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Germany's Merkel visits former Stasi prison

Germany's Merkel visits former Stasi prison

Chancellor Angela Merkel paid tribute to opponents of East Germany's communist regime as she visited a former secret police prison on Tuesday, urging Germans to remember "those who showed courage."
Merkel, who herself grew up in East Germany, toured the facility in Berlin's eastern Hohenschoenhausen district months before the nation marks the 20th anniversary on Nov. 9 of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
"We should think particularly this year, 2009, of those who showed courage," Merkel said. She added that the prison shows "how brutally people's dignity was violated."
East Germany's secret police, the widely loathed Stasi, had a network of tens of thousands of full-time spies and many more informers, directed largely at internal repression. It was disbanded after the wall fell.
The Hohenschoenhausen prison is now a memorial, with former inmates guiding visitors around the cells.
Merkel was shown around by Gilbert Furian, 63, who was kept at Hohenschoenhausen for seven months in 1985 for writing and distributing texts deemed by the Stasi to be hostile to the regime.
"Every time I lead guided tours here, I come away with the feeling of satisfaction that they didn't succeed," Furian said, referring to Stasi and the East German government. He praised Merkel for showing "her respect."
Merkel said it was "very, very important that we do not blot out, that we do not forget this chapter in East German history."
Hubertus Knabe, the memorial's director, described it as a "pharmacy against nostalgia for East Germany" and called for efforts to make sure schoolchildren are better educated about what happened under communist rule. He said Merkel's visit was an important political gesture.
The communist regime was swept aside quickly after the Berlin Wall fell, with East and West Germany reuniting less than a year later on Oct. 3, 1990.


Updated : 2021-08-04 04:56 GMT+08:00