Related topics

Put Honecker in Nursing Home, Says Former East German Dissident

October 18, 1990

BERLIN (AP) _ Erich Honecker fell from power in East Germany one year ago Thursday, and a dissident who helped topple him said it’s time to put the aging Communist in a nursing home.

Baerbel Bohley, one of the most heralded dissidents in East German history, said she disagrees with widespread demands that the 78-year-old Honecker be prosecuted.

″I would find it absurd to put him before a court,″ she said.

Authorities are trying to decide whether to prosecute Honecker on charges of corruption, harboring leftist terrorists and ordering authorities to shoot people who tried to flee the country.

Bohley, however, said she believes he should be put in a home for the aged. He is suffering from kidney cancer and is staying at a Soviet military hospital near Berlin.

Bohley led the activist group New Forum, which helped direct the peaceful street protests that toppled the Communists and opened the door to unification of the two German states.

Her group, comprised of intellectuals, artists and veteran dissidents, found little political success after East Germany’s brief stint as a sovereign democracy.

The group remains an opposition force in the united Germany, frequently opposing what it says are heavy handed attempts by western Germany to impose its will on the former Communist nation.

Bohley, a painter, is widely respected throughout Germany, however, as the mother of the revolt and a dedicated activist who endured years of harassment by the old regime’s secret police.

She met with reporters on Thursday to mark the first anniversary of the day when Honecker was forced out of power by members of his party, who were trying to placate the growing masses of protesters.

A German magazine reported Thursday that Honecker himself blames Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev for his downfall.

The Hamburg-published Stern magazine said in its latest issue that Honecker made the statement to Heinz Junge, an old friend who recently visited the former East German leader at the two-room apartment where he lives on the Soviet military hospital compound.

″From the beginning, I was in Gorbachev’s way because my political experience made me see glasnost and perestroika differently,″ Honecker told Junge, according to Stern.

Junge, a former member of the Communist anti-Nazi resistance, and Werner Cieslak, a former member of the leadership of the (West) German Communist Party, have both visited Honecker, Stern said.

The magazine printed a photograph of Honecker and his wife Margot, a former education minister in his government, sitting at a table with Cieslak in the sparsely furnished apartment.

Honecker, 78, was deposed at a stormy Communist party meeting on Oct. 18, 1989, as the ruling party was trying to hang onto power with thousands of East Germans demonstrating on the streets for democracy.

A little more than a week before Honecker’s removal, Gorbachev visited East Berlin and said in a television interview that life punishes those who are late, an indirect referrence to Honecker’s refusal to accept reforms.

Junge told Stern that Honecker’s condition appears to have improved in recent weeks and that he had regained some weight.

Honecker underwent surgery for kidney cancer in January, and was briefly detained after leaving the hospital. German prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation against the former Communist boss, but there is not arrest warrant against him.

Stern quoted his friends as saying Honecker did not plan to leave Germany. It said the former Communist leader has been receiving a monthly pension of $340.

Update hourly