Photo. Refugees waiting to be admitted to the Marienfelde Refugee Center, August 14, 1961
© DHM-Schirner

February 2013

Barbara Grosse's Shoes

A pair of shoes
Barbara Grosse bought these shoes for 99 East German Marks in the Chemnitz-Kaßberg detention center, where she was held for “treasonous espionage.”

She and her husband had submitted several applications for to leave the GDR via exit permits and had gathered information at both the Permanent Representation of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in East Berlin and the FRG's embassy in Prague. Because of this, they were arrested and charged with “treasonous espionage” on January 19, 1983. They were later convicted. After serving time in the Hoheneck women's prison, Barbara Grosse was transferred to the Chemnitz-Kaßberg detention center. There, all prisoners whose freedom had been purchased by the West German government were collected and brought into the West. Before leaving, the prisoners were allowed to shop in the prison store with money from their prison work or that was sent to them from friends and relatives. Barbara Grosse used this opportunity to buy not only the shoes, but also chocolate for her and her cellmates. Although she rarely wore the shoes after her arrival in the West, she kept them as mementos.

The shoes are displayed, along with documents from Barbara Grosse and other contemporary witnesses, in our current temporary exhibition – “Ransomed – Ways out of GDR arrest,” which will be on display until March 31, 2013.