Erika Riemann’s oral testimony on life in East Germany during the Cold War
Erika Riemann was a teenager living in East Germany at the end of World War II. Her oral testimony describes her experiences as a political prisoner during the cold war. She was arrested in 1945 for drawing a bow on a portrait of Stalin that hung in her school classroom. At the time of her arrest she was only 14 years old. After World War II Germany was left devastated and in ruins. There had been massive destruction of the country’s infrastructure (Bessel 2011), it lacked political structure and economic activity had plummeted. There was a scarcity of food, fuel and housing and Germany was in no condition to clothe or feed its population (O’Dochartaigh 2003). Following conferences at Potsdam between the Soviet Union and the Western allies (America, Britain and France) in 1945, Germany was divided into four zones of occupation; the Western Allies in the west and the Soviet Union in the east. Berlin, although entirely in the Eastern Soviet Zone, was divided similarly to the rest of Germany, with the Western Allies controlling the western sectors of Berlin and the Soviet Union controlling the eastern sector (Williamson 2001). Each of the four countries exercised supreme power in their own zones and they began to create a new order in each zone based on their own view of what would be best for the Germans (Williamson 2001). In 1945 in Soviet East Germany, eleven internment camps were set up, to systematically punish those who the soviets saw as enemies. The soviets claimed that the camps would be used as an intern for active Nazi’s and opponents of communism. In reality, the camps were full of German youths who had been accused of charges of belonging to Werewolf groups engaged in underground activity against the Soviet Union (Bruce 2003, p. 6). The camps were also used to house opponents of the SED (Socialist Unity party) as well as capitalists, social democrats and communists who did...
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