Human Rights: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

As part of Human Rights week, SCRC is sharing some items from a few of our collections that relate to either the protection of human rights or a neglect for them. The first is a report on the Virginia Council on Human Rights, which was established on August 7, 1987. The goal of the council included protecting individuals from unlawful discrimination. This report is part of the Emilie F. Miller collection which covers a vast array of topics relating to politics within Virginia. She was local activist and supporter of equal rights for women.

"Virginia Council on Human Rights." Emilie F. Miller collection, Collection # C0048, Box 07, Folder 60, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

“Virginia Council on Human Rights.” Emilie F. Miller collection, Collection # C0048, Box 07, Folder 60, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

The second item comes from the French Communist Poster collection. The poster advocates for amnesty for the political prisoners and exiles of Spain. Though it did not gain enough support to win a presidential election, the PCF supported the workers and farmers of France and fought for more social welfare programs, like higher minimum wages, better retirement conditions, better working conditions, and equal pay and also sought female support by celebrating women’s issues and equal rights.

French Communist Party poster collection #C0168, MC folder 2, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

French Communist Party poster collection #C0168, MC folder 2, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

The last item is from the East German Poster political series collection. This poster is undated but references events of 1939. The quote is taken from a Bertolt Brecht poem about the “house-painter” and who made promises of “great times to come.” Brecht went into exile at the onset of the Second World War and is famous for many of his plays.

"Aus dem Reich kommen wenig Nachrichten",East German poster collection # C0169, AE-1825, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

“Aus dem Reich kommen wenig Nachrichten”,East German poster collection # C0169, AE-1825, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. You may also e-mail us at speccoll@gmu.edu or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have questions. Appointments are not necessary to view collections.

Scenes from Behind the Wall: Images of East Germany, 1989-1990

In late December 1989 two young men, Page Chichester and Helmut Brinkmann, were drinking and watching a soccer match on television in the city of Bonn in what was then called West Germany.  Brinkmann suddenly suggested that they tour East Germany, beginning the next day.  The two stayed up all night planning their hastily-conceived trip.  At Noon on December 29th the two took off in a Volkswagen van carrying cameras, film, and very few provisions.

Photographers Page Chichester (left) and Helmut Brinkmann (right) at the Berlin Wall during their eight-day trip to East Germany. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries, speccoll@gmu.edu.

Photographers Page Chichester (left) and Helmut Brinkmann (right) at the Berlin Wall during their eight-day trip to East Germany. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries, speccoll@gmu.edu.

Just about a month earlier the Berlin Wall, the main symbol of the division of the two Germanys had begun to fall.  Ironically, this event came just a few short months after the German Democratic Republic celebrated its fortieth anniversary as a communist state.  The festivities included a guest appearance by none other than the leader of the communist world himself, Mikhail Gorbechev.  By late December, however, curious people began to move cautiously between the two countries, being extremely careful not to arouse the suspicion of the Stasi, the State Security Police of the crumbling, but still-functioning GDR.

A Stasi guard poses for a photo in Dresden. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries, speccoll@gmu.edu.

A Stasi guard poses for a photo in Dresden. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries, speccoll@gmu.edu.

Chichester and Brinkmann spent eight days touring East Germany.  The two visited Erfurt, Jena, Dresden, Leipzig, Bitterfeld, Connewitz, Berlin, and other surrounding locales before returning west to Bonn on January 5, 1990.  Speaking to people and photographing the architecture, industry, transportation, and people of the east, they got a first-hand look at the conditions in that part of the Iron Curtain in the period between the fall of the Wall and reunification in October 1990.

A young boy plays in the rubble of a demolished housing project in Connewitz. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives,  George Mason University Libraries, speccoll@gmu.edu.

A young boy plays in the rubble of a demolished housing project in Connewitz. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries, speccoll@gmu.edu.

The “Scenes from Behind the Wall: Images of East Germany, 1989/90” exhibit collection contains 53 framed photographs and supporting documentation for the exhibit “Scenes from Behind the Wall: Images of East Germany, 1989/90” that traveled throughout Virginia as part of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Statewide Exhibition Program from 1995 through 2009.  The finding aid for this collection can be accessed here.   A digitized collection of the images can be found at this link.

 

 

 

East German Poster Collection Political Series Finding Aid

Since January Special Collections and Archives staff have processed a portion of the East German Poster Collection thanks to a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources. The first series-level finding aid on the political posters is available here. Project assistants Lauren Shutt and Sean Tennant cataloged each poster individually using spreadsheets that are imported into a database by Jordan Patty, the processing archivist. They are also using a digital camera to take low resolution reference images of a sample of the posters so that those images can be linked to the finding aids. Catalogers Manon Theroux and Friedgard Cowan verified personal names (of both poster artists and political figures) and organizations (not an easy task!) and provided likely subject headings. We hope to complete the performing arts series and the film series soon.

  Keine neuen Zähne für diese Hyäne/USA?Raketen aus Westeuropa raus! (“No new teeth for these hyenas/USA? Rockets from West Europe get out!”)
Poster features close-up of hyena from John Heartfield’s Krieg und Leichen ? Die Letzte Hoffnung der Reichen (War and corpses? the last hope of the rich).  White teeth resembling missiles are superimposed on the hyena’s mouth. 81″ x 59″, 1982. From the East German poster collection political series, 1943-2009, Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries.

“This work may be protected by copyright laws and is provided for educational and research purposes only. Any infringing use may be subject to disciplinary action and/or civil or criminal liability as provided by law. If you believe you are the rights holder and object to GMU’s use of this image, please contact speccoll@gmu.edu.”

20th Anniversary of the Fall of The Berlin Wall

Wall @ Mason

Wall @ Mason

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which divided Berlin as well as the three Western sectors of Germany from the surrounding area of Brandenburg.  Originally composed of barbed wire, the Wall was 95 miles long and eventually 13 feet high and as wide as 100 feet.   It included a lighting system, 40 yard “death strip”, watch towers, trip alarm fences, and sharpshooter stations. There were two walls facing East Berlin. The purpose of the Wall was to stop people from leaving East Germany This was due primarily to the catastrophic economic situation resulting from forced collectivization and persecution by the SED party and state security services. During the 28 years of the Wall’s existence  nearly 475,000 East Germans escaped to the West. In addition, 125 people died while attempting to escape.

The  end of travel restrictions between the border of East and West German was anti-climatic and was first announced by Gunter Schabowski, a member of the Politburo and newly elected Central Committee Secretary for Public Information during an interview with a journalist for the Italian Press Agency on November 9, 1989.  Parts of the Wall were taken down over the next couple months and a crossing point was made at the Brandenburg Gate on December 22, 1989. Today only six fragments of the Wall remain standing as a reminder of this outrageous injustice.

George Mason University and other organizations in the area have planned a number of events to commemorate the  fall of the Wall. Here are some that you should not miss:

George Mason University – Fairfax Campus

Center for History and New Media http://chnm.gmu.edu/freedomwithoutwalls/

Making the History of 1989 – http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/

Nov 9

12:00 Unity Walk Location: South Plaza

1:00 Demolition of Wall Replica Location: near Clock Tower

Nov 10

1:30 Talk by German Novelist, Peter Schneider Location: Ballroom, Sub II

Nov 17

1:30 “1989, The Berlin Wall: The View from the Ambassador” by German Ambassador, Dr. Klaus Schiaroth Location: TBA

University Libraries

Wall Exhibit Location: Special Collections & Archives (C Wing, 2nd Floor)

Wall @ Mason

Wall @ Mason

Goethe-Institute,  Washington, DC

Nov 4 – Jan 8

“Iconoclash: Political Imagery from the Berlin Wall to German Unification”, an exhibition co-curated by Marion Deshmukh, Associate Professor of History and Art History, George Mason Univeristy

Nov 9th

9-6:30 “The Rise and Fall of our Own Berlin Wall”: Includes construction and decoration of “The Wall” throughout the day. Ulrich Braess, Director of the Goethe-Institute, will preside over the “fall of the Wall” around 6 pm. Films showing different perspectives about the Wall will also be presented.

6:30 Wende Flicks Series: “Jana & Jara” (This series features films by East Germans)

Nov 16

6:30 Wende Flicks Series: “Burning Life”

Nov 23

6:30 Wende Flicks Seris: “Heart Leap”

Nov 30

6:30 Wende Flicks Series: “Leipzig in Fall”

My next post will feature our exciting recent acquisition of 7,439 posters from East German cultural, film, performing and visual arts, and political organizations. In addition, we have also acquired a photographic archive of the Wall from its construction to its fall.

SC&A DDR Poster Collection

1 of 7,439 posters in the SC&A DDR Collection

Please click here to return to vault217.