German Elections: Oldster promises to stir things up

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The Independent Online
BERLIN - At 81, Stefan Heym, east Germany's most famous living writer and a successful candidate for the former communist Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) in Sunday's general election, will be the oldest member of the German parliament when it reconvenes next month, writes Adrian Bridge.

As such, he will be the Altersprasident - the German equivalent of the Father of the House - and will make the opening address. His words are likely to make Chancellor Helmut Kohl and others on the government bench squirm. An anti-authoritarian figure all his life, Mr Heym is likely to show no mercy in his criticism of how Mr Kohl managed the process of unification and his vision of the new Germany's world role.

'Stefan Heym will be the Zeitgeist of a new era in German politics,' said a PDS spokesman at the party's east Berlin headquarters yesterday. 'He will speak out for social justice, more equality and a fairer deal for easterners.'

Mr Heym's decision to stand on the open list of the PDS was a coup for the party. As a writer known for his opposition to East Germany's ruling Communists, his endorsement strengthened the party's claim to have reformed and lent it credibility.

Mr Heym, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany in the 1930s, was one of four PDS candidates to win their east Berlin constituencies outright, thereby paving the way for PDS entry into the Bundestag. After his victory, he told supporters that he planned to 'stir things up' in parliament.

Mr Heym moved to the United States in 1935 where he worked as a journalist and then a writer. In 1944-45, he served with the US Army against the Nazis.

In 1952 he returned to East Germany in protest against the McCarthy witchhunts against Communists.

Stefan Heym still describes himself as a socialist. In an interview earlier this year, he declared: 'I am looking for a kind of society where the human mind and the human heart are the most important elements - not the elbow.'

(Photograph omitted)