Civil Rights Hero Angelika Barbe Writes Open Letter to Singer-Songwriter Wolf Biermann

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Angelika Barbe was an Eastern German civil rights activist. After the end of the dictatorship she co-founded the Eastern German branch of left-wing party SPD before she joined Merkel’s then conservative party CDU.

 

She published the following open letter on October 6th, 2017. It is addressed to songwriter Wolf Biermann who once moved to Eastern Germany as a believer of socialism before he fled it again when the regime turned against him. Biermann who criticizes the regime has never left the political left. The open letter is a reaction to his denunciation of voters who elected conservative party AfD.

 

Dear Wolf:

 

Since we participated in a hunger strike with Bärbel Bohley and other civil rights activists in the East Berlin headquarters of the stasi in 1990 we know each other personally. Before that I already worshiped you for your songs. I wrote down their lyrics and distributed them secretly. I was the only member of my party SPD who joined the hunger strike to open to the public the archives that kept the stasi files. I was defamed for it by [leading SPD politician] Wolfgang Thierse. You know I’m not a coward. And the majority of Eastern Germans are neither.

 

It’s too bad that you had no opportunity to talk with the many citizens I met in the City of Dresden over the past years. Of more than 500 letters which we received at Saxony’s Institute for Political Education (German: Landeszentrale für politische Bildung) more than 90 percent complained that their petitions, letters and inquiries are not answered no matter if they go to mayors, deputies, land committees or other representatives of the establishment. The writers feel unaccepted, mocked, and insulted as racists.

 

[For her general election campaign 2017] Angela Merkel lands with the helicopter in Heidenau, flees again after an hour and does not solve a single problem. At the [townhall style TV show] Wahlarena she advises a cleaning woman to put her little money into the [subsidized semi-private] Riester pension scheme. It shows that they do not understand the citizens’ lives. She does not lose a word about what judge Jürgen Borchert calls a “transfer exploitation of the families”. She dares to promise raising the monetary payouts to parents with children (German: Kindergeld), which is at best a restitution of theft. The practice is an unconstitutional taxation of the bare minimum income needed to eke out a life with children.

 

[translation note: She loses me here. It is mind-boggling what our rogue supreme court justices find in the constitution. Apparently, taxing parents with little income is unconstitutional]

 

Merkel leaves us citizens behind with the constant threat of terror. It’s even worse than that. Numerous media outlets, which deny us the full truth, appease us and say that hundreds of thousands unregistered illegal migrants are harmless despite numerous Islamic terror, knife and truck attacks. The government is silent on the loss of control. Ultimately, THEY are not affected personally. Rather “Merkel barriers” are set up when the politicians have their public appearance as it was the case on 3rd October 2016 in Dresden. There were even snipers on the roofs.

 

The victims of Islamic terrorist attacks are kept secret, true to the motto of socialist Eastern Germany’s ruling uniparty SED: “Where there are no victims, there are no offenders!” The loved ones of the Christmas truck attack victims on the Breitscheidplatz in Berlin were deliberately kept out of the Wahlarena TV show which featured [a rare] Merkel [public outing].

 

The Eastern Germans could not be conned and see fundamental rights such as Art 16a GG abolished [note: Art 16a GG is the right to asylum and refuge from war. Barber probably sees it threatened by its abuse for mass immigration, which sidelines the most pressing cases]. People are afraid of the future. As Merkel disregards the law [leader of the Bavarian branch of her party] Horst Seehofer calls it the “reign of injustice” for good measure. Norms and rules were wantonly overridden by Merkel without consent.

 

We have no real political culture at all. I miss the anti-totalitarian consensus, I miss the open debate on controversial issues, I miss the respect for those who disagree. A caste of elitist ‘opinion makers’, who even call themselves like this, abuses concepts such as tolerance and turn their meaning upside down.

 

Those who follow the press on a daily basis are faced with journalists, who are silent about the truth, knowing that people have access to the internet to communicate with friends and relatives in Western Germany about the situation (e.g. in Berlin-Neukölln, in Duisburg-Marxloh , in Essen).
After all, we no longer have the [Berlin] wall.

 

Whoever compares ISIS with peaceful Pegida protest marches must hate people who disagree. The Islamic scholar Bassam Tibi also misses a culture of debate. A culture which does not alienate dissenting opinions and does not indulge in ad hominem attacks.

 

How can a citizen actually express his dissatisfaction? To go to the street is not respected, says the media and the ruling parties. Now many have gone to the ballots who eschewed them in the past. They are villified as stupid because they did not vote the “respectable parties”. But the Eastern Germans did not follow the advice of [Merkel’s right hand] Peter Altmaier or of some of the church leaders and stayed at home. They rather voted AfD because abstention from voting only strengthens the stronger parties. Such anti-democratic views as expressed by Peter Altmaier are a sign of a totalitarian mindset.

 

My grandfather was also a communist, fighting against the National Socialists in the underground. He was a simple toolmaker and later joined the newly formed SED. This changed after the [brutally cracked down protest on] 17th of June, 1953. He threw away his party membership booklet [comparable to the registration cards in the US] in anger for all his comrades to see. He had not fought the Nazis and put his family in danger to find his friends jailed.
He did not want to support fascists who are only varnished in red. From then on he was considered a traitor.

 

I have opposed the second German dictatorship, the communist one, and I have been defamed as a “hostile-negative” element. I was punished with spying and professional boycott. I had to experience collective punishment with my three children and the poverty that followed from it. I do not want to have to endure a third dictatorship on German soil, especially not an Islamic one.

 

This is why I am supporting Sabatina James who converted from Islam to Christianity and has received death threats because of it which force her to live in the underground under permanent police protection. Her foundation helps many Christians with the same fate. How can aggressive Islamists in Germany be threatening peaceful citizens with impunity in the name of their faith? What do our ruling parties do? This is also the story of [civil rights lawyer] Seyran Ates. She lives under death threats after she founded a liberal mosque in Berlin. Where is the protest of the supposedly peaceful majority of Muslims living here?

 

Dear Wolf, as a Christian and an admirer of Václav Havel “I want to live in the truth”. I do not turn my eyes away from reality just because that would benefit the ruling parties. I am a CDU member and I support the CDU program of 2002, which is now represented by the AfD. If one has to leave the party, it’s not me but Angela Merkel.

 

After 1990, I have listened to hundreds of persecuted SED victims with grief and anger, trying to help them organize in my office and through the foundation. I organized talks to mend the broken Eastern German biographies. And I have been badly slandered by the SED [now under the name Die Linke].

 

Where there are no victims, there are no offenders. With this motto they hope to cover up the crimes and to deceive their naive contemporaries. To date, the SED refuses to compensate the victims for the unlawfully disowned property. I understand the sorrow, the rage, the hopelessness, the helplessness, the powerlessness of many of my Eastern German fellow citizens in the face of their political, legal and social incapacitation, and I understand their decision on the ballots, which was also mine.

 

When the law is applied unequally, a society disintegrates. From inequality before the law follows injustice. The prerequisite for democracy and freedom is the rule of law. Those who have learnt to appreciate the lawful state, as the political prisoners of the lawless state of Eastern Germany (GDR) have, want to defend it and will not give it up. At every Pegida demonstration in Dresden a transparency is held up that says, “Because we know servitude, freedom is sacred to us!”

 

In the GDR the rulers said, “He who is not for us, is against world peace.” Today it is said, “He who votes AfD is a Nazi.” There is no worse defamation. Whoever stands strong has the courage to contradict. No, we are not cowards. Anyone who dares to join Pegida must reckon with violent left-wing extremists who are physically assaulting the protesters, and whoever admits sympathy to the AfD must expect to be harassed personally and professionally.

 

Do you know that retired President Gauck has said, “the elites are not the problem, the people are the problem right now”? Is there clearer evidence of the arrogance of power and the courage of the citizens who defy it?

 

With kind regards and the hope that you take my arguments seriously,

 

your “loser”, who “has been dwelling in Germany for a bit longer”,
your descendent of the “unhinged middle-class”,
your AfD voting “change denier” and
villain from “Dark Germany”,
also known as “the mob” (German: ‘Pack’, a common misquote attributed to SPD politician Sigmar Gabriel which symbolizes the arrogance of the elites),

 

Angelika Barbe

Comments

Benjamin Goldstein Added Oct 13, 2017 - 12:46pm
For the purpose of transparency, here is the link to the automated google translation. Apart from the link over the words 'open letter' which leads to the original, all the others go to English-language sites for you to explore.
 
Related: my WB articles on
- civil rights hero Vera Lengsfeld
- the retreat of film director and journalist Imad Karim amidst the banana crackdown on dissenters in Germany
 
Autumn Cote Added Oct 13, 2017 - 12:47pm
You have clearly earned the right to have your articles featured in my email blasts.  However, I’m not going to promote this article because all you did was copy and paste what someone else has written.  In the future (it’s not too late for this article), my advice is to provide a link to the letter and offer your thoughts and analysis here on Writer Beat. 
Autumn Cote Added Oct 13, 2017 - 12:49pm
I should also add that few here are likely to know who Angelika Barbe or Wolf Biermann are.  So if you do decide to heed my advice, I would definitely offer some background on those two individuals.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Oct 13, 2017 - 12:58pm
Hey Autumn,
no I did not copy and paste. I translated it and added in square brackets additional information to make the text accessible to outsiders.
 
I have also added links to English-speaking websites like the corresponding Wikipedia entries. Both Angelika Barbe and Wolf Biermann are introduced in more detail there if the links in the article (over their very names) are followed.
Autumn Cote Added Oct 13, 2017 - 4:43pm
The difference between translating something and copying something should be small.  That is unless you took liberties in the translation. 
 
I don’t think people generally like to click on links.  Articles need to be able to stand on their own for people to decide it’s worth a read.  I imagine most people see the title of an article like this, recognize they have no knowledge of the people mentioned and then move on to an article that resonates. 
 
Please note, I'm not trying to be rude.  I'm trying to provide advice so that you obtain more readers.    
John G Added Oct 13, 2017 - 4:52pm
More islamophobic paranoia from the fascist right.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Oct 13, 2017 - 5:24pm
Autumn: The difference between translating and copy and pasting is that it takes hours. The text is annoted. The links can be followed to learn more about the individuals, but the article is self-explaining. THAT IS WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT FROM AN AUTOMATED TRANSLATION. You have to EXPLAIN the words and phrases, ans also the institutions, in a way somebody in a different culture is able to decipher the message.
There is much less brain involved if somebody just takes a topic that is in the news anyway and rephrases a common opinion a bit (which is what all left-wing jouranlists do for a living).
 
John G: Thank you for reading. I hope it was not only the little part that had something to do with Islamism.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Oct 13, 2017 - 5:34pm
Autumn: I share your assumption that people move away from articles that mention people or things that they don't already know. But to write something that is already available in English is utterly pointless, isn't it?
Autumn Cote Added Oct 13, 2017 - 9:10pm
All I’m trying to say is that starting with the title, this article is a difficult read, making it difficult to garner comment activity. 
 
But to write something that is already available in English is utterly pointless, isn't it?
 
Whatever you write should hopefully be original (as in not already available) and in the language of the people likely to read.  But I get the feeling I’m not following the question. 
 
PS - You can recommend your own articles.   
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Oct 15, 2017 - 10:44am
Ben
 
I have to read the original. Of course I know Wolf Biermann, and I've heard of Bärbel Bohley. But then - I always wonder how many people in the East weren't really against the SED and the system as such but were rather attracted by Coca Cola and Western consumerism.
 
I've been seeing the same thing in Africa in the last 20 years. People don't care about who's in power or if they have the "freedom of speech and democracy" as long as they have enough cash to feed the family and buy Western stuff.
 
Thoughts about such always come when basic needs are satisfied......and are mostly a part of an outside agenda to change internal politics in a country in favor of that influencer.
 
People are stupid enough to camp our for 3 days in front of an iShit store to buy the newests gadget. The ones who think further know that ;-)
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Oct 15, 2017 - 10:51am
BTW:
 
I have friends in Leipzig and Dresden. They unisono tell me that while the situation in terms of material wealth has improved since The Wende, the solidarity and personal contacts in society have diminished. Many even regret that the DDR has gone !
 
I have noticed the same in Africa - again. Mali 1998 is not the same as Mali 2017. People are more starting to isolate and stay in front of TV and gadgets in the eve. Before we used to sit all together, drink tea, listen to music on cassette recorders and chat.....
Benjamin Goldstein Added Oct 15, 2017 - 11:40am
SEF: I think if you don't grow up with Coca Cola you don't go for it. Hahaha. There will always be ignorant people, but those who came out to protest and who were beaten up by the police were not just about 'nice stuff'.
 
I think the exodus of young people has destroyed the fabric. It is the deindustrialization that took place. Too few investments - and I think the state could have done some good part of it when it comes to roads, internet infrastructure etc - and an ossifying bureaucracy thanks to Western German left-wingers have created the situation of neglect.
 
What also plays a role in Africa and increasingly in Europe as well is that people are afraid to speak their minds. People who experienced communism (and also Islamism - I remember a former neighbour from Iran) say that a climate of mistrust is created. That causes the isolation. It is telling that we are at a point again where people don't see much difference anymore between the former GDR and today's Germany. In GDR the kids at least where forced to stay close.
 
Thoughts about the political system are a very rare political feat. It is the foundation of prosperity, but the ones who thought up democratic principles lived in abject poverty by today's standards.
 
You must remember that neither continental Europe (apart from Switzerland and maybe the Netherlands) nor Africa have a long democratic tradition. Such things develope over centuries or are brought in -as you observed- from outside forces and only very compromised.
 
I don't know how Mail has changed. I remember that there was this war with the Tuareg. But how did life change for the rest? Has the government changed? Did businesses prosper or go bankrupt? Could the birthrate be brought down a bit? Or are there too many people around to feel cared about by the community?
Benjamin Goldstein Added Oct 15, 2017 - 12:12pm
SEF: You know what I'm also pissed about. I have been picking up the history of Eastern Germany rather recently and I wonder why I haven't heard of Barbe, Lengsfeld, Bohley etc before.
 
How is it that we have the most expensive propaganda media apparatus and we are not taught our history? No novels, movies, songs, video games or whatever about our culture.
 
And that is also true about our ignorance of Swiss culture. The last dude who gave a damn was Friedrich Schiller (Wilhelm Tell). How is it that we are kept stupid?
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Oct 15, 2017 - 12:17pm
Ben
 
Mali is, as Senegal as well, still a French colony in some ways. Presidents are "elected" to suit the CFA and French banks. You can do any business there as long as you play the grease game and know people in customs which are a state within a state. But this is another very long story not to be written - would take too long.
 
Azawad, or the Tuareg stuff. is the same as Ambazonia, Biafra or even Catalonia. People living somewhere rather try to become an independent state to be free of the exploitation by a national government. Because they happen to live in a part where resources have been found or the population is efficient and well-educated, but  are being exploited by foreign globals in cooperation with the national government while they see no progress at all and don't profit from it at home.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Oct 15, 2017 - 12:36pm
What about the climate of (mis)trust? Senegal once had a head of government that threatened to burn down Dakar, but that is long ago. I think Senegal is doing comparatively well for Africa and for a Muslim country when it comes to freedom of speech.
 
On the other hand, I would not know a single Senegalese publication. I have noticed that newspapers are often covering whole parts of Africa at once which indicates that few information is allowed to float around in the first place. Homosexuality is not legal in both countries, Mali and Senegal. In this climate I assume that the vast corruption is probably not discussed either. So people retreat to watch TV rather than to risk complete alienation by talking with each other about their lives.
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Oct 15, 2017 - 4:30pm
Ben
 
Legal or illegal doesn't interest anybody in Africa, believe me ! And "corruption" is an invention of Western interests to blame Africa. Bullshit. You know the difference between corruption in Africa and Europe ?
 
In Africa, it starts at the bottom of society, here it starts at an upper level of the upper class. That's about it. Hypocrit shit.
 
In Africa I had to grease people to create my company "moins cher". But I did it, and everybody was content, from the lawyer to the customs guy. In Switzerland I don't even have A CHANCE to create my own company, because here you have to be VERY liquid to even register. And the obstacles are VERY high.
 
So what's more fair ?
 
Humans work that way. Do me a favor, I do one for you. When I have to repare my roof, who do I choose ? A friend who needs the cash and can do it, or hire a company which taxes me the double ?
 
We gotta become more realistic again...
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Oct 15, 2017 - 4:34pm
BTW: There's as many homosexuals there as anywhere. 10% of the worldwide population are homos. So what ? No-one cares about that there. As long as you don't play drag queen on the road during daylight nobody cares. It's more likely that they bash you because you drink beer in the open and not in a bar.
 
Talk about the US where you need to cover your can with in a paper bag LOL
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Oct 15, 2017 - 4:38pm
BTW: Freedom of speech is no argument in West Africa. I've never seen or felt a restriction in my almost 20 years there. People have other problems than that, and when Western media tells otherwise they talk bullshit as usual.
 
What is it that people always point to that "freedom of speech" stuff ? Not everybody has the urge to stand on a corner and scream about some injustice !
Benjamin Goldstein Added Oct 15, 2017 - 5:00pm
SEF: No corruption is real as you point out a few sentences later. I think it goes through all levels of society and it's in Europe, America and Africa alike. I would not downplay it, particularly not on the elite level. At the moment we learn -not surprised- that Hollywood is corrupt through and through. People pay with sex and prostituting their children to advance themselves. I'm not a fan. It is about scale. It's not that little stuff that you can observe on the streets of Dakar (or where you live).
 
3% homosexuals are realistic. I remember that Senegal blasted parties to arrest homosexuals a couple of years ago. But I won't research that now. Senegal is comparatively advanced. At least the cities. I wouldn't know about the rural areas.
 
Western media talks so lilttle about Africa that I had to ask you. So there is no restriction in your opinion. "Not everybody has the urge to stand on a corner and scream about some injustice!"
That is probably the reason why people 'care about other things' in the first place. The dependence on the French that you talk about...etc..there are quite some things going on that would be valid to scream about to make them stop.
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Oct 16, 2017 - 5:04am
Ben
 
I'm still in Switzerland until next year. But you're right - the dependence on France is reality. But be assured - when the French would leave others would take their place. Obama fucked up, when he had the chance to develop honest business relations, now the Chinese are there, and most of the commerce are in the hands of the Lebanese (food and clothes in general) or Jews (sugar industry).
 
The same is actually the case in all former French colonies, since the Lebanese speak French and Arab, they're present from Senegal to Chad to Cameroon.

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