FECL 04 (March 1992):

THE "DESTASIFICATION" OF GERMANY: INQUISITION PROCEDURES VERSUS FAIR TRIAL

The vice-chancellor of the renowned Humboldt university in East Berlin, Heinrich Fink, was dismissed without notice; a dirt campaign is being waged against the Minister President of Brandenburg, Manfred Stolpe. Gerhard Riege, PDS Member of the Federal Parliament committed suicide. As thousands of other citizens of the former GDR, the three men are accused of some form of collaboration with the GDR's state security service Stasi.
The hunt against alleged stasi-agents is no longer confined to East Germans.
Respected Western German intellectuals, among them the authors Günter Grass and Günter Wallraff are now also referred to as collaborators by German tabloids.
"Guilt by contact" seems to be the principle which makes it possible to - at least socially - destroy the accused, who are denied access to a fair trial.

The accusations are based on evaluations of Stasi files by the "office of the special delegate of the Federal Government for person related records of the former state security service of the former GDR" commonly named the "Gauck Administration" (after its director Hans Joachim Gauck). Some tabloids also use other sources: former Stasi agents willing to sell whatever "revelation" to whom will buy it.

 

The dismissal of vice-chancellor Fink

In January 92 an international delegation was in Berlin on behalf of the European Civic Forum (ECF), in order to obtain information on the circumstances of vice-chancellor Fink's dismissal. The delegation was lead by Prof. Lode van Outrive MEP. The findings of the delegation have been published in a report.

On November 22, two weeks before the scheduled election of the academic bodies by the Humboldt university's autonomous council, Fink who had played a leading role in introducing this new structure of democratic selfmanagement learned from press articles (!) that the Gauck administration (GA) accused him of Stasi collaboration. The statement of the GA, leaked to the media, said: "Herr Professor Fink has acted as an informal collaborator of the MfS (GDR ministry of security, ed. note) under the cover name 'Heiner' since 1969."

Four days later, the Berlin Minister for science and research, Senator Manfred Erhardt, put through Fink's dismissal without notice as professor of theology and vice-chancellor of the Humboldt University (HUB).

Fink reacted with a declaration in lieu of oath that "I do not have to reproach myself with any collaboration with the Stasi in the sense of the Gauck Administration's writing" and demanded "immediate access to all the records, the reproach is based upon", on the grounds that "legal measures of whatever kind against an accused can be applied only once he has been given the opportunity to see the material considered as evidence and to state his position with regard to the accusations".

Fink added: "I was director of the theological faculty of the HUB. As every faculty director at this university, as every head in charge of any sphere of just some importance in the former GDR, I inevitably had contacts with state security. As avery office-holder I had to widely justify myself vis-…-vis the state security". Fink specified that he had never accepted any instructions from Stasi and that in his many years of work he had never been asked for information on persons.

Indeed, Fink is widely esteemed among former and present colleagues and students for the role he played in the GDR in defending and protecting dissidents and in initiating a radical democratic transformation of the HUB by creating decision making structures based on academic autonomy and participation of all members of the university since as early as 1989.

After his dismissal, Fink received hundreds of letters of support, many of them from former students, witnessing how he had helped them in difficult situations.

More credible evidence than some vague Stasi files, quite obviously.

On the night of January 4, Fink's office at the HUB was broken into and the files containing the letters were stolen - an act reminiscent of FBI-burglaries in the USA during the McCarthy era.

A bitter consolation for Fink might be that this evidence would not be considered anyhow.

 

In dubio contra reo

Indeed, the Gauck Administration bases its "guilty sentences" on its own interpretation of the sole Stasi files. It is widely proven that besides truths, these contain half truths and lies, often a product of "wishful thinking" of ambitious Stasi officials. On the other hand the GA does not take into account the concrete behaviour of the suspect and the circumstances of his alleged Stasi collaboration.

With regard to Heinrich Fink Mr. Gauck personally declared that he could "well imagine that Mr. Fink did not know, that he was listed as an informal collaborator (by the Stasi ed. note)". This view is confirmed by former Stasi officials.

Moreover, no victims of Fink's alleged Stasi collaboration have appeared.

As the delegation of the ECF points out in its report, the information provided by the GA has the weight of a court conviction without a fair hearing:

The renowned Hamburg based lawyer Gerhard Strate compares this procedure with the inquisitional Prussian penal procedure of the early 19th century: "The guilt or innocence of persons at that time was decided upon within a procedure which left practically no chance to the individual concerned: his judges did not come to see him. They heard no witnesses. The trial was an inquisitional procedure taking place in a world of records - records made of minutes, reports and entries(...) The weight of the files vouchsafed the truth of the judgement(...) "Quod non est in actis, non est in mundo" - What is not in the records is not in the world."

 

Gauck information: worse than criminal sentences

By a law of January 1, 1992, the Gauck Administration grants access to personal files to "concerned" citizens, public administrations, Parliaments, employers, secret services and (in restricted form) to media representatives. Due to lack of personell the GA is at present unable to respond to all requests. Priority is given to requests of public importance, which implies political selection.

The GA has no say with regard to eventual professional or other consequences for the individual concerned. Eventual sanctions are left to the applicant's own discretion. In other words the GA has no control on the further use of its information.

Some of those dismissed as a result of Gauck information - among them vice-chancellor Fink - try to fight their dismissal by lodging a complaint at the labour courts. Their chances of succeeding are all but nil, as shown in a decision of the Berlin labour court from February 25, 1991, stating the following: "When the employee is unable to furnish exonerating facts, it must be tolerated that he loses his employment, possibly due only to lack of proof".

Hundreds, maybe thousands of professional careers and sometimes lives have been virtually destroyed by this new German inquisition, which aims much less at the true representatives of the former GDR-regime, than at radical democrats, guilty of having continued their struggle for civil liberties after the fall of the GDR, in a united Germany.

Nicholas Busch

 

Sources: Europäisches Bürgerforum: Die Entlassung des Rektors der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Professor Heinrich Fink, delegation report, Forcalquier, February 92 (a summary of the report in English is available at the ECF); "Wenn Opfer über Täter richten", article by Gerhard Strate in "Der Spiegel 1/92, p. 26-28; Basler Zeitung, 19.2.92; Tagesanzeiger, 17.2.92; Stellungnahme der Deutschen Liga für Schutz und Förderung der Menschenrechte zum zukünftigen Gesetz über die Unterlagen des Staatssicherheitsdienstes der ehemaligen Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, Berlin, Oktober 91.