder Bestrafung sind verboten und unter Strafe gestellt. ”
    (“torture or other cruel, inhuman or humilating treatment or punishment are forbidden and will be prosecuted”)

    These seem to be clear words against ALL forms of torture so it is not really understandable that there was no big media reaction on what seems to be a “quasi amnesty” of stasi people.

  4. Hope Stronghold Says:

    Is there still a technical problem with your internet ? what do you think about my above comment?

  5. nad Says:

    The technical problem was an incorrect joint. That is the technician accidentely used plug 62 instead of plug 63, the mistake was corrected the other day and thus luckily we didnt need to call a nonexisting service line.

    Anyways concerning your comment you are of course right the words in the GDR constitution are pretty clear and given all the ideological wars about the GDR this feeble media reaction as well as the faint international reaction to this are rather strange.
    In part this faint reaction may be due to a 10-year statute of limitations on spying and to the fact that some trials were apparently covert, so not really held by the usual GDR courts, i.e. investigations may still go on. It seems also that there are still some documents missing, like the americans seem still to hold some files.

  6. Anita Y. E. A. Schieber Says:

    This is an interesting discussion.
    What where the GDR authorities doing to you as a ten year old?

  7. nad Says:

    I guess every Berliner has a story to tell about encounters with GDR authorities. Like about the harassing procedures at the border, which implied before the socalledOstvertraege spending a couple of hours under the scrutiny of GDR border control. When I was 4 or 5 years old a border control was asking wether we own guns and I was joking around that I had a toy gun. I never did that again, our car was searched for six hours and afterwards I was told that my grandfathers house (who lived in East Berlin) was searched and nobody knew there why.

    But the story which came to my mind when I wrote the above was more a story where the sublime psychological methods of oppression became clear to me. The incident was no big threat per se. it was more that I felt threatened.

    On three summers of my childhood -although being born in Westberlin – I was send to a GDR young pioneer camp. That was not because my parents thought I had some change of taste after being bored at some southern pacific nobel resort but because my parents had not so much money. The pioneer camps were subsidized by GDR (the whole trip was only 50 marks) and – besides the slight paramiltaristic touch – provided a nice boy scoutish entertainment. The first two times I was in a camp in the vicinity of Berlin, the third time I was allowed to go to an “international camp”, where kids from other nations (in our case polish) were also present. I think the camp was here and it was named after Boleslaw Bierut, but I am not sure. There was usually a pretty full program, like we visited GDR companies, museums, did night hikes had parties and concerts. It was also pretty competitve like there were sports competitions in particular a little olympiad called Spartakiade, knowledge competitions like one called “Thinking street”. Our little group of westerners won only very few prices at these..:). But there were also interest groups for all sorts of things, like I took part in a painting group, where I was thrilled by the mass of material which we could use, so I shovelled color paint onto my canvas in order to make a sculpture with it. That was not what we were told, but on the other hand none of the class teachers objected about that art discourse (in contrast to other painting class teachers). Luckily the paramilitaristic part was not that much. We had a pioneer greeting every morning after the early sports assignment (Fruehsport) where we had to stand in rows and do the pioneer greeting, the Spartakiade involved also a bit of standing, marching and parading a.s. o. One day there was a functionary arriving in town. Distinguished pioneers (i.e. not me) were chosen to hold the torches up. We walked to a place were the functionary was to pass by and stood in rows along the street. We waited four hours in the sun, because there was a delay. Kids were fainting and passing out like nothing, especially the torch holders. So in the end I was asked to hold a torch, which I declined because it was very smelly and I was not so keen on holding it up all the time. One day there was another functionary coming to the camp and we were allowed to ask political questions. I asked him straight ahead why they built that huge mess of a wall through the streets of Berlin and I told him that in my opinion part of it was nothing else then plain economic warfare. He was quite startled about my question and opinion glanced astonished at me and gave a bogus answer. That was apparently enough. The same evening I was called out by a representative of the westgerman group. I was told that they were about to send me home, that I displayed a behaviour which were against the idea of a collective and that every kid in my group thought I was acting against the harmonic group spirit. I was shocked, since I wasn’t at all aware that I might have done so. I asked her what their concrete objections were and she replied:
    -that during the hikes I was trotting daydreamingly behind the group
    -that I was refusing to hold a torch
    -that I was making jokes during parades
    -that I was waisting colors in my painting group
    -that I asked strange questions at a functionaries meeting
    and then I understood.

  8. Ditta Trussi Says:

    You were a small kid so you didnt know, but I am asking myself how can anyone be so stupid and openly critizise a functionary! I mean you gain nothing by this but hassle!

    And of course this what you wrote:
    >I asked him straight ahead why they built that huge mess of a wall through the streets
    > of Berlin and I told him that in my opinion part of it was nothing
    >else then plain economic warfare.

    is just ridiculous. The GDR was a communistic regime that is why they built the wall !

  9. nad Says:

    @Ditta Trussi

    First of all I didnt critizise the functionary as a person (I didnt know the guy so how can I ?) but parts of the system and methods he was involved with. Before the discussion we were told that we were allowed to ask and say everything we wanted to and so I did. I was aware of the fact that they may found my opinion and questions provoking, and wasnt really expecting a useful and constructive answer, but who knows, sometimes you get an answer between the lines and you see the reaction of others.

    What I wasnt prepared for was the fact that they could perceive this at all as a threat so that they would call me aside and record what I did. I mean I was a ten year old alone in their hands!

    But still – even if I would have known in advance – I think I would have asked and told them as I did. I think it is a very personal desicion of how much you are prepared to risk and to give up for saying what you think. I can certainly understand if someone wouldn’t want to risk his/her or other lifes for this freedom, but if the risk is substantially lower then I wouldnt call someone who says something against the official line stupid, on the contrary. It is often the only way to break a silence.

    So concluding: I could see some hassle in advance but on the other hand -as coming from west germany- I felt (may be erranously? :0 ) still rather safe (in particular safer as the east german kids) to say what I thought needed to be said.

    Concerning your objection to my opinion about the reasons for the Berlin Wall – I put that thread up for discussion in a seperate post.

  10. Belinda Boezel Says:

    I find these stories of betrayal and treasons and STASI very exiting! It must be very unpleasant though if for example a dear friend or a lover turns out to have been working for the STASI and had been selling you out.

  11. Samantha Says:

    nad you wrote that:

    the third time I was allowed to go to an “international camp”, where kids from other nations (in our case polish) were also present.

    This sounds as if this was more prestigious than just an ordinary camp. Does this mean that you were a high ranked communistic young pioneer?

  12. Trautlinde Trottenheim Says:


    Please keep in mind that nad might be traumatized by those recreational GDR camps – I can imagine that they were even worse than the currently much talked about “Kindererholungskuren” (children spa) in West Germany and Berlin.

    For those affected by “Kindererholungskuren” please consider contacting a self-help group like via

  13. Samantha Says:

    Trautlinde Trottenheim – The Link in nad’s post above to Sportjugend Berlin is broken – it probably went to Jugendferienpark Ahlbeck. Nad claimed she was not sure, but indicated that she “maybe” was in pioneer camp Boleslaw Bierut. This camp was a socalled ZPL – a zentrales Pionierlager. The german Wikipedia writes about ZPL’s:

    Die Teilnahme an einem von drei 18-tägigen Sommerferienaufenthalten während der jährlichen Schulsommerferien war für die Pioniere und FDJler in der Regel eine Auszeichnung für gute schulische und gesellschaftliche Arbeit.


    The participation in one of three 18 day summer trip occasions during the summer school holiday was for pioneers and FDJ members usually a commendation for good school and societal work performance.

    That’s why I think she ows us an explanation.

  14. nad Says:


    The trips to ZPL for kids from West Germany were “sold” by the DKP. I had two sisters as close friends whose father was in the DKP and the two sisters were traveling to these camps. And they asked me if I don’t want to join them. As far as I can tell there were at least no official “eligibility criteria” – in particular I wasn’t a member of the youth organisation of DKP or something in that direction. In fact as I wrote ” Our little group of westerners won only very few prices at these”. That is there were a lot of low-class kids, especially from the “Ruhrpott” (main mining area of Germany) in my travel group and the overal not so good “school performance” (i.e. performance in sport and “thinking” competitions) of our group was distinctly noticable.

    @Trautlinde Trottenheim
    I was voluntarily at those camps, my parents didn’t force me to go there – on the contrary- I was asking them to go there. For me the camps were mostly fun or at least interesting. The first camp which was in the vicinity of Berlin (the one which is named after Choibalsam) gave me the opportunity to see a bit of the “outskirts” of my birthtown West Berlin; in the second camp I got to see the baltic sea for the first time. The above incident with the functionary was surely “not fun” and I didn’t want to go to those camps anymore after this incident, but it didn’t traumatize me, at least not that I noticed.

    I was in one of these “Kindererholungskuren” as a six or seven year old with my sister who was four years old by then. We were there six weeks and I have quite bad memories of this trip -way worse than those of the Pioneer camp. I was there under the direct supervision of an about 60 year old woman, who was constantly accompagnied with three or four German Sheperds and basically everything she said was already an order. I recall two very bad incidents on this trip. As you may know there were a considerable amount of Nazi war criminals working in those “spa’s”.

  15. nad Says:

    One of the two bad incidents mentioned in the comment above was that my sister went missing.
    That is on one hand the supervision was very strict, on the other hand the supervisors were not really interested in the kids. If the kids had problems then this was regarded as a “disfunction” and usually “punished”. On one hike my sister and me had already fallen back behind the group (remember she was only four years old) and although I had yelled many times that they shouldn’t speed up so much, because my sister can’t walk that fast, the supervising woman I mentioned above, started at one point running down a quite steep hill through a forest with her dogs. I felt torn between staying with my sister (my parents had told me to guard her) with the prospect to get lost in the forest or to run down towards the group in order to catch up. In the end I told my sister to stay exactly were she was and that I would run down the hill and come back. I actually managed to get to the group and when I said that my sister is alone up there in the forest the woman finally went with me to look for her. But my sister hadn’t stayed there were I had told her, likewise she wasn’t on the path towards us. Luckily some hours later a farmer, who had found her, brought her back on his tractor. He had rightly assumed by her accounts that she probably belonged to the Verschickungsheim. I was terrified and felt that I had done something wrong. And of course I received accusations that I didn’t “alarm enough” about my sister’s pace. I was though not punished, because of course I did alarm. I don’t remember whether my sister was punished. If then may be only mildly, like getting no goodies in the evening or so.

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