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Solidarni zza Muru – For Solidarność. Behind the Wall

The Berlin Wall, 1984

Mediathek Sorted

Media library
  • I came to Berlin to buy a flash light ...  - On 13 December 1981 I was supposed to go back to Toruń. I have not returned to this day ...
  • The Berlin Wall - 1984
  • The gateway to Paradise -  Bahnhof Zoo. West Berlin, December 1982.
  • Berlin Spandau, Staaken district - British helicopter at the border with the DDR, 1985
  • Berlin Tiergarten - The annual parade for Allied Forces Day on the Straße des 17. Juni 1982
  • Berliner Mauer, 1983 - And six years later …?
  • Kreuzberg. Near Oberbaumbrücke. View towards East Berlin 1985 - Signs inform you that the Spree (waterway) belongs to East Berlin.
  • Berlin Neukölln - Summer in the City (West), 1982
  • In the East of Berlin - Central Berlin / city centre, January 1990.
  • Сапожник – Shoemaker - Advertising brochure in the East of Berlin. Central Berlin / city centre, January 1990.
  • In the West of Berlin, 1983 - Good Morning ...
  • Brandenburg Gate on 10 November 1989 - View from West Berlin.
  • Basia (Barbara Nowakowska-Drozdek), 1982 - Theatre academic. Pedagogue. Research assistant at the University of  Łódź until 1981. Co-founder (with Krzysztof Kasprzyk) of the first pro-Solidarność organisation in the FRG – of the Solidarność working group.
  • Lilka (Helena Bohle-Szacki, 1928–2011), 1997 - Artist. Pedagogue. She organised the shipment of printed materials, foodstuffs and medicines to Poland. Awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta.
  • Waltraut & Wanja, 1983 - Waltraut Kerber-Ganse – Social worker. Lecturer at the Technical University of Berlin. Together with Wanja Ronge, her friend at the time, she organised and sent more than 20 transports to Poland containing food and essential items for the families of inte
  • Achim (Joachim Trenkner) – Radio Free Berlin, 1982  - Journalist. Together with the television crew from SFB, he accompanied the “Aid for Poland" in the fervid months of 1981–1983.
  • Edward (Edward Klimczak, 1944-2011), 1983 - Russian and English scientist. Publisher. Lecturer at the Free University of West Berlin. Founder of the Solidarity Defence Committee / Solidarność Society. Active supporter of "Fighting Solidarność" (Solidarność Walcząca).
  • Ludwik (Ludwig Mehlhorn, 1950–2011), 1985 - Mathematician. Civil rights activist in the GDR. From the end of the 1970s, he maintained contact with the Polish Catholic community and with people involved in the Workers’ Defence Committee (Komitet Obrony Robotników – KOR). In the 1980s, he was one of
  • Maciek (Maciej Gebel), 1983 - Trainer. He worked in West-Berlin with the Solidarność working group and the Workers’ Defence Committee (Komitet Obrony Solidarności – KOS). Friends with Giorgio Caroti, the owner of the legendary jazz club "Quasimodo". He was a co-organiser of a 48-hour
  • Michał (Michael Sielewicz). 1984 - Surgeon, photographer, traveller, sailor, author. Between 1982 and 1983, on his own initiative, he organised and sent 17 transports to Poland containing medicines and medical equipment worth DM 1.5 million.
  • Thomas (Thomas Stodieck – Stodieck‘s bookshop), 1985 - Bookstore and more ... The first Polish bookshop in West Germany after the war (1978–1990). It was also a trading hub for smuggled books – in both directions. The sale of independent underground press and free publications allowed it to co-finance the pat
  • They – The solidary - 1983
  • They – The solidary - 1989
  • Advert for the exhibition commemorating two years of Solidarność on the museum wall, 1982 - House at Checkpoint Charlie; border crossing to East Berlin in Friedrichstraße.
  • Advert for the exhibition commemorating two years of Solidarność on the museum wall, 1982 - House at Checkpoint Charlie; border crossing to East Berlin in Friedrichstraße.
  • Zwei Jahre Solidarność – Exhibition of the Solidarność working group, 1982 - Interview with the Free Berlin TV station. From left: Wojtek Drozdek, Joachim Trenkner.
  • Erst die Moral, dann das Essen, 1982 - A calendar dedicated to Poland in the 1980s. Publisher: Dirk Nishen. Dirk was an active supporter of the Solidarność working group in its infancy. He spent some of the earnings from the sale of calendars on a fund to support Poland.
  • Andrzej Krauze, 1983 - Graphic artist. He worked with Nina Karsov’s emigrant publishing house "Kontra" (London).
  • Solidarność Defence Committee / Solidarność Society, 1983 - repeatedly carried out leaflet campaigns to inform the inhabitants of West Berlin – including the Poles – about martial law and the suppression of the democratic opposition.
  • One of the demonstrations organised by the Solidarność Society, 1982 -  to mark the anniversary of martial law.
  • Solidarność Society vigil, 1984 - Solidarność Society vigil in front of the building of the Polish military mission
  • Solidarność in front of the Wall, 1982 - People’s Solidarity Club. East Berlin, Bernauerstraße.
  • List of those sentenced “for attempting to live in truth”, 1982 - Exhibition commemorating two years of Solidarność. Solidarność working group
  • “Leftist” graffiti on the Berlin Solidarność office, 1983 - Better red than Solidarność!
  • Jacek Klonowski, 1986 - Worked with the Berlin Solidarność Society. Designed book covers for the “Pogląd” publishing house”.
  • Maciej Dzendzel, 1984 - Graphic artist. Painter. He is the author of the graphic concept of the Polish-speaking Veto publishing house in Berlin. He illustrated most of the books published there. He worked with the Solidarność working group and with the monthly publication “Przek
  • Ships from Poland. Berlin-Spandau, 1984 - Used for smuggling.
  • Krzysztof Kasprzyk, 1982 - Geographer. Poet. Traveller. Pedagogue. Has lived in Toronto since 1984. Co-founder of the Solidarność working group in West Berlin.
  • In the Polish bookshop in West Berlin,  - 1983
  • Krzysztof Kramarz, Berlin-Wedding - Celebrations to mark the national holiday on 3 May 1986, a public holiday in Communist Poland condemned to oblivion.
  • Protest campaign to condemn the murder of Priest Popiełuszko by the Polish State Security Service (Służba Bezpieczeństwa), 1984 - Speech by Edward Klimczak (Solidarność Society). West Berlin.
  • Berlin Charlottenburg , 1984 - A street party organised by the Maltese medical service for Poland.
  • Zwei Jahre Solidarność – Exhibition of the Solidarność working group, - 1982
  • Family portrait, 1982 - Library, office and gallery of the Solidarność working group. From left: Krzysio Kasprzyk, Basia Nowakowska-Drozdek, Wojtek Drozdek and Marian Stefanowski (Czarek).
  • Information stand of the Solidarność working group in West Berlin -  1982
  • 3rd May celebrations, Berlin Wedding, West Berlin, 1986  - Information stand of the Solidarność working group in West Berlin
  • … Berlin 1984 - Graffiti on the Wall: Freedom ends here.
  • … Berlin 1989 - ... and begins here!
  • 4 June 1989 - West Berlin. Polish Military Mission. The first partially free parliamentary election in post-war history. The organisers thank all those who voted for a free and democratic Poland ...
  • Berlin. Embassy of the Republic of Poland in the avenue Unter den Linden - First free presidential elections in Berlin, 25.11.1990.
  • Visit by the Polish President Lech Wałęsa, 1992 - Lech Wałęsa in the Polish Institute in Berlin.
  • Bronisław Geremek (1932-2008). Berlin Wilmersdorf, 1993. - Historian and politician. Foreign Minister of the Republic of Poland from 1997 to 2000, member of the European Parliament.
  • Polish Institute in Berlin 1992 - Krzysztof Skubiszewski (1926-2010). Lawyer. Foreign Minister of the Republic of Poland from 1989 to 1993; ad hoc judge at the International Court of Justice in Den Haag.
  • Berlin is being watched - 1985
  • This was the border - 1990
  • Berlin Wall - January/February 1990
The Berlin Wall, 1984
The Berlin Wall, 1984

“Versuch in der Wahrheit zu leben”

(Vaclav Havel – Czech author, opposition activist and politician)


The mathematician Ludwig Mehlhorn (1950–2011), a former civil rights campaigner in the DDR, is a protagonist of the exhibition with photos by Marian Stefanowski[*]. He inspired the Krzyżowa Foundation, and was a friend of Poland and of Solidarność.

Why am I starting with that? Because the exhibition could just as easily be called “For Solidarność. On BOTH sides of the Wall”.

So, “For Solidarność. Behind the Wall” represents just a snapshot of what happened in the divided Berlin, and this snapshot is often poorly lit, out of focus and incomplete. A single scene in a film that will most certainly not happen again ... At the exhibition in Łódź, the Gazeta Wyborcza quoted Stefanowski as saying “Lots of people showed good will. They all broke a small or a larger stone out of the wall. You would need a thousand rooms to be able to show the pictures of all these people”. The 58 black and white photograms are just a tiny piece of the enormous puzzle that historians have been putting together for quite a while now. When confronted with the exhibition, the witnesses of the events back then can only complete the fragments with their own experiences and stories, and what appears to be even more important is that they do this with experiences that are “different” to those of the photographers, the people involved in the exhibition and the curator, and this produces a high depth of focus. Ultimately, this was our aim, and has been since this exhibition was born. This aim was also achieved by viewing thousands upon thousands of negatives, even more of which were irretrievably lost in damp flats, during moves or due to the poor film quality.

In one of my interviews, I pointed out that the photographer wanted to take us back to the mood of West Berlin in the 1980s and to share this mood with others. But above all, he wanted to put the people that lived on both sides of the wall and stood together on the side of truth in this city. In this respect, the exhibition is a thank you to all individuals and to all institutions and organisations that helped or provided assistance, whether from the very start or just every so often; at least, as far as it was possible, and always from the perspective of the solidarity of people or even just out of sympathy for Poles, irrespective of political convictions, religion or skin colour ...

The “For Solidarność. Behind the Wall” exhibition consists of three topic blocks and ends with an epilogue entitled “Up @ Down”. The first section, under the heading “Berlin Zachodni – zachodni Berlin/ Berlin (West) – West Berlin”, tells the story of the divided town, its particular atmosphere and the border between two foreign, hostile worlds. But it is also about the Wall and about how the inhabitants of Berlin adapted the city’s unique character: some in their “golden cage” – the others in the capital of the workers’ paradise ...

In the second topic block “Solidarni / Für Solidarność”, there are ten portraits of people, in alphabetical order, who accompanied the photographer on a Solidarność pilgrimage through Berlin from December 1981 to the fall of the Wall. They seem to be individual characters, from completely different professions and often with completely different political convictions as well. Philologists, doctor, graphic artist, trainer or bookseller – all unified in one goal: to help Poland and the underground movement Solidarność.


[*] Marian Stefanowski: Solidarni zza Muru – For Solidarność. Behind the Wall. Photography – Photographs. Berlin – Warsaw 2014. Organiser: Association of Polish Journalists in Germany. Under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Poland Bronisław Komorowski. Cooperation and coordination of the project: Ewa Maria Slaska and Joanna Trümner et al. Curated by W. Drozdek. Vernissage on 25 June 2014 at IG Metall in Berlin. Exhibition sites outside Berlin: Warsaw, Dom Polonii, 22/8/2014 (the exhibition was closed after two weeks without any reason being given), Toruń, Galeria Wejściówka, 12/12/2014, Łódź, Dom Literatury, 25/4/2015, Darłowo, Zamek Książąt Pomorskich, 13/12/2016.

The third topic block is entitled “...zza Muru / ...behind the Wall” and provides impressions of West Berlin and of the people who did not just shape this proud town but, over ten years, also lent her a “Polish” face that breaks down common stereotypes and prejudices. This section is a thank you to the many nameless (and often forgotten) volunteers without whom our work would not have been possible. In his laudation, Dr Piotr Olszówka wrote: “(...) Stefanowski’s photographs show (...) people who, in a hostile and terrified environment discovered the spirit of community, of solidarity. They were Poles and Germans, people from three countries and two nations.” This is an important statement that must never be forgotten. Especially today. In a Europe full of national conflicts and neo-fascist stupidity.

The epilogue with the heading “Up @ Down” only seemingly reaches beyond the scope of the exhibition. It begins with a photo without a motif (in the exhibitions in Łódź and Darłowo – a mirror) which is dedicated to all those who, on 4 June 1989, spoke out for freedom and democracy, not just in the Polish military mission in West Berlin but also in Poland. The other images are portraits of the people who consolidated these values by forming a new government. By the way: the epilogue, its contents and the manner of its presentation (photographs that seem to be hung randomly, but which actually form a sine curve that can only be recognised when seen from a certain distance) aroused strong emotions and even censorship, as was the case for the exhibition in the Dom Polonii in Warsaw where they said: “The Geremek has to hang somewhere else – not near Wałęsa“. At another exhibition site, we were even asked to dispense with the epilogue because it was not compatible with the host’s approach ... In the end, the exhibition was just not held there.

“Saving them from being forgotten” – this is something that everyone involved in the exhibition since 2012 agreed upon. How contemporary this sounds in an age in which you forget that there were two German states and a wall which separated not just the city but families as well.

Finally, a quotation from Dr. Piotr Olszówka: “You [the people of Berlin] supported the society which, after six months of freedom, was restrained once again. Your solidarity has prevailed. For 25 years. Is it permanent?”

Last but not least: IG Metall did not just provide space in their newly opened gallery: They also provided technical support. It was one of the few trade unions that actively provided help to the Solidarność underground movement. That should not be forgotten either.


Wojciech Drozdek, June 2018


PS. After many years, my friend Jadzia Konopacka from Łódź wrote to me in April 2018: “I remember the lorries of aid supplies from you. The auditorium in the theatre, in which Mikołajska, the Grabowskis, our cousin Edek Wende had performed, full of aid packages (...). I told the families of the internees about it so that they could register there to get the things that they needed. It was teeming with people. (...)”