As all of you probably know by now the Eastern European countries were burdened by the communist rule after World War II. The most heinous tactic used by the party leaders to keep the people under their control was the employment of numerous secret policemen which kept records on almost everyone and were quick to eradicate dissident elements and most anyone who openly opposed the system.
This was most evident in countries like the Soviet Union and GDR. Obviously the GDR formed a frontier with the 'imperialistic' West and the USSR was the cradle of the cancerous ideology*. Other countries such as Poland and Hungary as well as Czechoslovakia enjoyed somewhat more freedom. The secret police apparatus in Poland was not quite as extensive and invasive. People knew it was there but in most cases one never really came into contact with them. They were however aware of the situation in the 'befriended' Warsaw Pact countries.
I have recently heard a story from my father about how he and a bunch of his college friends were once travelling back from East Berlin to Poland sometime in the 70s. They had a few drinks and were really tired but all the wagons were packed and absolutely no seats were available. So they just decided to stand in the gangway of one of the wagons and wait it out. While standing there, they happened to be talking about politics. Obviously the Germans couldn't understand them. They could however pick out names which came up: Wojciech Jaruzelski, Erich Honecker, Leonid Brezhnev, Josef Stalin etc. I guess they could also gather from their tones of voice that they were not particularly big fans of the aforementioned people. The east-germans were petrified and started leaving the wagon one by one leaving my father and his friends with a whole train compartment to themselves.
I guess they only realized why this happened after they sobered up. In the DDR it was simply not done to 'talk politics' in a public place and certainly not done to criticize the system. Their fellow passengers must have thought that either:
a. Those people ARE polish secret police and therefore it's better not to be around them.
b. Those people ARE NOT secret police and they are likely to be busted soon. It's better not to stick around and wait for that.
This anecdote is testament to the evil caused by the communist regimes after World War II in several countries. It never ceases to amaze me how people were able to terrify a whole nation. Unfortunately a lot of socialist and communist sentiments are on the rise in Europe right now once again. Hopefully the voters will get some common sense before they help this new group of freedom haters into the saddle. (yes that's a very subjective statement)
*A number of people have pointed out that I do not distinguish between socialist/communist ideology as opposed to Soviet totalitarianism. In my eyes the distinction is practically non-existant as by the virtue of the theory of socialism/communism one must surrender their personal and individual rights for 'the good' of the state. That may not be a terribly scientific way of looking at things, but then again this w/u was not intended as a scientific analysis of the Secret Police.