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UMW professor lived in East Germany during the fall of the Berlin Wall
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But Rotter had no immediate desire to leave East Germany, where he was born in the town of Gotha. His family lived for 14 years in an apartment with no shower or bathtub.
"I was determined to stay in Germany," he said. "Even though the wall was open, I did not have plans to move to the West."
In a recent speech at the University of Virginia, Rotter said a "politically engaged priest" he knew as a child acquainted him with subjects banned from schools, such as writers and underground art. In fact, the secret police--the Stasi--had the priest under surveillance.
Years later, the Stasi asked Rotter to act as an informant on his friends, but he declined, he told his U.Va. audience. In Rotter's Stasi files, police wrote in 1989 that "intervention" would be necessary because of his refusal.
Fortunately, the German reunification prevented such measures.
Life was not all bad before the wall fell, Rotter said. He said he received adequate medical care and enough to eat.
He even performed in a six-member band.
"We were not running around all day thinking about how bad our lives were," he said. "We were living our life. It was not perfect--it was a life."
Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402