Monday, 6 April 2020

Czechoslovak communist leaders sued for Germans killed at border

26 August 2016

Prague, Aug 26 (CTK) - Former Czechoslovak communist leader Milos Jakes, 94, and premier Lubomir Strougal, 91, are among 67 Czech and Slovak citizens sued for the deaths of five East German at the border in the communist era, Platform of European Memory and Conscience head Neela Winkelmann said today.

The Platform filed the criminal complaint with German Attorney General Peter Frank on August 18, she said.

Apart from four soldiers protecting the border, nobody has been punished for the deaths of the German emigrants. As all attempts at punishment of the former communist officials responsible for the crimes against humanity were in vain in the Czech Republic, the Platform addressed the German authorities and filed a criminal complaint for murders, Winkelmann said.

Konrad Menz, from a Berlin law office with which the Platform cooperates, said the murders at the Czechoslovak border are not subject to the statute of limitations. According to a verdict of the German Federal Court of Justice, all who were involved in these crimes bear responsibility for them, Menz said.

The criminal complaint is filed only against the surviving culprits, most of whom are border guards and their commanders. It concerns the deaths of five men from the former East Germany - Hartmut Tautz, Richard Schlenz, Gerhard Schmidt, Kurt Hoffmeister and Johann Dick.

Tautz was mauled to death by two dogs of the Czechoslovak border guards near Bratislava 30 years ago.

Schlenz succeeded in swimming across the Danube in Devin near Bratislava in 1967, but Czech border guard Josef Mlcoucek shot him dead when Schlenz was already on the Austrian side of the river. Mlcoucek received a suspended prison sentence by a Czech court ten years ago.

Schmidt was killed in western Bohemia when he tried to flee to Bavaria with his wife and three children. The border guards who shot him were awarded and nobody was punished for the crime.

Hoffmeister was shot dead in southwest Bohemia by border guard Andrej Terela. Terela received a suspended prison sentence, but an appeals court cancelled the punishment and his crime is subject under the statute of limitations in the Czech Republic.

During a search for Polish refugees in 1986, Czech border guards shot Dick in the West German territory and they dragged him to Czechoslovakia. Dick died when he was driven to a Czech hospital. Border guard Pavel Cada was sent to prison for three years for the crime, but the Prague High Court cancelled the verdict in 2001.

The Platform of European Memory and Conscience is an EU project associating NGOs that document the crimes of totalitarian regime and spread awareness about them. Neela Winkelmann-Heyrovska is a Czech academic based in Kempten, Bavaria and Prague. She is a granddaughter of Jaroslav Heyrovsky, winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1959.

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