The kids who smuggled out an East German defector

It's not often that you get to revisit your little hometown, speak to a group of people who grew up around you, and stumble across a story involving a Stasi file, a bugged Trabant, an East German defector and a bunch of teenagers on a school trip. And then have someone make it into a podcast with brilliant 1980s tunes.

This feature for the Guardian took me back to the 1980s, and stirred up memories of my own childhood in the divided Germany. It made me look at my hometown in a different light, and led to lots of conversations about family, politics, belonging - and how hard it can be to do the right thing when the world around you is wrong.

One thing that struck me was the timeliness of this story. It's about young people challenging conditions that the older generation has accepted as the norm. Today, as children are separated from their parents at borders around the world, teenagers are taking to the streets to urge action on the climate crisis, and refugees are risking their lives to cross the sea to Europe, it's a good reminder that we do have the power to help.


  1. This reminds me when I revisited my own 1989 class trip to the GDR in a seminar paper about "Innere Einheit" at university in the late 90s. I researched the political climate and propaganda objectives of these trips from both sides. And I spoke to my former teacher, who, too, showed me the file that the Stasi had kept about him. Stasi agents came to our village in Southern Germany multiple times to observe middle school teachers organizing these class trips. Chilling.


Post a Comment