Bohley, Bärbel (Germany)

Bärbel Bohley was one of the founding members of the group Women for Peace (1982), and a significant contributor to the citizens’ movement of East Germany. In addition of being a political opponent of the DDR regime, she was also an accomplished artist.

Her experience of being personally imprisoned for six weeks by the Stasi, led her to her advocacy of peace and human rights. Ultimately her goal was to uphold basic human rights in East Germany. She was of the opinion that domestic politics needed to be amended and peace achieved before they could begin working towards peace with other countries. Bohley was banned from traveling, and her organization was infiltrated by the Secret Police. This made their efforts at contact with Poland, Hungary, and the USSR far more complicated.

She was allowed at one point to seek asylum in Great Britain. She spent a quarter of a year there, learning about western democratic systems. After her return she founded the “New Forum” organization in Berlin. It quickly became a platform for a basic societal discourse within East Germany. It was one of the key organizations in the peace movement, and the largest citizens’ movement in the five regions of the Bundesrepublik. It was primarily a grassroots movement, but after the fall of East Germany it was also included in city and community political organizations.

In the 1990s, after being awarded the Bruno Kreisky Prize, Bärbel Bohley worked to help rebuild the former Yugoslavia. From 1996 to 1999 she worked for the office of the High Representative and helped organize the rebuilding of houses in Bosnia- Herzegowina. In 1994 she received the Bundesverdienstkreuz, and the National Prize in 2000. In 2006 she made potable water available in more regions in Bosnia so that long time refugees could return to normal lives. Bärbel Bohley died on September 11, 2010.