Officials to check Stasi order to fire on East German escapee for prosecutions
13 August 2007, BERLIN (AP) _ A written order by East Germany's Stasi to shoot people fleeing the communist country, which emerged over the weekend, is being evaluated to determine if it could aid in the prosecution of former members of the secret police agency, officials said Monday.
13 August 2007
BERLIN (AP) _ A written order by East Germany's Stasi to shoot people fleeing the communist country, which emerged over the weekend, is being evaluated to determine if it could aid in the prosecution of former members of the secret police agency, officials said Monday.
Speaking to reporters at a memorial for the 46th anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall, Marianne Birthler, the head of Germany's Stasi Archives, said her office was checking whether the document could lead to criminal proceedings.
"It's being examined," she said, adding that it was too early to speculate if the document could be of help.
Though the official East German border regulations said use of a firearm was to be considered an "extreme measure in the use of force," the document that was widely published Saturday _ an Oct. 1, 1973 order to border guards from the Ministry for State Security, or Stasi _ was much less reserved.
"Do not hesitate with the use of a firearm, including when the border breakouts involve women and children, which the traitors have already frequently taken advantage of," the order instructed.
Public prosecutors were also evaluating the find, Ministry of Justice spokesman Henning Ploeger said.
"The prosecutors will check whether this new document plays a role for the prosecution of individual criminals," Ploeger said.
Some politicians on Monday pointed out that the document had been published years ago in a research book, and criticized the Stasi archives for taking advantage of the find and the anniversary to call attention to their work amid calls to incorporate the Stasi files into the regular government archives.
But Wolfgang Thierse, deputy president of the German parliament, said that while the document was not a new find, it was important because it showed that the communist regime's injustice "is not a bygone, completed issue."
And the director of the museum in the Hohenschoenhausen prison in Berlin where the Stasi used to interrogate prisoners, said though it had been published, the document was not widely known to the public.
"Many years ago, excerpts were published in an anthology, however, these did not play a role in the trials against those who shot people at the wall and their superiors," Hubertus Knabe told WDR radio.
Knabe said the document consisted of a seven-page order which was addressed to individual members of the state security service at the East German border.
"First of all, it has to be found out, who wrote this order," Knabe said. "And then it needs to be checked if there were killings at the border because of this order."
The written order from the Stasi was found among the papers of an East German border guard identified only as Sgt. Manfred L., Magdeburg's Volksstimme newspaper and other news agencies reported at the weekend.
The Stasi, founded in the 1950s, had 91,000 full-time employees and 180,000 undercover informers. They kept East Germany's population of 18 million under blanket surveillance.
After the Soviet Union collapsed, the border came down, the Stasi was disbanded and East and West Germany were united in 1990.
Hundreds of former East German border guards and officials have since been convicted for border shootings. Most received suspended sentences, although a few former leaders went to jail.
"Even though this is a burdensome issue, I am happy this fact is finally being noticed by the public and that the people understand how cruel this border regime was," Birthler said.
Subject: German news