Anxious comrades see their sins start to find them out Comrades turn edgy askance as their sins begin to find them out

From Imre Karacs in Bonn

The spectre of communism is stalking eastern Europe. Seven years after the collapse of the workers' paradise, the past is at last catching up with some of the old nomenklatura.

Egon Krenz, the man who unwittingly abolished East Germany, was sentenced last month to six-and-a-half years for his role in the Berlin Wall killings. The former security chief and (briefly) general secretary is appealing against "victors' justice" from behind bars. Two former Politburo colleagues were also given prison sentences, but remain at liberty pending appeals.

Krenz looks set to become the vanguard of the porridge-eating proletariat. Following him is an army of apparatchiks, secret policemen and border guards who escaped punishment because they could say they had only been following orders. Now the jailing of the second most powerful East German is expected to open the floodgates to the prosecution of smaller fry.

Similar fates await some leading lights of the ancien regime in Bulgaria and Romania. With anti-communists now in government, life for their erstwhile oppressors is getting less cosy.

One might have expected that their more enlightened comrades in Poland and Hungary would fare better. There, reformist Communists - the "cuddly left" - played key roles in the destruction of the totalitarian system and were rewarded by the electorate.

Hungary's re-christened "Socialists" resumed their leading role in 1994 after winning 54 per cent of parliamentary seats in free elections. In Poland, President Lech Walesa lost in 1995 to the post-communist Aleksander Kwasniewski, a Communist official of old. Dire warnings were sounded, but so far neither government has shown an inclination to stray from the capitalist path. Business in Budapest and Warsaw is booming and democracy appears stable.

And yet the ghosts refuse to fade away. Last week they returned to haunt both Mr Kwasniewski and Hungary's Prime Minister, Gyula Horn. On Monday the Polish president said he was suing two newspapers for alleging that he had consorted with a KGB spy. The same day Mr Horn received an ultimatum from a committee of eminent Hungarians investigating its politicians' pasts. Mr Horn now has a month to clear his desk. Unless he resigns from the government and parliament, the committee is legally bound to publish its findings.

It has long been known that after the failed uprising in 1956, Mr Horn was among a band of party thugs who travelled the country beating "sense" into striking workers. In 1994 the conservative government tried to use this to discredit him, but the move backfired. It has never been proved that Mr Horn himself beat anybody up.

Mr Horn has reacted with the astuteness of a born-again Democrat. "I never kept my past secret," he said. "I see neither moral nor legal reason to resign."

Mr Kwasniewski wants corrections, an apology and damages of pounds 800,000. Two news- papers are accused of printing a "pack of lies" about his links with Moscow's man in Warsaw. The papers alleged he had met a KGB spy, Vladimir Alganov, on holiday as recently as 1994.

The President suspects that a conspiracy lurks behind the interest in his activities. In two weeks Poles elect a new parliament. The government, dominated by ex-Communists, is neck-and-neck with the con-servatives. Reminders of murky pasts could tip the balance.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Performance Consultant Trainee

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Consultant trainee opportunit...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - (Full marketing mix) - Knutsford

£22000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Knu...

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

Day In a Page

Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

Election 2015

Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

The US is getting frayed at the edges

Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

Celebrating 100 years of Leica

A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world