Piece of Berlin Wall used in Albanian memorial

AP News
Posted: Mar 26, 2013 11:37 AM

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — A memorial containing a 2.6-ton piece of the Berlin Wall was unveiled in Albania on Tuesday to honor former political prisoners who suffered under the late dictator Enver Hoxha's Communist regime.

The ceremony occurred at a residential area in Tirana, the capital, that is known as the 'Bllok,' where senior members of the Hoxha regime once lived.

The Berlin Wall fragment was placed next to a concrete bunker and concrete supports that were taken from a notorious mine in Spac, 60 miles (100 kilometers) to the north, where political prisoners were once forced to work. The bunker, like others that still litter the country, was built during the late 1960s, when Albania cut ties with the Soviet Union and feared that could lead to an attack.

"We Albanians have many reasons to remember the past on our road to building our future," Prime Minister Sali Berisha said.

Albania, a NATO member since 2009, has applied for the membership in the European Union.

The memorial was placed below Hoxha's former office that now serves as Parliament headquarters, at the entrance of the Bllok, which is now used for public housing and banks, company offices, nightclubs and coffee bars.

"This is dedicated to all those who did not manage to live through the dictatorship," said Fatos Lubonja, one of the memorial's creators and a former Spac prisoner. Some 100,000 Albanians were imprisoned, sent to internment camps or executed during Hoxha's repressive regime, which lasted from 1944 until December 1990.

"I hope this memorial will urge everyone to remember the past and face up to it," said Anna Kaminsky of Germany's Federal Foundation of the Reappraisal of the East German Dictatorship, who helped bring the section of the wall as a gift from the city of Berlin.

But many former political prisoners remain dissatisfied with unfulfilled pledges of compensation and reintegration into Albanian society.

Police took away two such protesters at Tuesday's ceremony. They represent a group of former prisoners who last year held a one-month hunger strike calling for the speedy disbursement of compensation funds.

Two of the hunger strikers set themselves on fire, and one of them later died.