Stasi victims still in trauma as Germany cheers 25 years since wall fell

Fri Nov 7, 2014 5:46pm EST
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By Alexandra Hudson

COTTBUS Germany (Reuters) - Sunday marks 25 years since the collapse of the regime that imprisoned and persecuted them, but many victims of former communist East Germany are still so traumatized that celebrating the unification of their country may forever be a challenge.

Thousands who were locked up for their political views, or had their children seized because the State did not consider them to be fit parents, are still deeply distressed - their condition aggravated by the fact that justice and recognition is yet to be granted, says a group lobbying for change.

"Of course anniversaries are a chance to examine the past and commemorate the change from dictatorship to democracy," said Rainer Wagner, head of the UOKG Umbrella Group for the Victims of Communist Tyranny.

"But it is chilling to see all these speeches on the one hand, and on the other a state and society which is hesitant to pay compensation or bring former aggressors to justice."

Some 250,000 people were held and interrogated on political grounds from 1945-1989, often simply for expressing the desire to leave. Millions fled before the border was sealed; thousands of those who could not were prevented from ever achieving their potential because of their backgrounds or political beliefs.

When Germany reunited, the new government took on the mammoth task of investigating the crimes of the former East, vowing to compensate and rehabilitate those who had been wronged, and explain their suffering to future generations.

But even with work well under way, the German government noted early last year: "..two worrying tendencies with regard to the former East Germany - a belittlement and romanticization of the dictatorship, or total ignorance."

Wagner has a clear benchmark for seeing justice done: when victims are at least receiving the same pension or income as those loyal to the former communist state.   Continued...

Barbed wire is seen in a former prison in Cottbus November 4, 2014.  REUTERS/Hannibal