Growing up in the United States, the Cold War seemed like a faint memory that we only learn about in our history classes. Having to memorize all the political agreements, the unsaid tension between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., it just seemed like one long stalemate. However, after visiting Leipzig I have realized that for the German people, the Cold War and the East verses the West was not just another chapter out of a history book. The city is famous for being the start of the protests against the Communist government. By just touring around and seeing the buildings that have been rebuilt within the last twenty years, as well as, the people who were witnesses and protesters during the peaceful revolution to unify their country, these events are very much alive today.
One of the most striking moments was visiting the Stasi Museum (Museum in der “Runden Ecke”). The building, itself, was the headquarters for the East German Secret Police (Stasi). Just walking into the building, you feel as if you are entering the Communist run building. Your eyes immediately focus on a banner hanging in the entrance stating, “This building will be secured on behalf of the Government and the Citizens Committee of the People’s Police” hanging right next to a security camera. The museum takes you through the original offices while showing you all the equipment used to spy on their own people. From hidden cameras in briefcases, to phone tapping machines, and disguises, it is hard to believe these were still being used until the 1990’s.
The most moving exhibit for me, however, was an essay written by a ninth grader. He criticized the society and policies that he had to live under, even though he knew the consequences of writing this would be severe. According to the museum, the essay found itself in the hands of the police and they kept record of the boy until 1989 when German Communism fell. When I chose to study abroad, I figured that I would be able to connect my studies to my History major, more so than my Education major. However when reading about this student’s (translated) essay, I realized that this is a memory that I could pass on to my future students. I cannot only talk about the history surrounding the story, but also share the message that one person no matter how old, can speak out against what they believe is wrong and truly impact their future.
Check out more pictures of my ten day trip to at https://plus.google.com/photos/113496106333285759017/albums?banner=pwa