German Broadcast Stars Reveal Secret Police Past
Jan. 11, 1995
BERLIN (AP) _ Lutz Bertram, a blind broadcaster, was one of the most popular figures in eastern Germany. His interviews were incisive, and his morning show was upbeat.
Now he's off the airwaves, revealed as a former informant for the East German Stasi, the hated secret police.
The public broadcasting station ORB dropped Bertram on Monday, along with a second popular radio host, Juergen Kuttner, who was also linked to the Stasi.
The cases were a blow to growing self-confidence in the former communist part of Germany in the fifth year after unification. Ties to the secret police are still poison and have ruined many careers _ most prominently Lothar de Maiziere, the first and only popularly elected premier of East Germany.
Germans are still debating whether to close the Stasi's files and end a troubling chapter of German police-state history.
Some argue that the trickle of disclosures is a morale-killer, but those in charge of the files say many remain to be examined and serious crimes may still be uncovered.
The Potsdam newspaper Maerkische Allgemeine called Bertram's story ``an East German fate'' and questioned how an individual could continue after having worked for the Stasi.
One fan called ORB to say he had spent years in jail for his political convictions and now felt betrayed that the broadcaster had hidden his collaboration.
German authorities are still grappling with far more serious allegations involving the defunct Communist government.
On Monday, prosecutors in Berlin announced charges of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter against seven former members of East Germany's leadership, including Egon Krenz, the party leader at the time the Berlin Wall opened Nov. 9, 1989. The seven are accused of involvement in shoot-to-kill orders for people attempting to flee across the Berlin Wall or elsewhere on the inner-German border.
ORB, based in Potsdam outside Berlin, said there were no comprehensive Stasi files on Bertram, but a card showed he was registered in 1983 as a Stasi collaborator.
Bertram, 41, appeared on German television last Saturday to explain himself, but disclosed little of what he had done. Some viewers sympathized with his explanation that failing vision prompted his decision to help the Stasi.
In return, he was given an East German passport to seek medical treatment abroad. But his glaucoma was too far advanced, Bertram said.
``A passport is life. I never would be disposable again,'' he said, justifying himself.
The ORB managing director, Hans Juergen Rosenbauer, said Bertram hadn't ``used his chance to lay himself open.''
Although the affair damaged ORB's credibility, Rosenbauer said he may give Bertram another chance _ but not in political journalism.
Bertram shed no more light on the case in his final broadcast Monday.
Bertram was known for his raspy voice and pithy comments. He opened his three-hour morning broadcasts with a hearty ``Yoo hoo, dear radio people.'' In East Germany, he had worked as a music editor for state radio.
The Berlin newspaper Die Tageszeitung, editorially left, praised Bertram for going on TV to explain himself. But a separate editorial asked, ``... What good are such figures of hope who can't survive a critical look at their past?''