German Political Activist and Filmmaker Freya Klier to Present Lecture on Recent Neo-Nazi Murder Spree

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: Noelle.Lemoine@williams.edu

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., March 18, 2013—Freya Klier, German political activist, writer, and documentary filmmaker, will present a lecture at Williams College on Wednesday, April 3. The talk, titled “The Recent Neo-Nazi Murder Spree in Context,” will take place at 7 p.m. in Griffin Hall, room 3. Klier’s documentary, We Want to Be Free! East Germans Rise Up, 1953, will be screened at Images Cinema on Monday, April 8, at 7 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.

Klier will focus on a series of killings that took place in Germany between 2000 and 2006. During that time, 10 people, mostly Turkish and Greek small business owners, were executed with shots in the head. Authorities identified three right-wing extremists from the National Socialist Underground as the perpetrators of the crimes. Two of those suspects were found dead by police after they robbed a bank in 2011. The third, Beate Zschäpe, goes on trial for the killings and a number of other crimes on April 17. In her talk, Klier will address the East German communist background that shaped the three accused killers and the extensive East and West German neo-Nazi sympathizer population that she says supported and protected the trio.

The film, We Want to Be Free! East Germans Rise Up, 1953, examines a watershed moment in the Cold War. In Berlin and elsewhere on June 17, 1953, factory workers and other dissatisfied citizens of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) organized mass demonstrations against Stalinist leader Walter Ulbricht and his government. The demonstrators’ demands for reforms, including free elections and the abolition of borders within Germany, were violently suppressed. Klier’s film makes an important contribution to the historical evaluation of the Socialist Unity Party’s dictatorship.

Klier, known for her criticism of communism and fascism, spends much of each year traveling to schools to educate students about the GDR. She also represents incarcerated writers for PEN, an international association of writers. In October 2012, she was awarded Germany’s highest award for life work and civic achievement, the Federal Cross of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz). In 2011, she attended with other former East German dissidents the awarding of the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom to German Chancellor Angela Merkel by President Obama.

The event is sponsored by the departments of German and Russian, History, and Political Science; the Gaudino Fund; the Program in Jewish Studies; the Weiner Family Lecture Fund; the Bronfman Fund; the Oakley Center for Humanities and Social Sciences; the W. Ford Schumann ’50 Program for Democratic Studies; and the Center for Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.

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