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Maria Nooke

Maria Nooke
Born in Forst (Lausitz), 1958.

Maria Nooke’s parents had taught her to have the courage of her convictions. “Think carefully about what you say and what you do, and then stand your ground.” She was not a member of the socialist Free German Youth organisation, and refused to have a secular coming of age ceremony or to shoot during pre-military training. She wanted to live in this country as an upstanding Christian.

A career path in the church seemed to be mapped out for her, although this was not what she originally intended to do. But: “Here, I could do something I was interested in without subordinating myself to politics.” As of 1985, she worked with children and teenagers in the Protestant community of her hometown Forst and was a co-founder of the Ökumenische Friedenskreis (Ecumenical Peace Group) in the region.

In 1987, Freya Klier and Stephan Krawczyk were planning to give a concert near Forst. Since both artists had been officially banned from performing in the GDR, they could only do so under the protection of the church. The Stasi checked passports as soon as people left Forst, the car number plates of those attending the concert were noted, and pressure was exerted on the parish council for hours on end. The Superintendent General then revealed to all those present in the full church that the concert could not take place and that he had arrived at this decision without any pressure from the state. For Maria Nooke, the shock at this lie and the intervention in church matters was combined with a feeling of powerlessness. “They had gone too far now. We weren’t prepared to put up with that.”

Together with her husband, the physicist Günter Nooke, and the pastors Bodo Grützner and Michael Moogk, in January 1988 she founded the opposition journal Aufbruch (Awakening). Since the state would not tolerate publications like this, it was passed off as informative material concerning the church. The journal, initially with a circulation of fifty and primarily telling people about regional problems such as the forced relocations in the course of brown coal mining and the resultant destruction of nature and the environment, quickly became well known throughout the GDR. Aufbruch reported on the ban of the Soviet journal Sputnik and on the arrests in Berlin before and during the demonstrations in honour of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, and it informed people about democracy and human rights. Not even the Stasi were able to prevent this. All they could do was carefully observe the editorial team and hit them with numerous fines. One distributor that used the journal was the Environmental Library in Berlin, also in opposition to the state.

Maria Nooke still works at providing people with information to enable them to form their own opinions – since 2009, she has been Deputy Director of the Berlin Wall Foundation.

Nanette Hojdyssek
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