Dietrich Koch

* 1937  †︎ 2020

  • „The most important crossroad of cultural history in Leipzig disappeared. Johann Sebastian Back and Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy had both worked in the University church. It had been a place where both these composers first presented their work. The German religious life had been linked to this church for centuries. Among others it’s the names Tetzel, Müntzer, Gottsched, Gellert, Goethe, Lessing, Novalis, Wagner, Nietzsche, Reger, Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker a Niemölle. I’d like to add that I had a very personal relation to the church."

  • "I was mainly happy for all the willingness to help, which was offered to me from everyone.“

  • „From custody I went directly to the West… Which was basically a dual liberation: from the Stasi prison and from East Germany itself. I first had to build a new life in the West.“

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Mülheim, Německo, 15.07.2019

    duration: 25:52
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

A nail fell down, loosened the cable and the poster unrolled

Dietrich Koch
Dietrich Koch
photo: Witness

Dietrich Koch was born August 27, 1937 in Leipzig. He studied physics at the Karl Marx University, Leipzig. Starting in 1962 he worked as a theoretical physicist in the German Academy of Sciences in Leipzig. On May 30th, 1968 the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) blew up the late gothic Paulinekirche University Church. Three days prior to that, Dietrich Koch had been arrested by criminal police in front of the church during a protest gathering for the first time ever. As a result, he was immediately fired from his work. One month later a dissident group from Leipzig unrolled a poster in the Congress Center during the final ceremony of International Johan Sebastian Bach Competition. The poster appealed to public for a reconstruction of the church. The time switch, made to plan the poster’s unrolling, was put together by Dietrich Koch and his brother Eckhard. In 1970 Dietrich was arrested for the second time, for the suspicion of planning an escape from the country. In custody, the Stasi got to know about Koch’s involvement in the poster campaign, due to the recklessness of one member of the dissident group. Koch was then accused primarily of that, but also of subversive activities, anti-state hate speech and of founding anti-state groups. Stasi made every effort to make Koch cooperate. They blackmailed him in order for him to plead guilty. They deceived, bluffed, blackmailed, tried to set friends against each other, exploited personal weaknesses and also used psychotropic drugs. During the countless hours of both day and night interrogations, they systematically focused on breaking down one’s personality. However, Koch resisted their dominance and managed to keep his human dignity. He had recourse in the roots of the Moravian Church – Unity of the Brethren. During the 23 months under arrest he refused to confess or to accuse the others. Stasi sentenced him to two and a half years in prison with a subsequent placement in a psychiatric hospital. In 1995 his case was recognized by the Saxon investigative committee as a case of the misuse of psychiatry for political ends. In 1972 Koch was deported to West Germany, studied philosophy, got a PhD and worked at University of Essen as philosopher. After the revolution he had an opportunity to take a look at the roughly 10 000 pages of Stasi’s investigation files. The result of this research is a three-volume book “Interrogation – destruction and resistance”. It is considered a valuable testimony of the interrogation practices of Stasi. Koch is one of the rare cases of people who refused to confess. He organized readings and lectures all around Germany. As a former political prisoner of the SED’s dictatorship, he also participated in numerous discussions in schools and other educational facilities. Koch has joined the organization Walter von Baeyer Society, which helps the victims of political misuse of psychiatry. A co-founder of the association “For a University Paulinekirche church”, he reminds people of the act of resistance towards the destruction of Paulinekirche for many years now.