Hava Kohav Beller's history of dissent in the German Democratic Republic is admirably concise and surprisingly thorough, given the broad range of the subject matter and the secrecy that still surrounds the often-criminal efforts of East Germany's secret police the Stasi to stifle voices of opposition. Beller's strategy is to use as a framework the story of chemist Robert Havemann, an anti-Nazi resistance hero and member of East German parliament, whose experiences as an "enemy of the state" are in many ways representative of the overall persecution of dissent in the GDR. Sentenced to death by the Nazis and eventually freed from prison by Russian troops, Havemann's initial hope for the newly formed GDR was short-lived, snuffed out by an increasingly oppressive state that began assuming fascist trappings, including the formation of the Gestapo-like Stasi and its vast network of civilian spies. In June of 1953, Soviet troops violently crushed a workers' rebellion in East Berlin and other German cities. By 1956, when the Soviets put a similar end to the Hungarian uprising in Prague, Havemann had become boldly outspoken in his critique of the security-obsessed state that had traded in the promise of a socialist democracy for what amounted to a proletariat dictatorship. In 1964, three years after the Berlin Wall was finally erected to staunch the flow of East German defection to the West, Havemann was dismissed from his job at the Humbolt University. In the 1970s, he and his wife, Katja, found themselves under house arrest, with no contact with the outside world. Havemann's renown as a resistance fighter saved him from the terrifying fate that befell countless other East German dissidents, including singer/songwriter Bettina Wegener and the artist Barbel Bohley both interviewed here who endured imprisonment and psychological torture. Using an excellent arrangement of still photographs, newsreel footage (a montage depicting the devastation of post-war Berlin is particularly effective) and substantial interviews, Beller moves her history swiftly across 40 years of East German history, capturing the burgeoning peace movement of the 1980s and the events that led to the opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dissolution of the GDR the following year. Given the righteous anger of the interviewees, the film ends on a surprisingly poignant note, with the acknowledgement that the "liberation" of the East also meant the death of the socialist dream for which so many dissidents had suffered and died.
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: NR
- Review: Hava Kohav Beller's history of dissent in the German Democratic Republic is admirably concise and surprisingly thorough, given the broad range of the subject matter and the secrecy that still surrounds the often-criminal efforts of East Germany's secret po… (more)