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Rainer Eppelmann talks about the Enquete Commission on the SED Dictatorship (May 3, 1992)

In an interview with the national news radio station Deutschlandfunk, the chairman of the Enquete Commission, former East German dissident Rainer Eppelmann, discusses the challenge of engaging in a public discussion of the history of the East German dictatorship. He also addresses the ambivalent role of the Protestant church and the importance of maintaining open access to Stasi files.

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Interview with Rainer Eppelmann (Bundestag Member/CDU), Chairman of the Enquete Commission for the “Reappraisal of the History and Consequenes of the SED Dictatorship”

Deutschlandfunk: Mr. Eppelmann, forgive and forget are not the worst Christian virtues. You are now heading the Enquete Commission of the Bundestag on the reappraisal of the SED dictatorship? Don’t people have other, very different worries?

Eppelmann: People do have other worries. But the question “What was going on during these last forty years, especially with this [Ministry of] State Security?” has been filling the first, second, and third pages of all the newspapers since the beginning of this year. There’s hardly a newscast, hardly a television broadcast on current issues in Germany without a news item on this topic. That’s to say, the question of what really happened there, what kind of pressure was exerted on me by this State Security, either directly or through the school, the workplace, the sports club, the cultural association, or the writers’ association – that’s a question that preoccupies many people in East Germany. Fortunately not all of them. But many.

Deutschlandfunk: The Commission has already established focal points for its work. Working groups have been set up. A comprehensive concept is supposed to be in place by May 20. How will you work, with whom will you work, when do you want to have results?

Eppelmann: It has already become apparent that we will have to form a whole host of working groups, each of which will include a few members of the Commission. [ . . . ] We want to start with education in the GDR. What influence did it have on people, on youth growing up, on their behavior, on their basic attitudes, on the way in which they spoke or where they kept silent? How were adults affected when they sent their children to the Young Pioneers, as beginning learners, even though they knew that this was essentially the children’s organization of the SED, and not all of them liked this. They did it out of love for their children or out of fear for their children and their future. This needs to be thought about and discussed.

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