Edited By Kim Christiaens, Idesbald Goddeeris and Magaly Rodríguez García
East Germany: Chilean Exile and the Politics of Solidarity in the Cold War
Jadwiga E. Pieper Mooney
After the Chilean military coup of 11 September 1973, Michelle Bachelet, a medical student at the time, was arrested, incarcerated, and exiled; she became one of about 1,500 Chileans who found political refuge in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The election that made her Chile’s first female president from 2006 to 2010 (and again from 2014 onwards) may well have transformed her into the most eminent former exile, yet her exposure to military violence and her subsequent political exile were comparable to the experiences of many of her less prominent compatriots. Bachelet’s father, General Alberto Bachelet, was killed by the military. Michelle herself was arrested with her mother, Angela Jari, and incarcerated in concentration camps, first in Villa Grimaldi and later in Cuatro Alamos. She was able to leave the country only after the intervention of Roberto Kozak, a human rights negotiator of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).1 Bachelet first sought refuge in Australia, where her brother lived, but she and her mother emigrated soon thereafter to the GDR. In Bachelet’s own words, East Berlin became their new temporary home ‘because the external headquarters of the Socialist Party were there, and because they invited us to come.’2
Existing political ties between Chile and the GDR facilitated the journey to East Germany for many political refugees, initiated their first experience of life in a socialist political system of the Eastern Bloc, and marked their political outlook. In a...
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