We long for the good old days, no matter who we are or where we live. We long for the time, then, when we didn't know where we were going, now, and we thought it would be better than it turned out. Maybe things aren't really so bad after all.

Berlin - Egon Krenz released early from prison

rpo, December 18, 2003

On Thursday evening, the last GDR state and party chief, Egon Krenz, is released early from prison. That was decided by the Berlin supreme court (Kammergericht), as Krenz' attorney Robert Unger replied to an AP inquiry.

Egon Krenz, the last GDR (East German) state and party chief, is a free man after barely four years confinement. The Berlin court granted him probation for the rest of his six and a half year sentence, reported the Berlin justice department on Thursday. The 66-year-old Krenz was to be released the same day from the Ploetzensee facility. He's already been working for some time and has only had to stay in prison nights.

His attorney Robert Unger filed an objection to a decision by the Berlin state court, which would have not granted the early release. That decision had viewed Krenz, who was the secretary of East Germany's SED central committee, as having a special "burden of guilt." (SED: Socialist Unity Part of East Germany)

Convicted of homicide

The SED Politburo member, the "crown prince" Erich Honeckers, was sentenced 25 August 1997 by the Berlin State Court for homicide to six years and six months, and has been serving time since 13 January 2000. The court recognized joint accountability of the two in the death of four refugees from the GDR in the border dividing Germany. The decision was affirmed by the federal court. Krenz didn't have any luck appealing to the European court, either.

Unger told the dpa, "The current decision is not an amnesty nor a pardon, we didn't want that." Krenz never applied for a pardon, which may have eventually had success. He sees himself as a victim of German "winner's justice." From Krenz' point of view, he was not convicted of being jointly responsible for the shootings at the Wall, but of being a representative of the GDR.

Application for suspension of sentence

In April 2004, Krenz would have been able to apply for suspension of his sentence, because by then he would have served two-thirds of his time. The former SED chief started his sentence at the Hakenfelde facility, but was later transferred to Ploetzensee.

Unger had some critical words about how Krenz was being handled differently by the justice system that were his fellow defendants SED Politburo member Gunter Schabovski and Gunter Kleiber. They were sentence to three years each, but were released after only eight months, less than a quarter of their time, through a decree of clemency. "Krenz' continued confinement, in view of the way the German Federal Republic dealt with the former commander of the Warsaw Pact, Mikhail Gorbatshev, who was named an honorary citizen of Berlin, along with other leaders of the Soviet Union, such as Eduard Shevardnadse, has nothing to do with justice."

Thousands of applications for clemency

According to Unger, there have been several thousand applications for clemency for Krenz from citizens from all parts of the German Federal Republic, as well as from other countries. He said all of them were evaluated negatively by the Berlin Justice Department. The lawyer made a reference to a 1997 decision of the Berlin State Court, which explicitly emphasized that Krenz had contributed significantly to de-escalation of the situation back in Fall of 1989.

The Ostalgia

Berlin wall may be restored by 2006

September 19, 2003

The famous German artist Kristof Blaseus has proposed at the World soccer championship to reconstruct the Berlin Wall in Germany. According to Blaseus' concept, the new wall, which is to be made out of transparent plastic, will be an exact copy of the famous Berlin Wall. Its length would be the same length as the original, a total of 47 kilometers, reported CNN.

Journalists say that in united Germany the force of a new infatuation is gathering: nostalgia for the communist past of East Germany. Sociologists and journalists have already coined a new name for this - Ostalgia (Ost [east] + Nostalgia).

With every passing day in Germany the number of Ostalgia magazines is growing, which advertise East German products: Spreewald Gherkins and Perlodont toothpaste.

The "Golden Youth" of Germany go to Ostalgia parties as credentialed Jungpioneer, pioneers of the GDR (German Democratic Republic, official name for former East Germany) organization.

Ostalgia also strives for the "most holy" - the miracle of east German auto manufacturing - Trabant. This plastic automotive miracle, which had the gear shift lever on the dashboard and was capable of of speeds up to 50 kilometers per hour, has undergone substantial modernization. The performance of the new Trabant exceeds that of BMW's Mini Cooper company and costs 20,000 dollars.

Ostalgia does not by any means represent a desire to return to the the austere times of the past. It is nostalgia for a time when people had dreams and were hopeful. When people dreamt about crossing new frontiers. Now, that they live in this world, the changes they dreamt of have turned into deep disillusionment, said professor of Columbia university Jonathan Bach.