Mario Röllig, who spent 3 months in East Berlin’s Hohenschönhausen prison in 1987
for trying to flee communist East Germany, will tell his story on Sunday, Nov. 9, during an afternoon of public activities to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
For 41 years, the Wall segregated communist East Berlin from West Berlin, East Germany from West Germany. The East German STASI (secret police) imprisoned 72,000 people for their attempts to escape from East Germany to the West.
Röllig will speak from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. at UNC Charlotte Center City, 320 E. 9th Street in Charlotte. The event called “The Power of People” is open to the public without charge, but registration is requested at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-power-of-people-25th-anniversary-of-the-fall-of-the-berlin-wall-tickets-13417846139?aff=rss. Parking is available for a fee at nearby lots.
Other activities during the afternoon will include simultaneous showings of a documentary and a feature film, “The Lives of Others,” beginning at 3:00 p.m., a symbolic tearing down of the “wall” about 5:30 p.m., and an exhibit of photography, news articles and student projects -- a collaboration of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Gaston County Schools and Deutsche Schule Charlotte, the German Language School.
Röllig was 19 when he got into trouble for refusing to become one of the 189,000 "informal employees" the Stasi recruited to spy on friends, colleagues, neighbors and relatives. The Stasi punished him by constantly tailing him, harassing him and demoting him to a dishwashing job. He decided to escape but was caught and imprisoned in the secret prison. Röllig was released after three months. In 1988, he was allowed to defect under a prisoner-sale arrangement with West Germany that the East German regime used to earn hard currency.
The German Language and Culture Foundation is hosting the “The Power of People – 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall” in conjunction with UNC Charlotte’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the Department of Languages and Culture Studies. The foundation each year awards dozens of scholarships to UNC Charlotte students who are majoring in German, enabling them to study German in an immersive experience in a German-speaking country. The foundation also works with the department to provide hands-on learning opportunities with German companies in Charlotte and abroad.
Sponsor: The German Language & Culture Foundation,College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Department of Languages & Culture Studies