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Tuesday 12, December

Ex-Stasi operative charged with murder after 49 years

Almost five decades later, a former Stasi operative is being put on trial for the suspicious murder of a Polish national who tried to escape East Berlin.

Popularly known as the Linden Hotel, Lindenstrasse 54/55 in Potsdam served as a prison for victims of the DDR’s State Security. Photo: IMAGO / Eberhard Thonfeld.

Tuesday 12, December

Ex-Stasi operative charged with murder after 49 years

A 79-year-old former Stasi employee will be put on trial for a murder committed almost five decades ago.

On March 29, 1974, the then-Stasi operative took a deadly shot at a 38-year-old Polish man who was attempting to flee East Berlin at the Friedrichstrasse border crossing. According to the prosecution, the accused is said to have killed the escapee “with a targeted shot in the back”.

Normally, even for a homicide, the statute of limitations would have passed by now. What makes this case different is that there is evidence the Ministry for State Security had actually granted the Polish national permission to leave – and then had him shot as he tried to make the border crossing. As such, the Public Prosecutor’s office now recognises the crime as a case of murder on grounds of treachery, meaning that it can still be tried today.

In the early 1990s after the collapse of the DDR, the Berlin Public Prosecutor’s office investigated a number of cases of violence done in the name of the old regime. The case is believed to have been taken up then, but dropped in 1996 because of a lack of leads. It wasn’t until 2016 that a crucial tip came from the Stasi records archive. For now, it’s not yet clear exactly when the case will go to court.