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Honecker’s Homecoming Song: No Thanks for the Memories With AM-Honecker

July 24, 1992

BERLIN (AP) _ Should Erich Honecker come back to Germany? Sylvia Hannmann thought a bit, smiled sweetly and suggested a small hut in Siberia instead.

Like other east Germans wrestling with the ghosts of yesterday and the hard economic realities of today, Miss Hannmann wishes the former Communist Party boss would simply disappear.

″I think if he dies it will be better for everyone,″ said the 19-year-old secretary, part of the lunchtime bustle on a beautiful Friday beneath the spires and columns of historic Berlin.

Honecker is the talk of the town again because German and Russian authorities hinted he will soon be kicked out of the Chilean Embassy in Moscow, where he and his wife, Margot, sought refuge in December to avoid extradition to Germany.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who welcomed Honecker to Bonn as a head of state in 1987, confirmed there was ″visible movement″ toward reeling in East Germany’s biggest fish.

Honecker, 79, is wanted on manslaughter charges stemming from the ″shoot- to-kill″ orders that led to the deaths of more than 200 people who tried to flee East Germany.

He is also accused of using state money to support his not-quite- proletarian personal tastes.

A Communist since age 10, the former roofer became a top functionary who supervised the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961. He ran the party - and the country - from 1971 until he was toppled in 1989.

To east Germans, he is the past personified, the most vivid living symbol of the old days, a time some want to forget and others to avenge.

Still others see Honecker as an object of pity, an old and humiliated man hiding in a shaky safehouse after decades of power and luxury.

″The man is an old man,″ said housewife Renata Richter, 52. ″He’s sick. I had a brother who died of cancer. I understand. There’s a human side.″

Mrs. Richter, who said she was never a Communist, said the docile masses who lived passively under Marxism have no right now to persecute its practitioners.

Some who did support the party are embittered that Honecker ran away, first to a Soviet Army base outside Berlin and then to Moscow.

″He should have had the courage to stay,″ grumbled Rudolf Engling, 49, an industrial engineer.

Terehov Vladislav, a Russian who works in Moscow for a German export firm, was vacationing in Berlin for the first time since German unity. He marveled at the massive construction in the east, the disappearance of the wall, the blending of borders.

″I never could see West Berlin because of Erich Honecker,″ said Vladislav, 56. ″He’s a bad man and he killed a lot of people. He should be tried and jailed with the rest of them.″

Since Honecker fled, several border guards who allegedly carried out his shoot-to-kill orders have been tried. Most have been acquitted or given probation.

Miss Hannmann, the secretary, believes Honecker would beat the charges if he was tried in Germany, which is why she wants him to find misery in Russia.

″Not in Moscow. Moscow is too good,″ she said, with no obvious knowledge of Moscow. ″They should send him and Margot to a little hut in Siberia. Without heat.″

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