East German Ends Visit after Predicting Normal Borders
MUNICH, West Germany (AP) _ East German leader Erich Honecker ended his visit to West Germany on Friday after triggering a surge of optimism that the guns and fences separating the two Germanys will one day be abolished.
His five-day visit included talks with Chancellor Helmut Kohl and other government officials and a tour of his home town of Wiebelskirchen.
He later flew home from Munich, ending the first visit here by an East German Communist Party leader.
Kohl accepted an invitation to visit East Germany at an unspecified date. The leaders of the two Germanys signed a scientific and technical cooperation agreement and agreed to boost bilateral trade.
East Germany also agreed to relax its tight restrictions on the types of newspapers, books, records and tapes that can be brought into the country.
In Bonn, government officials praised Honecker’s surprise prediction that his country eventually will have normal border relations with West Germany.
Politicians here took Honecker’s words to mean that East Germany will at least lift shoot-to-kill orders given to border sentries to prevent escapes.
The 75-year-old Honecker on Friday toured the site of the former Nazi death camp at Dachau, and he was quoted as wishing former Third Reich victims success in their fight against neo-Nazism. Honecker spent a decade in a Nazi prison.
He also had talks with arch-conservative Bavarian Gov. Franz Josef Strauss.
Addressing Honecker at a luncheon, Strauss called on the Communist government to tear down the Berlin Wall, remove fortified border barriers and lift shooting orders.
Kohl and other officials who met Honecker repeatedly stressed human rights issues and urged East Germany to allow its citizens freer travel and more contacts with West Germany.
Dorothee Wilms, head of the Intra-German Ministry which handles Bonn’s relations with East Germany, told Bild newspaper in an interview that Honecker’s remarks carried ″great political weight.″
She said she understood his words to mean lifting of the shooting orders.
″He cannot now pull himself out of it (lifting the orders). The shooting orders violate elementary human rights,″ she was quoted as saying in the interview, slated for publication Saturday and released in advance.
Chief government spokesman Friedhelm Ost said Honecker’s statement on eventual normalization of the border was a ″public confirmation of the tendency of talks″ Honecker held with Kohl.
Honecker told a dinner in Wiebelskirchen on Thursday:
″I believe that if we work together toward it ... then the day will come when the borders will no longer divide us, but when they will unite us, like the border between ... (East Germany) and ... Poland unites us.″
Honecker did not specify what steps he was ready to take, but most West German officials thought he was referring to the shooting orders and allowing more East Germans to travel to the West.
Many West German commentators called Honecker’s statement the most important of his visit and the first tangible result of the trip.
Hans-Jochen Vogel, chairman of the opposition Social Democrats, called the remarks a ″substantial step forward.″
Strauss said East Germans would like to have the opportunity to visit relatives in West Germany and reminded Honecker that he visited his own home town Thursday for the first time since 1948.
In Dachau, nine miles north of Munich, Honecker laid red carnations under a sign saying ″1933 to 1945,″ the years of Nazi rule in Germany under dictator Adolf Hitler.
Germany was split into Communist-dominated East Germany and pro-Western West Germany after the war.
Honecker talked to about 20 former Nazi persecution victims and former concentration camp inmates. He was visibly moved as he stopped to talk to each and shake hands.
Eugen Kessler, 75, of Munich, among those meeting Honecker, said of the visit:
″This was for us a dream come true. It means the recognition (by West Germany) of the DDR (East Germany). A great gap has been bridged.″
Outside the site, about 100 people protested Honecker’s visit.