Letter: Behind a wall of contempt

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The Independent Online
Sir: I enjoyed reading your marvellous account of the former two Germanies' roles during the post- war years up to the unique events in the autumn of 1989, as part of the summary of the eventful life of Erich Honecker (obituary, 30 May). However, I think it is unfortunate to describe the victims of a country's division that was absolutely contemptuous of human life in the following terms:

Despite the repressive nature of the GDR system few people were actually killed by state action. Those who died were usually shot while trying to cross to the West.

This does justice neither to those who were killed, nor to their bereaved families who struggled to come to terms with an outrageous situation, being continuously hassled by the state security service on top of their misery.

Now that the former GDR files have become available after the disintegration of Honecker's regime of fear and injustice, we know that hundreds of Germans were killed by border guards and spring-gun systems, both at the Berlin Wall and in the no man's land between the two Germanies. More than a few suffered long- term imprisonment and the agony of torture 'by state action' when they were caught by the guards or betrayed to the authorities.

Furthermore, the years after the Berlin Wall was raised in 1961 brought distress to countless split families on both sides of the border, and made it impossible for generations of people to develop a 'normal' relationship with their unknown and unapproachable relatives on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

Nowadays, we take free speech and unrestricted travel wherever we fancy for granted; we tend to forget that what we consider as fundamental rights were available to few people at the heart of Europe not too long ago - by state action.

Yours sincerely,



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