Obituary: Jurgen Fuchs

JURGEN FUCHS was a prominent East German civil rights activist and writer.

He was born in the small town of Reichenbach in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1950. The son of an electrician, Fuchs had a classic GDR early life. He gained his Abitur (university matriculation) in 1969 and, following the Communist polytechnic education system, completed an apprenticeship with the state railways, strangely still officially called the Reichsbahn. From there he did his compulsory national service in the armed forces, the NVA, 1969-71.

He had proved himself worthy to be allowed to study and he took up a scholarship at the University of Jena. He chose social psychology and sociology, areas of study which had been rediscovered in the Soviet empire after the nightmare years of Stalin. During his student days, Fuchs applied for membership of the ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED) and was admitted in 1973.

Fuchs, like many others, took the SED-leader Erich Honecker seriously when he proclaimed in 1971 that there were to be "no taboos". As long as East German writers and artists did not attack the fundamentals of Socialism, they were to be free both in terms of style and content.

Fuchs was a GDR loyalist who wanted to improve the system, not abolish it. He believed in the regime's proclaimed objectives of social solidarity, power emanating from the people, anti-racism, anti-colonialism and, above all, the fight for peace. However, he was soon in trouble with the SED for criticising the militarisation of the GDR in his first literary works.

A confidential report about an evening of music and songs held in Bad Koestritz on 17 February 1975 was send direct to Honecker by the Gera area secretary of the SED, Herbert Ziegenhahn. Ziegenhahn claimed that the majority of items on the programme criticised the principles of the GDR. Fuchs was expelled from the SED in April 1975 for "enemy attacks against the basis of socialist society". Expulsion from the university and a ban of his works followed.

Fuchs then worked as a transport worker and in a church-run children's home. He developed a friendship with the best-known GDR dissident, Professor Robert Havemann. Havemann took in Fuchs, his wife and child. In 1976, Fuchs joined over 150 other writers and artists in protesting against the withdrawal of GDR citizenship from the singer and writer Wolf Biermann. Fuchs was arrested and charged with agitation against the state. He was held on remand for nine months and then expelled to West Germany.

During his imprisonment his Gedachtnisprotokolle was published in the West, as were his subsequent works. Fuchs was the object of secret police (Stasi) attention from 1968, when he was still at school, until the secret police was abolished at the end of 1989. The Stasi attempted to discredit dissidents whether they still lived in the GDR or whether they had sought refuge in, or been expelled to, the West. A secret police document dated 29 September 1982 reported on attempts to make Fuchs, already living in the West, feel insecure. Anonymous callers telephoned him at night. Taxis and emergency services were called to his flat. Without his knowledge or consent, any number of home improvement firms were called in his name and meetings were arranged in his flat at various times of the day or night.

The notorious Stasi agent who posed as a dissident writer, Sacha Anderson, infiltrated Fuchs's circle in the 1980s. After the fall of the GDR in 1989, Fuchs worked for the public body in charge of the Stasi archives, the Gauck-Behorde in Berlin. Both the large numbers of informers and the fact that they included writers like Anderson were severe blows to idealists like Fuchs and Biermann.

Fuchs attempted to understand why such people became informers. In 1995 he co-edited a book on this theme, Zersetzung der Seele ("Demoralisation of the Soul"). His last work, Magdalena, was about his imprisonment.

David Childs

Jurgen Fuchs, civil rights activist and writer: born Reichenbach, GDR 19 December 1950; married (three children); died Berlin 9 May 1999.

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