Row over East German crimes erupts 25 years after fall of Wall

Thu Oct 2, 2014 10:23am EDT
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By Madeline Chambers

BERLIN (Reuters) - A highly-charged debate on whether communist East Germany can be described as an "unjust state" is threatening talks on forming a government in an eastern region of Germany, highlighting lingering divisions 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The radical Left party is in preliminary talks about a three-way coalition with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens in the small eastern state of Thuringia after an inconclusive election last month.

But negotiations have been dogged by a conflict over how East Germany should be remembered. All three parties have agreed on a joint paper which mentions the lack of free elections in the former communist state and the fact that all laws had to conform with the system.

The Greens however, are threatening to pull out of the talks unless East Germany is explicitly described as an "Unrechtsstaat" - or unjust state. Some members of the Left party, which counts former members of East Germany's Socialist Unity Party (SED), oppose that.

While many Germans call the Communist regime unjust due crimes it committed, such as killing people trying to leave without permission, incarcerating dissenters and spying on its citizens, some object to the label for the state as a whole.

Leading Left party member Gregor Gysi, a lawyer from the East, has railed against the term, while acknowledging that injustices occurred in the East.

"If I describe East Germany as an unjust state then I am saying that the three western powers had the right to found the Federal Republic but that the Soviet Union did not ... have the right to found East Germany," said Gysi in a magazine interview this week.

In view of the 20 million people the Soviet Union lost in World War Two, this is out of the question, he added.   Continued...