WEST BERLIN (Nov. 16)
East Germany has begun to reveal an ugly secret.
The Communist regime is finally admitting that anti-Semitism is prevalent within the borders of the German Democratic Republic, which heretofore has taken great pains to conceal it.
Even when perpetrators were punished, their trials were secret and never mentioned in the state-controlled news media, according to revelations Thursday by the chief prosecutor in the Rostock region, Harri Mueller.
Mueller said that a Jewish cemetery in the area was vandalized by neo-Nazis last summer.
In another incident in Stralsund, six young farm workers circulated anti-Jewish propaganda and sang anti-Semitic songs.
Two were arrested, tried in secret and sentenced to two years and three months in prison. The others got suspended sentences. But not a word was mentioned in the news media.
According to Mueller, an unspecified number of Rostock residents were arrested and sentenced for similar offenses.
Mueller said the practice of concealing anti-Semitic incidents was being reassessed. He offered the Jewish community any information it might ask for.
Mueller’s announcement was reported by the official East German news agency, ADN.
Until recently, requests by Jews for information about anti-Semitic incidents were received with hostility and dismissed as attempts to discredit the state.
The new openness on the subject is a direct consequence of the surge for popular reforms sweeping East Germany, and the Jewish community, which officially numbers around 400, has taken courage from the recent events.
In a statement issued in Dresden last week, the Jewish community demanded that the government stop treating anti-Semitism in the GDR like a “state secret.”
Almost immediately, the vandalization of a Jewish cemetery in Erfurt was widely reported in East Germany, as were the arrests of two teenage suspects and a police statement that the investigation was continuing.
Until now, East Germany has kept up a drumbeat of propaganda, depicting West Germany as a semi-fascist state and hotbed of anti-Semitism, while portraying itself as a country without anti-Semitic taint.
But the Jewish community has now asked the regime to publicly acknowledge that Jews were systematically persecuted, thrown in jail and accused of treason by East German regimes dating back to the founding of the GDR 40 years ago.
Jews especially suffered under the Stalinist regimes of Communist Party bosses Walter Ulbricht and the recently deposed Erich Honecker.
East German Jews have also entered the once forbidden realm of foreign policy with their Dresden statement calling on the government to abandon its hostile stance toward Israel.
Dr. Peter Kirchner, chairman of the East Berlin community, said this week that more openness and a positive attitude toward Israel have always been “on the table” but never were clearly articulated.