Honecker Visits Dachau on Last Day of West German Trip
DACHAU, West Germany (AP) _ East German leader Erich Honecker placed a wreath at the site of a Nazi death camp today and met with fellow former victims of Third Reich persecution before ending his historic visit to West Germany.
Honecker flew back to East Berlin this afternoon at the end of his five-day visit, the first ever by an East German Communist party chief to West Germany.
In Bonn, government officials praised Honecker’s prediction that his country eventually will have normal border relations with West Germany.
Honecker, who spent a decade in a Nazi prison on political charges, visited the site of the Dachau camp after meeting in Munich with Franz Josef Strauss, the arch-conservative governor of southern Bavaria state.
At Dachau, nine miles north of Munich, the 75-year-old Honecker laid the wreath of red carnations under a sign saying ″1933 to 1945,″ the years of Nazi rule in Germany under dictator Adolf Hitler.
Honecker talked to a group of about 20 former Nazi persecution victims and former inmates at the camp, where many Communists and leftists were held. He was visibly moved as he stopped to talk to each one and shake hands.
″I wish you success in the fight against neo-Nazism,″ Eugen Kessler, a former Dachau inmate, quoted Honecker as telling the group. ″I embrace you all.″
Kessler, a 75-year-old Munich resident, said he was pleased by Honecker’s trip.
″It means recognition of East Germany,″ Kessler told The Associated Press.
West German officials say there are now about 23,000 right-wing extremists nationwide, with about 1,500 of them classified as neo-Nazis.
On Thursday night in his home town in the Saarland, Honecker predicted his country will one day have a normal border with West Germany and indicated he favors tight bonds between the two states.
Speaking at a dinner in the town hall, Honecker said the two states are neighbors on German soil, but belong to different political alliances.
″It is understandable then that under these conditions the borders are not what they should be,″ Honecker said.
If the German nations expand cooperation, as outlined in a joint communique signed during his five-day visit, ″then a day will come when the border will no longer divide us but will unite us,″ like the border between East Germany and Poland, Honecker said.
He did not elaborate.
Chief West German government spokesman Friedhelm Ost in Bonn today welcomed the remark as a ″public confirmation″ of the direction of the talks in Bonn between Honecker and Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
Honecker’s visit to Dachau attracted about 100 people protesting against the visit outside the main gates.
A small group of the demonstrators held aloft a sign saying: ″Prayer at Memorial Sites, Shooting at the Wall.″ The latter was a reference to orders given to East German border guards to shoot to kill anyone trying to escape to the West.
West Germany has repeatedly called on East Germany to scrap its shoot-to- kill orders, a heated point of contention for decades.
West Germany’s Inner-German Relations Ministry said the orders, mines and other deadly traps have claimed the lives of at least 188 would-be escapees since the Berlin Wall was built in 1961 and then expanded along the border.
The two German states were formed in 1949 following the defeat of Germany by the Allies.
Honecker on Thursday toured the house where he was born and spent about two hours visiting his 70-year-old sister, Gertrud, who still lives in Wiebelskirchen.
The two then paid a private visit to the local cemetery where their parents are buried.