Berlin Wall Ten Years After: Today, Egon Krenz celebrates his order to tear down the Wall. Tomorrow, he heads for prison

AS ROCK STARS, classical musicians and politicians old and new gather at the Brandenburg Gate today for the new Berlin's birthday party, the man who gave the order to open the Berlin Wall exactly 10 years ago, will be contemplating a future behind bars.

With extraordinary timing, on the eve of the anniversary of East Berlin's freedom, the former East German leader Egon Krenz lost his long battle for his own freedom yesterday when an appeals court in Leipzig upheld a prison sentence of six-and-a-half years.

It was 10 years ago that the Wall began to totter, as the Communist regime opened the floodgates in an act of utter desperation. That event had Good Guys and Bad Guys. With the former on their way to prison, the latter will be showered with accolades. Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Evil Empire, has just been given the Federal Republic's highest decoration. George Bush, long-forgotten everywhere else but honoured by Germans for getting Margaret Thatcher to swallow her objections to a united Germany, will receive the freedom of Berlin.

The veteran Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich will play, with a hundred other cellists at the Brandenburg Gate, in harmony, it is to be hoped, with the rock group The Scorpions. And for light relief, the past and present chancellors, Helmut Kohl and Gerhard Schroder, will be making speeches.

Krenz and his two co-defendants will be able to attend the celebrations, if they so wish. Under German legal practice, those convicted usually get at least a week to put their affairs in order before going to prison. The ever defiant Krenz indicated last night he was not yet ready to pack his toothbrush.

The court in Leipzig also confirmed three-year prison sentences for two other former Politburo members. Krenz, Gunter Schabowski and Gunther Kleiber were held indirectly responsible for the deaths of East German refugees shot by border guards along the Berlin Wall.

In a side-swipe at what he has called "victors' justice", Krenz, now aged 62, said: "I will wear my prisoner's uniform with more honour than certain judges wear their robes."

Hundreds of border guards have been put on trial in the past 10 years with mixed success. They all argued they had carried out the shoot-to- kill orders of the Politburo, blamed for the deaths of some 1,000 East Germans. None of the Communist leaders responsible for issuing those orders has served a full prison term.

Krenz and his colleagues also cited a higher authority. They argued they had been acting on the instructions of Moscow, and Krenz himself went so far as to claim credit for preventing war. Keeping the Wall intact prevented the Cold War turning hot.

For years Krenz was the second most powerful man in East Germany after Erich Honecker. But Krenz was also the politician who, after Honecker's sacking in October 1989, took the decision to open East Germany's borders. It was Schabowski, his co-defendant, who triggered the avalanche on 9 November by prematurely announcing free travel for the country's frustrated citizens.

It will doubtless be a great party today, but Krenz and his cronies will not be alone in their absence. Few of the leading players of autumn 1989 will be there. It will be a great party, but one that few of the leading players of autumn 1989 will be attending. The dissidents who rallied millions of East Germans against the hated Wall were not invited to the official commemorations. Apart from Joachim Gauck, who now runs the government's Stasi-busting agency, none of the leading actors of Autumn 1989 will be attending the festivities.

They are not in a celebratory mood anyway. Christiane Ziller, 36, a founder 10 years ago of the opposition group "Democratic Breakthrough" certainly does not sound triumphant today. "We didn't see reunification as a goal," she says. "We wanted no Anschluss. In that sense we lost." Ms Ziller fought for a "Third Way" - an East Germany that was democratic, socialist and sovereign.

Like her enemies in the ruling party, she could not foresee that without the Wall and the minefields the country would not survive. She now accepts that she was wrong, but to this day feels the way East Germany was gobbled up by the West was also a mistake. "The citizens of the GDR experienced the reunification as a form of colonisation," Ms Ziller argues. In the process, "many East Germans were dispossessed for the second time".

Ms Ziller cites statistics culled from left-leaning think tanks, which show that only a quarter of the money invested by the West in the reconstruction actually stayed in the East, and 10 years on only eight per cent of the productive capacity of former East Germany is controlled by East Germans.

"I was treated rather badly by the old GDR regimes," she explains. "So I had to be inventive. I'm used to taking my life into my own hands."

As Heidrun Kobernick recalls her first walk into West Berlin she remembers beingstruck by the spectacle of cheering people welcoming her with open arms. "As we passed, we saw all these West Berliners clapping and crying.

"I couldn't understand why they were crying. I think the West Berliners were probably more excited than we were. We didn't understand the consequences then."

But millions of East Germans were not prepared for the new "elbow-society". They watched in horror as their factories and shops were taken over by Western companies and closed. Almost the country's entire product range vanished overnight, with the not-much-lamented Trabants leading the procession into oblivion.

Only now are some of these making a comeback. The Sachsenring plant which used to manufacture East Germany's joke cars is now a successful private enterprise, producing components for Volkswagen. The fizzy wine of the East has been revived, along with many brands, all of them catering for the nostalgia market.

The politics, too, has taken a backward glance. After the fall of the Wall, few people would have laid bets on the Communists winning anything in free elections. Yet 10 years later the Party of Democratic Socialism, their successors, get 20 per cent of the votes cast in the New Lander, and 40 per cent in East Berlin. In recent elections in two of the eastern states they replaced the Social Democrats as the leading party of the left.

With nearly one in four without a real job, East Germans are demonstrating their dissafection at the ballot box. This has spawned an entirely new political behaviour: anti-capitalist sentiments expressed in votes for the extreme right. "Many people in the East don't have a high opinion of democracy, Ms Ziller explains. The result is that, in some cities, up to one in five have voted for neo-Nazi parties in the past year.

Ms Ziller did have a political career in united Germany, though not in "Democratic Breakthrough". After a few months' existence, her creation merged with the Green party, and she became a member of the national executive. After six year as a party aparatchik, she left to pursue a writing career.

Jochem Lassig is another former dissident devoured by the revolution. He had helped found "New Forum", the leading opposition grouping, in the city of Leipzig, and organised the weekly mass demonstrations in defiance of the Communist authorities. "New Forum wanted a more just society, with less capitalism. That was naive," he concedes now.

"We couldn't compete with them," Mr Lassig says. The Christian Democrats had Kohl, the Free Democrats Genscher." These parties in any case were offering what by now almost all East Germans were yearning for: a piece of the West. No one wanted to hear of a "Third Way" any more.

Mr Lassig, also joined the Greens eventually, and served as a Green councillor in Leipzig after re-unification. He has since withdrawn from active politics, and concentrates on his successful law practice. He has no doubt he is one of the revolution's winners.

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam