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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on