Continuing Stasi saga embroils top author

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SIX PAGES of Germany's most influential political magazine, Der Spiegel, were devoted to the case this week. It's Stasi time again.

On this occasion, it is the turn of Christa Wolf, one of East Germany's best known authors, to find herself in the glare of the post-DDR spotlight. Photographs and verbatim extracts from her top-secret Stasi files have been published, and harshly criticised.

Ms Wolf, now 63, initially said she was only a victim of the Stasi, East Germany's secret police. Then, last week, she admitted that she had also, in earlier years, unwittingly provided information to the Stasi. She said that she had discovered this, to her 'complete surprise', when she saw her Stasi files last year. The magazine investigation makes it clear, however, that Ms Wolf has been dishonest, even with her latest admissions.

Der Spiegel asks, sourly: 'What remains of Christa Wolf?' If Der Spiegel has its way, then the answer seems to be: not much. The magazine gives detailed accounts of the contacts that Ms Wolf had with the Stasi in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Like all such stories, it is an unappetising tale. The Stasi officers who recruited her said that she agreed to meet them, 'without great hesitation'.

Der Spiegel's readers are then treated to the details of those meetings. Despite all the fuss, it could be argued that there was nothing very surprising about Ms Wolf's Stasi contacts at that time. She was, in the early 1960s, seen as a loyal young Communist. Only much later did she break with the regime. As the magazine acknowledges, Ms Wolf's later books show her to be 'no apologist of the DDR state' (by this time, her collaboration was long over). Even in her Stasi conversations, she seemed keener to protect than to deliver damaging revelations.

Ms Wolf is just the latest high- profile figure to have her reputation torn apart. Earlier this month, it was the turn of the East German dramatist, Heiner Muller. It was alleged, in the weekly Die Zeit, that Mr Muller had been an 'IM' - the abbreviation for 'unofficial collaborator' that has become common currency in Germany today.

Other names on the long list have included a whole string of politicians, most notably Manfred Stolpe, the Prime Minister of the region of Brandenburg. Mr Stolpe was best known for his work within the church and the opposition, in former East Germany. It is still widely acknowledged that the work that he did in that capacity was valuable. Not everybody is impressed by this eagerness to seek out incriminating evidence for citizens of East Germany - especially for those not seeking to hold high office.

The CSU, one of the main government coalition parties, has called for a literary prize - awarded to Christa Wolf in 1987 - to be revoked. The Suddeutsche Zeitung yesterday described that demand as 'macabre', and argued that Ms Wolf's own work contradicted the 'deplorable decisions' which she had taken years earlier. The paper concluded: 'The whole of her life is what needs to be reflected on. Details are only for informers and philistines.'

Germany is not the only country where there has been a fascination with exposing former contacts with the secret police. To the dismay of many of the most courageous former dissidents (including, for example, Vaclav Havel), several East European countries became obsessive, in the last two years, about seeking out evidence of small-fry collaboration.

In Czechoslovakia, lists of names and codenames were published, almost in the form of a telephone directory.

BERLIN - In a bizarre twist, prosecutors announced they would resume the manslaughter trial against Erich Honecker, the former East German leader who was released from a Berlin jail two weeks ago and allowed to fly to Chile. The move came after a public backlash against the decision to free Mr Honecker, AFP reports.