Topography of Terror
STUDY VISITS TO SITES OF MEMORY
Summary of the Study Visit to Sites of Memory in Berlin
On 18 to 21 April 2018, Institute for Democracy, Media & Culture (IDMC) in cooperation with Konrad Adenauer Foundation organized a four-day study trip to sites of memory in Berlin for the 1st prize winners of "Ask Your Grandparents 2" competition.
"Ask Your Grandparents 2" – multimedia competition was collaboration between IDMC and the Albanian History Teachers Association, supported by the Ministry of Education, Sports & Youth, and Konrad Adenauer Foundation which awarded the winners in a special ceremony organized on 23 November 2017. Following the study visit to the sites of memory in Albania for the 2nd prize, 3rd prize, network and consolation prize, IDMC in collaboration with KAS offered as the 1st prize a study trip to sites of memory in Berlin. The winners of the first prize were a group of 5 high school students from "Sami Frasheri" high school in Tirana, Elios Shuli, Marta Gështenja, Gentian Kojeli, Eri Alla, Renis Lami with the creative video "I am…". They were accompanied by IDMC staff, Dr. Jonila Godole and Ms. Matilda Karçanaj; the director of KAS Albania, Mr. Walter Glos; their teacher Ms. Elmira Gjonaj; and the history expert Ms. Fatmiroshe Xhemalaj, at the same time the member of the jury of the competition.
Information about the activity:
First day of the study visit, 18 APRIL 2018
The winners of the competition arrive in Berlin and meet Mr. Feyerabend, referent of SEE in KAS academy.
After arriving in Berlin the first place winners of the "Ask Your Grandparents 2" competition accompanied by the IDMC staff and the director of KAS Albania, Mr. Walter Glos, were provided with a bus excursion in the city of Berlin. The guide offered them an introduction to the history of Berlin, introducing them to some of the most important historic sites in the city, such as the Berlin Wall, the Berlin Cathedral, the Bebelplatz book burning site, the Faculty of Law, the Brandenburg Gate, the TV Tower, and the French Street and Berlin Victory Column, among others.
In the afternoon, the young adults had the chance to meet with Mr. Florian Constantin Feyerabend, referent for SEE in the KAS Academy in Berlin. The competition winners shared their filming experience with Mr. Feyerabend. Each youth spoke about their personal experience and role in the winning entry for the competition. And, Mr. Feyerabend introduced the young adults to the focus of Konrad Adenauer Foundation's work and why it was important, even for them at KAS, to deal with the past. This discussion also touched on the topic of Albania's EU integration, following the European Commission's recommendation to open accession talks with Albania.
SECOND day of the study visit, 19 APRIL 2018
The group visits the German Parliament and talks with the deputy of Bundestag, Mr. Thorsten Frei, followed by a visit to the Berlin Wall and the Stasi Museum.
On the second day, the young group from Tirana visited the German Parliament. During their visit to Bundestag, they had the chance to meet and talk with Mr. Thorsten Frei, deputy of Bundestag and reporter for Albania. Mr. Frei informed the young adults about Albania's situation in the process of EU integration and Germany's role in facilitating this process. Mr. Frei told them that "despite the help from Germany in the EU integration process, it is up to the willingness of Albania's political elites to fulfill all the conditions put forward by the EU in order to progress on this path.” Mr. Frei also emphasized that Albanians should use all of their democratic means – voting and/or protest – to put pressure on their politicians to work harder. The competition winners also learned more about the agendas of German politicians and, above all, how important it was for deputies to meet regularly with their constituents in order to learn more about their constituents' problems. At the end of the meeting, all of the young adults were encouraged to apply for internships in the German Parliament. Following their visit to Reichstagskuppel, the students headed to the Berlin Wall memorial.
Guided along the Berlin Wall memorial, young people learned more about the history of the Germany's division from 13 August 1961 until the fall of the Wall on 9 November 1989. The memorial consists of the last piece of the Berlin Wall, the Chapel of Reconciliation, and the remains of a building which was divided with the balconies in one side of Berlin and the apartment on the other side. Later one, its windows had been closed in order to prevent people from escaping, thus serving as a part of the Berlin wall until the early eighties.
The second day ended with a visit to the Stasi Museum, where the students learned more about how the German State Security Service/Ministry for State Security functioned. The museum is located in the former Stasi building, which made it easier for the young people to grasp the political system of the German Democratic Republic of former East Germany. Visiting the rooms of the Stasi Museum, the young high school students drew comparisons with the Albanian State Security, known as Sigurimi.
THIRD day of the study visit, 20 APRIL 2018
The winners of "Ask Your Grandparents 2" visit the Holocaust Museum in Berlin.
On the third day, the visit took the winners of "Ask Your Grandparents 2" competition to the Holocaust memorial, known also as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. After Adolf Hitler, the former dictator of Germany, took power, Germany took anti-Semitism measures to exterminate the Jews from Germany. These measures also included the persecution and murder of other groups such as Roma and Polish people, homosexuals, disable people, and opponents.
The Holocaust memorial, presented to the public on May 2005, is located in the political part of Berlin, near Bradenburg Gate, in an area measuring 19,000 square meters. It consists of 2,711 concrete blocks, which together commemorate the approximately six million European Jews that were victims of the Holocaust. After being guided through the blocks, young people also visited the exhibition at the underground information center, where they learned more about the National Socialist terror policies from 1933–1945. They visited each of the room and learned the number and names of victims from different European countries as well as their family stories – through interviews with Holocaust survivors and sites of memories in Europe.
Fourth day of the study visit, 21 APRIL 2018
Visit at Berlin Hohenschönhausen Memorial and Topography of Terror Museum.
In the last day of their study visit the group visited firstly Berlin Hohenschönhausen Memorial and then Topography of Terror museum.
During the visit in the Berlin Hohenschönhausen Memorial young people learned about the former political prison of former East German Communist Ministry of State Security and the ways of tortures used. Being lead by a professional guide the young people learned that the location n had originally functioned as a special Soviet camp at the end of WWII in the Soviet occupied zone. In 1946 it became the central Soviet prison in Germany and functioned like that until 1951, when the Ministry for State Security took control of the prison. After Stasi took over, the prison was expanded and it was used until 1989 as a central detention center, where thousands of political prisoners were interrogated, including almost all of the most famous GDR dissidents. Five years after the fall of Berlin Wall in 1994, it became a memorial. Walking through the area of the former detention center the guide acknowledged the group with the interrogation methods used back at that time by GDR state security service and about the living conditions of the political prisoners.
The last memory site of the study trip that the group visited was the documentation center "Topography of Terror", built on the site of Schutzstaffel central Command, (major parliamentary organization under Adolf Hitler). The headquarters of Gestapo and the Reich Security Main Office (from 1939) were located there. The young group was guided through the permanent exhibition "Topography of Terror: Gestapo, SS and Reich Security Main Office on Wilhelm- and Prinz-Albrecht street," which documents the history of persecution and terror from 1933, when Hitler took power, until 1945. The guide led them through the exhibition, giving the young people more information about the National Socialist takeover of power; the institutions of terror (SS and Police); the terror, persecution and extermination on the Reich territory; and the SS and Reich main security office in occupied countries.
19‒20 September 2016, Gjirokaster, Lushnje – In the context of Topography of Terror, Institute for Democracy, Media & Culture organizes study trips in memory sites of the dictatorship in Albania in order to raise young people's awareness of its consequences. Following the trip in former political prison of Spaç earlier this year, IDMC organized on 19‒20 September a study visit in sites of memory in Tepelene, Gjirokaster and Lushnje, in collaboration with the Institute for Integration of Former Political Persecutees.
On first day, young people coming from different former politically persecuted families during the dictatorship period traveled from Tirana to Tepelene and Gjirokaster. At first, they were introduced with the former internment camp of Tepelene. In their opening speech, Dr. Jonila Godole, executive director of IDMC, and Mr. Bilal Kola, director of IIPP, urged young people to build awareness. Mr. Simon Mirakaj, a former political persecutee during the dictatorship, introduced them with details from life in the internment camp and highlighted how important dealing with the past was for the future. Mr. Daut Gumeni, also a former political persecutee and candidate for the Committee for Opening of Communist Files, urged young people not to be afraid of the past but to acknowledge it. "Who forgets the past is lost," said Mr. Gumeni.
Following Tepelene, the study trip continued to Gjirokaster. At "Musine Kokalari" museum, Ms. Arjeta Kokalari reflected on the importance of the figure of dissident Musine Kokalari. Next was the visit to the former prison inside the castle of Gjirokaster, where Mr. Gumeni shared personal stories from life there during the time of the dictatorship.
On second day, the group resumed their journey from the memory sites of Gjirokaster to Lushnje, to learn about life in the barracks of Saver, and visited the city's internment and deportations' memorial from 1954‒1991.
More about the guests:
Daut Gumeni, a former political persecutee during the Albanian dictatorship, today is an analyst and candidate for the Committee for Opening of Communist Files.
Simon Mirakaj was born in 1945. He passed 44 years of his life deported for political reasons, since he was 2 weeks old. Currently he is the head of the Association of Democrat Former Political Persecutees of Albania
18 February 2016, Rreshen – A democratic society cannot go forward if it does not know and face its past. In particular, the young people in a country such as Albania, which faced a very unique kind of communist regime, do not have in-depth knowledge in the so-called phenomenon of communism in their country. Hence, considering that Albania is in the wave of attempts to open the communist files, the Institute for Democracy, Media & Culture organized a study trip to the prison of Spaç in Rreshen, which was a political prison during the communist period. The Spaç prison is the place where many convicts of communism were subject to suffering, humiliation, torture, and violence.
The purpose of this study trip was to give students the basis for a better understanding of the communist regime in Albania and to assist them in learning about Spaç, the labor camps and the political prisons during communism, more than what is offered in the media and the history books. In addition, in order to better understand what time in this prison was like, the students were guided by historian Dr. Enriketa Papa and a former political detainee Mr. Agim Hakcani. The latter shared his personal experience, having served 14 years of his life in Spaç.
Students were involved in the narrative of Mr. Hakcani, expressing great interest in knowing not only the difficulties, the physical and spiritual suffering, but also the details of the daily life in prison, foods, hygiene etc. After visiting the remaining sections of the former prison of Spaç, the activity ended with an informal discussion where students were invited to reflect on the importance of historical commemorations in their process of education. The students demanded for an objective and undistorted look at the history of their country. In this regard, IDMC's initiative, to bring the youth closer to the past through study visits in sites of memory, will continue with other groups.
Sites of memory, such as internment camps, political prisons and labor camps should be brought more often to the attention of young people, for two essential reasons. First of all, to commemorate the victims of communism; and secondly, to become familiar and confront the past and the so-called Albanian communism phenomenon. Because the familiarity of Albania's young people with the past of their country helps them to meditate not only on the nature of the Albanian totalitarian regime and the legacies of the time, but it also raises their awareness about the threats of totalitarian tendencies in present times. By knowing these tendencies better, a democratic society is able to prevent history from repeating.
10 December 2016, Shkodra – On Saturday, IDMC organized its third study visit to memory places. This time the study visit was organized with students of "Cajupi" high school in Tirana. Students visited the Site of Witness and Memory in Shkodra. Their guide was led by Pjerin Mirdita, specialist at the museum. He explained in very careful way the history of museum and acknowledged them with all the rooms of the museum and the meaning of the writings. It is important to note that the high school students showed high interest throughout the museum, which was also seen in their questions for the guide. Their questions brought as product a very fruitful discussion with the guide, the teachers and IDMC staff.
After the visit the students of "Cajupi" high school joined a reflection lunch, where the discussion moderated by Dr. Godole, the executive director of IDMC pointed out the importance of this visit for them. They shared their impressions and how this visit helped them to have a better understanding of the dictatorship in Albania. As well students were asked about the ways they would prefer to be taught about this period. IDMC noted that for high school students is important to go and see the places of memory and to listen for the dictatorship when they are there. In addition, students pointed out the importance of documentaries when reflecting about the past. They brought the example of the IDMC documentary "Children of the dictatorship", which they had the opportunity to watch in the opening ceremony of MEMORY DAYS activity. They also talked about the discussion followed in their families after they had seen the documentary. They were proud of challenging the way they were taught about the dictatorship and being able to make their parents talk and sometimes confront their grandparents.
For IDMC this study visit was the last one for 2016, but it will continue those next year, as well. IDMC has reached its goal during these study trips because young people reflect on the dictatorship period and they accept that their knowledge is not enough. They rise awareness and gain a special interest in learning more about this period. Most of young people in all the study visits organized by IDMC have admitted that before the study trip this topic was not in their interest. The study trip in places of memory awakes the interest of young people to learn also independently about the dictatorship.
6‒7 May 2017, Spaç, Shkodra – In the course of Topography of Terror activities, Institute for Democracy, Media & Culture in cooperation with the Association of History Teachers of Albania and ChwB (Cultural Heritage Without Borders) organized a study trip to the former prison of Spaç and the sites of memory in Shkodra.
14 History teachers who took part in this study trip visited firstly the former prison of Spaç. Accompanied by Zivko Petrovic, a former prisoner there, this visit became more sensitive. As the true stories left in oblivion, the situation of this prison nowadays leaves to be desired. It seems like we want to erase from our memory a part of the history of our country.
In the focus-group that took place in the framework of this meeting with representatives of CHwB, teachers discussed about the possibility to make this place a museum where a part of a human suffering during the dictatorial system could be witnessed. Given the desire to testify the truths just as they were, the teachers gave their contribution and ideas about the right way to turn this building from a forgotten place left at the mercy of atmospheric conditions in a visit site where the truth to speak for itself.
The evidence of the persons who suffered during the regime from persecution and internment accompanied the thematic dinner with various actors working in the field of dealing with the past in Shkodra and journalists where it was discussed about the role of local media in the process of dealing with the past.
Day 2 continued with the visit in the Site of Witness and Memory where facts speak more than the words. Under the guidance of Pjerin Mirdita, teachers became acquainted with new details that further enrich their knowledge about the crimes of the dictatorship. One cannot describe the feelings when visiting this place. This situation leaves an emptiness feeling and at the same times an inner revolt and responsibility to do more.
We could not leave Shkodra without visiting Franciscan Church, the Cathedral, the Museum and Sigmatine Sisters Assembly, places which were left without their religious function during the communism in order to destroy or adopt new institutions, hence interrupting the people relation with their religion. We visited also the cemetery chapel (Kapela e Varrezave) and the plane tree of Zef Zorba (Çinarin i Zef Zorbës), a tree which has witnessed hundred executions done by the system.
Shocked and at the same time happy that they were part of this visit, the teachers discussed during lunch about their impressions. Everyone reflected and expressed willingness to cooperate more in order for the past not to be left in oblivion. Focusing on the importance of educating the younger generation, helping them to know the story as it has been, in order that such mistakes will not to be repeated in the future, IDMC will organize other study visits in order to fulfill its mission.
26 May 2017, Spaç – IDMC organized another study trip in the former prison of Spaç. IDMC started these study trips since in 2015. Students and lecturers of Literature Department of the University of Tirana were involved this time in the study trip. The participants were given the chance to talk to a contemporary witness of the dictatorship, Gjet(o) Vocaj, a former political prisoner in the former prison of Spaç, at the same time author of the book "Takim fatal me diktatorin".
In the first break before arriving in the former prison Matilda Karçanaj, IDMC Programme Assistant shortly introduced students to the importance of the study trips organized by IDMC. Ms Karçanaj told them: "It's been 27 years after the fall of the dictatorship in Albania and we have not heard to be talked enough about it, neither in school, and neither in family, even though it was one of the harshest dictatorial regimes in Southeast Europe. Therefore, through these study trips and meetings with contemporary witnesses IDMC aims to raise awareness on the crimes of the dictatorship and make you more aware about the importance of dealing with the past." Before heading to the former prison of Spaç, students were asked to fill in anonymously the expatiation form for the study trip.
Students started to reflect about this study trip since on the way to the former prison area. The road seemed endless. Upon arriving in the prison area, Gjet(o) Vocaj started to share his experience in the prison. Students were very eager to hear about his experience and did not stop questioning Mr. Vocaj about his experience in prison, who among other things shared the effect of Spaç revolt in 1973. He told to the students how people were executed for the revolt, others were tortured and their punishment doubled. Mr. Vocaj told them: "You might have heard about four persons executed, but not for the fifth one. He was special one to all the prisoners. There was a dog who took part in the revolt too, who was punished with hanging…"
After visiting all the sites of the former prison, the activity continued with the students' presentations of the writers persecuted, imprisoned or sentenced to death due to the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha. Guided by Prof. Assoc. Dr. Lili Sula, their findings took them in the writings of Vilson Blloshmi and Genc Leka, Kasem Trebeshina, Musine Kokalari, Visar Zhiti, Arshi Pipa, Viçens Prenushi, Frederik Rreshpja etc.
The activity ended with a reflection lunch on the way back to Tirana. In an informal setting students expressed that hearing about the experience in prison from a former political prisoner made them more sensitive towards this topic and their interest on searching in this filed in independent way is higher. At the very end they expressed their gratitude for IDMC and filled in the evaluation form for the study trip.
More about the guest:
Gjet(o) Vocaj is a former political prisoner, sentenced to 8 years for propaganda. He began his sentence in Spaç and completed it in Ballsh. His family was interned for 5 years in Pistulli village, Shkodra. He was released from prison in 1982. Mr Vocaj is the author of the book "Takim fatal me diktatorin" (Fatal Encounter with the Dictator).
Winners of "Ask Your Grandparents 2" Competition Visit, for the First Time,
More than 10 Sites of Memory from Northern to Southern Albania
Day 1, 21 march 2018
"Drita e Dijes" High School Visits "House of Leaves" and "BunkArt2" in Tirana
The first day of the study trip began with a visit to the "House of Leaves" and "BunkArt2" Museums in Tirana. Young adults from "Drita e Dijes" high school in Berat visited these places for first time and expressed that this visit was important as both museums provided an important approach to viewing the past.
DaY 2, 22 march 2018
Visit at the Former Prison of Spaç and Sites of Memory in Shkodra
During the second day, students visited sites of memory in northern Albania: the former prison of Spaç and Shkodra. 25 winner of the second edition of "Ask Your Granparents 2," representing 6 different high schools from Tirana, Vora, Durres, Elbasan & Berat, had the chance to talk with Zenel Drangu, a contemporary witness and former prisoner from Spaç prison, when they visited Spaç. Drangu told the young people that their every move in the prison had been monitored so that the guards could justify their violence. The young people were further surprised to hear that 50-54 people had slept in one room at Spaç Prison.
After Spaç, the study visit took the winners of the competition to sites of memory in Shkodra, where Eltjana Shkreli told them more about the city's communist past.
DAY 3, 23 march 2018
Visit at Marubi Museum and Site of Witness and Memory in Shkodra
On the third day of the study visit, students visited the National Museum of Photography "Marubi". The young people had the chance to learn about some of Albania's most famous and earliest photographers.
After the Marubi Museum, the study visit continued to the Site of Witness and Memory. Pjerin Mirdita guided students through the museum, explaining to them that the building had been built in 1930 as a college for the Franciscan fathers. After the communist regime came to power in 1945, the building served as a branch of the Interior Ministry. This visit gave young people a better understanding of the true dimensions of the communist regime.
DaY 4, 24 march 2018
Visit to Musine Kokalari's House in Gjirokastra and to the Internment and Deportation Memorial in Lushnja
The fourth day students visited the city of Gjirokastra in southern Albania The high school winners of the second "Pyet Gjyshërit" competition had never visited Gjirokastra before and IDMC provided an educational tour for them. First, the tour began with a visit to the house of Musine Kokalari. Arjeta told the history of the first female Albanian author who had founded the Social-Democrat Party and had been faced with the most inhuman Communist persecution. "She didn't want the war, the war of the classes. For this, to promote an ideal of coexistence of all classes, together with another group of intellectuals, she formed the Social-Democrat Party," Arjeta said as she told us later about the internment and the life of Musine Kokalari in Rrëshen, where she lived alone, isolated and bound to report in the branch 3 times a week.
After the visit to the house of Musine Kokalari, students visited the Ethnographic Museum, another popular destination where you can see not only tradition but also how families of Gjirokastra lived. After the Ethnographic Museum, students visited the house of Ismail Kadare, which was reconstructed in 2016. After the visit to Kadare's house, students had the possibility to see Gjirokastra and to stop in Lushnje on the way back.
In Lushnje students on the study visit stopped at the National Memorial of Internment and Deportations 1954-1991, dedicated to former persecuted. The zone of Lushnje was one of the locations of internment camps from the period of 1954-1991, where around 32 thousand people suffered the region's persecution. With this visit the group of high school students were acquainted with how far Hoxha's terror had extended, without provincial distinctions, from Shkodra in the north to Gjirokastra in the south.
15:00 Arrival of "Drita e Dijes" highs school students from Berat to Tirana
15:30 – 15:45 Check in & accommodation at Oresti Hotel (Adr: Bardhok Biba Str, Tirana)
16:00 – 17:00 Visit at House of Leaves Tirana
17:00 – 18:00 Visit at BunkArt 2, Tirana
Wednesday, 21 March
08:30 Meeting point under IDMC office – Registration of the participants
(Address: Bardhok Biba Street)
09:00 Departure from Tirana to Spaç by Bus (Pollogu Agency)
10:45 – 11:15 Arrival at Restaurant Çupi (coffee break)
11:15 – 11:30 Travelling from Restaurant Çupi to Spac – former labour camp
11:30 – 13:00 Study trip in Spac - a former labour camp
13:00 Group photo & departure to Restaurant Çupi
13:30 – 14:30 Reflection lunch at Restaurant Çupi.
14:30 – 17:00 Departure and travel to Shkodra
17:00 – 17:45 Check in & accommodation at Arka Hostel Shkoder & Petite Hotel Elita
17:45 – 19:00 City guide tour – squares, objects, houses etc. (Guide: Eltjana Shkreli)
19:00 – 19:30 Going back to the hotel by foot, and getting ready for dinner
19:45 Meeting in front of the hostel to go to the restaurant
20:00 – 22:00 Thematic dinner and discussion about the activity at Elita Restaurant
Guests: Fatbardha Sarçi, Gjeto Vocaj, Filip Guraziu, Luigj Mila, Pjerin Mirdita
Moderator: Dr. Jonila Godole
22:00 Going back to the hostel and hotel
Thursday, 22 March
Until 08:45 Breakfast and check out – Meeting in front of the hotel
Study visit to Places of Memory in Shkodra
09:00 – 10:00 Marubi Museum (Adr. Kole Idromeno 32 Street, Shkodra)
10:00 – 10:15 Leaving Marubi Museum and going to Site of Witness and Memory
10:15 – 11:15 Visit on Site of Witness and Memory (Adr: Skanderbeg Blv.) Guide: Pjerin Mirdita
11:15 – 11:30 Transfer of the suitcases from hotel/hostel to the bus
11:30 Departure from Shkodra to Mrizi i Zanave
12:30 – 14:00 Thematic lunch at Mrizi i Zanave Agroturism
14:30 Departure from Mrizi i Zanave to Gjirokastra
2 short breaks on the road
20:30 Arrival to Gjirokastara
20:30 – 21:00 Check in and Accommodation at Çajupi hotel (Adr: "Çerçiz Topulli" Square, Gjirokastra)
21:00 – 22:00 Dinner at the restaurant of the Çajupi Hotel
Friday, 23 March
Until 08:45 Breakfast and check out
Don't forget to take packed sandwiches and water for lunch!!
09:00 Meeting in front of the hotel- Study trip starts 09:00 sharp!
09:30 – 10:30 Visit at Musine Kokalari House (Guide: Arjeta Kokalari)
10:45 – 11:45 Visit at Ethnographic Museum
12:00 – 13:00 Visit in lsmail Kadare house
13:00 – 13:30 Going back to the hotel and transferring suitcases in the bus
13:30 Departure from Gjirokastra to Tirana
15:00 Stop at roundabout that connects Lushnje with Fieri
(Leaving the group of "Drita e Dijes" high school from Berat)
16:00 – 16:30 Visit at Internment and deportations' memorial 1954‒1991 in Lushnje
16:50 Stop for the high school students of Elbasan
17:00 Stop in Durres for the group of high school students from Durres
18:00 Arrival in Tirana
Saturday, 24 March
Tirana, Spac, Shkodra, Gjirokastra, Lushnje