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Exhibition in Germany to honour Poland’s Solidarity freedom movement  

25.08.2020 14:30
An upcoming exhibition in the German city of Düsseldorf will mark 40 years since Poland’s Solidarity trade union and freedom movement was founded at a time when Europe was divided by the Iron Curtain.
People gather outside Polands Gdańsk shipyard in August 1980 to show support for striking workers. Photo: European Solidarity Centre [CC BY-SA 3.0 pl (https:creativecommons.orglicensesby-sa3.0pldeed.en)]
People gather outside Poland's Gdańsk shipyard in August 1980 to show support for striking workers. Photo: European Solidarity Centre [CC BY-SA 3.0 pl (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/pl/deed.en)]via Wikimedia Commons

The Learn Polish: Solidarity, East Germany and the Stasi exhibition at the Parliament of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia aims to honour the former Eastern bloc’s first non-communist free trade union that grew into a nationwide social movement.

Poland’s Solidarity movement emerged in late August and early September 1980 in the wake of worker protests that swept through the country. It was an outpouring of a yearning for freedom that inspired people in other Eastern European nations.

Poland is this year marking the 40th anniversary of the signing of its landmark 1980 August Agreements, when the country’s communist government was “for the first time forced to sit at a negotiating table with striking workers," as one official put it.

The rise of Poland’s Solidarity movement marked the beginning of the end of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, and ultimately led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany 10 years later.

Events in Poland in the early 1980s were closely watched in the former East Germany, whose communist leaders used the dreaded Stasi security service to monitor the reactions of the public in a bid to prevent a similar wave of discontent at home.

The upcoming exhibition in Düsseldorf, western Germany, includes archival Stasi documents and traces how East German secret police sought to stifle pro-Polish sentiment at the time.

The exhibition, produced by the Polish Institute in Düsseldorf—in partnership with the Speaker of the State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Federal Commissioner for the Files of the State Security Service of the former East Germany—opens on Tuesday, September 1, and will remain on display until September 15.  

It will then move to the Düsseldorf-based Polish Institute, where it will be available for viewing until October 30.

A Polish deputy culture minister in February hailed “a great moment” for her country after officials applied for UNESCO World Heritage status for the historic Gdańsk shipyard, the cradle of the famous Solidarity anticommunist movement.


Source: Polish Institute in Düsseldorf, Germany