Last Red jailed for killings at Wall

Final bid to bring East German Communist leadership to book

Berlin - Egon Krenz, East Germany's last hardline Communist leader, was whisked off to jail yesterday after being sentenced to six and a half years for the deaths of people trying to escape over the Berlin Wall.

A Berlin court found Krenz, 60, guilty of manslaughter for four killings during the 1980s at the barrier that divided the city between 1961 and 1989. Even though Krenz did not pull the trigger, the court said the successor to Erich Honecker was none the less guilty because he shaped the shoot- to-kill orders that were carried out by border guards who shot at least 263 people. "I won't give up!" Krenz called when a supporter in the back of the courtroom shouted "All the best, Egon!"

There was a gasp in the courtroom from a large group of old-guard Communist supporters when judge Josef Hoch ordered Krenz detained immediately - unusual for a German court - because he said there was a danger he would try to flee.

Krenz, who had denounced the trial as "victors' justice", was taken to the adjoining Moabit prison, a mile west of where the Wall once stood.

Two other former members of East Germany's Politburo, Guenter Schabowski and Guenther Kleiber, were found guilty of manslaughter for three killings at the Wall. They received terms of three years but were set free until the verdicts become legally binding.

Both pushed their way through a crowd of journalists without comment. The trial, lasting one and a half years, was widely seen as the last major attempt by united Germany to bring East Berlin's Communist leadership to book.

Honecker, who ruled for 18 years before being toppled and who would have celebrated his 85th birthday on yesterday, was released in the middle of his trial in 1993 because of ill-health. He died in 1994 in Chile.

Seven other senior East German figures, including the former defence minister Heinz Kessler, are serving three to six years after conviction last year on 15 counts of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter between 1980 and 1989.

Krenz had expressed regret during the trial for the deaths at the Wall around Berlin and at the border between the two Germanys, which victims' groups say exceeded 900. But he insisted that, as a satellite state of the Soviet Union, East Germany had no control over its borders. As a key part of his defence, Krenz presented a letter from the former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, who criticised the court for holding Krenz responsible for the Cold War killings.

But Mr Hoch said prosecutors presented clear evidence that the East Berlin Politburo zealously turned broad guidelines from Moscow into the grisly machinery of death. "The Politburo was responsible for border security." Mr Hoch said. "The guards were in fact given an ideological order to shoot. The guards were taught that the refugees were enemies of peace and traitors to East Germany who should be destroyed."

Mr Hoch said that the East Berlin regime, fully aware that more than 2 million people had fled the country between 1949 and 1961, had built the Wall and made it increasingly lethal because they knew that it was the only way to keep the rest from leaving.

Krenz had planned to hold a news conference in a central Berlin hotel after the verdict. His son Carsten read a statement saying he planned to appeal to the European Court of Justice. "I will not beg the Federal Republic for mercy," Krenz said in the statement. "I was not convicted because of crimes, but rather because of my political position. The verdict is the Berlin state court's revenge for the existence of East Germany."

Suggested Topics
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
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

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

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