Voices Of Revolution: Stasi

All this week, we're hearing firsthand accounts of the end of communism in Eastern Europe 20 years ago in our series Voices of a Revolution. Today, we hear from a former political prisoner in East Germany, who realized that the only way to escape to the West was to get himself arrested — and then ransomed by the West Germans.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

All this week, were hearing firsthand accounts of the end of communism in Eastern Europe 20 years ago. Today, former prisoner Cliewe Juritza. He was born in 1966 in East Berlin behind the Berlin Wall. And as a teenager, he decided he couldnt continue living under communism. As he thought, his only chance of making it over the wall was to become a prisoner of the East German Secret Police, the Stasi.

In 1984, he boarded a train headed for a check point and deliberately announced to the border guards that he was trying to escape. He was promptly arrested. During the 40-year existence of communist East Germany, it sold some 34,000 prisoners and dissidents to West Germany. That number included Juritza.

Today, two decades after his release, he works at Berlins former Stasi prison, now a museum and memorial. And thats where NPRs Eric Westervelt made this recording.

Mr. CLIEWE JURITZA (Tour Guide, Hohenschonhausen Memorial Museum, Berlin): My name is Cliewe Stadtfuhrungen. Im 43 years old. I live in Berlin. And Im a guide in the Memorial of Hohenschonhausen. Its a former central line, former prison of the Stasi. I grew up in East Berlin in the shadow of the wall and just (unintelligible) and it was clear for me that its impossible to cross over the Berlin Wall. But I knew from the program that West Germany paid for release for prisoners, but only for prisoners. And so, I had to go to prison, (unintelligible) of an 18 years old.

I was sentenced to one year of imprisonment. And after 10 months, West Germany paid for my release. After 20 years, my wife wanted to that I write down, write a book about my escape attempt and stay in the prison. At first, I didnt wanted because I had to remember. I did not want to remember. Im very glad that many school class comes through this former (unintelligible) prison. But in most cases, there are school classes from West Germany.

I had fairly seldom school class from the former East Germany. And such as that situation, I suppose that most people in East Germany, maybe the teacher or the parliament dont want that the next generation, the young generation were informed about, say, conditions in (unintelligible). And so, it is a problem.

NORRIS: Former prisoner and now tour guide Cliewe Juritza. He lives in Berlin. He was interviewed at Hohenschonhausen Prison Memorial by NPRs Eric Westervelt.

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