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Gilbert Furian
Zellengang im Neubau


Gilbert Furian

Gilbert Furian was born in 1945 in Görlitz, Saxony. At the age of 16, he was expelled from the Free German Youth (Freie Deutsche Jugend – FDJ) for wearing the badge of the Evangelical Young Community at school. As a result, he was not allowed to study interpreting after graduating from high school. Instead, he completed an apprenticeship as a transport clerk between 1963 and 1965.

After 18 months of basic military service in the National People's Army (Nationale Volksarmee – NVA), he was admitted to study philosophy at the Karl Marx University in Leipzig in 1967, but was de-registered in 1970 due to political differences. Furian then moved to Berlin and worked as a clerk for inventories and insurance at VEB Wärmeanlagenbau Berlin from 1971.

His critical attitude towards the GDR inspired Furian to interview punks from East Berlin. He distributed the collection of interviews to several friends in the West for private use. On 27 March 1985, he was arrested and taken to the pre-trial detention centre in Berlin-Hohenschönhausen. A year later, the Berlin-Lichtenberg District Court sentenced him to two years and two months imprisonment for "making records that are likely to harm the interests of the GDR". He served his time at the Magdalenenstraße, Hohenschönhausen and Rummelsburg prisons, in Cottbus and in Karl-Marx-Stadt. He was ransomed by the Federal Republic of Germany in April 1986 and released into the GDR at his own request. He then worked for the Berlin Cathedral Choir.

In 1989, Furian founded the "Political Justice in the GDR Project Group" within the "Initiative for Peace and Human Rights" (Initiative für Frieden und Menschenrechte – IFM). He also represented the citizens' movement "Neues Forum" (New Forum) at the round table in Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg.

Gilbert Furian has worked at the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial and as a contemporary witness at schools and educational institutions for the Co-ordinating Office of Contemporary Witnesses since 1994. From 2019 to 2020, he acted as spokesperson for the tour guides.


Further information

  • Gilbert Furian, Der Richter und sein Lenker. Politische Justiz in der DDR, Berlin 1992.
  • Gilbert Furian, Auch im Osten trägt man Westen. Punks in der DDR – und was aus ihnen geworden ist, Berlin 2012.
  • Gilbert Furian, Mehl aus Mielkes Mühlen. Politische Häftlinge und ihre Verfolger - Erlebnisse, Briefe, Dokumente, Berlin 2019.

The publications are available at BuchHandlung89: BuchHandlung89

Gedenkstätte Berlin-Hohenschönhausen (Hg.), Zeugen der Zeit. Porträts von Dirk Vogel, Berlin 2023.

Further information (German website)

Download publication (German laguage)