Status: 04.08.2022 1:20 p.m.
Thousands of victims of East German injustice are fighting for compensation, but authorities believed more in the files of East German authorities than in the people affected, according to a victims’ representative in the contrasts-Interview. The Ministry of Social Affairs apparently sees no need to act.
By Tom Fugmann, RBB
Visiting the former youth center in Torgau remains a difficult journey for Ralf Weber, even half a century later. The 66-year-old was locked in a windowless room for days. A thick layer of bricks prevented the outside world from seeing young people being humiliated and beaten. “There’s no screaming out here,” says Weber ARD-political review contrasts, “whoever descends here will be beaten mercilessly.” The so-called Jugendwerkhöfe officially served to re-educate problem youth to become “socialist personalities” and to teach them discipline.
Young people must be “transformed”.
Weber reports of beating squads that suddenly entered the cells: “I have to stay here in the cell and then they attack me. They just hit me with their fists, with a club.” As a teenager, he went through one ordeal after another. At the age of six, he came home for the first time – the GDR’s youth welfare service assumed that his single mother was overwhelmed with her upbringing. Nine children’s homes and special children’s homes followed.
Like thousands of other victims, Ralf Weber is fighting for redress.
At the age of ten he had to work four hours a day on LPG, at the age of 14 he worked piecework in steel production. Because of this and years of abuse, her spine is deformed and her intervertebral discs are damaged. Nevertheless, like thousands of other victims, he is still struggling to obtain financial compensation for his mental and physical suffering. He has long been criminally rehabilitated, years ago the courts concluded that he was wrongfully incarcerated in the children’s home, in the youth work center and in the GDR prison. Therefore, as a victim of SED injustice, he is entitled to medical rehabilitation.
Courts do not recognize damages
But it is refused by the competent pension funds and the social courts. For 28 years now, he has been waging a futile battle with them. Ultimately, the Dresden state social court ruled that the spinal damage was not “due to imprisonment or stays in homes”. The court is also unable to recognize a “loss of profit linked to damage”.
Ralf Weber, meanwhile, refers to 20 court-tested expert reports that prove his multiple bodily wear and tear. According to the state social court, however, a direct link to the forced activities of the time could no longer be established after such a long time. Especially since this physical exploitation is not noted in the files of the persons concerned. This is why providing evidence is not easy, explains Dieter Dombrowski, president of the Union of Associations of Victims of Communist Tyranny.
Health damage resulting from abuse, imprisonment and forced labor is almost never recognized by the relevant pension funds, he says. In fact, the euphemisms in the files of the GDR authorities are cruder than the victims themselves: “The pension funds regularly wage defensive battles against those who have been harmed by the SED system,” Dombrowski criticizes. As decisions are only made on the basis of the records, plaintiffs are faced with the task of proving their damages in detail decades later. “That’s not always possible.”
The criticism also comes from SED Federal Injustice Commissioner Evelyn Zupke: “Of course, there’s nothing in the detention records about a water cell, about solitary confinement, about detention in the dark, on a tiger cage,” Zupke said in an interview. contrasts. “I find that shocking. That’s why one of my most important concerns is to do something, with politics, to change these things.” It calls for a reversal of the burden of proof of damage to health in favor of the persons concerned in the SED law on compensation for victims.
The Ministry of Social Affairs considers that the right to compensation is sufficient
This improvement to the SED Victim Protection Act (SED Unrechtsbereinigungsgesetz) had already been promised by the last federal government, but was not implemented. This time, the problem should be solved, according to the coalition parties interviewed by Kontraste. The SPD parliamentary group said that when the law was changed in 2019, attempts were made to improve the situation for victims of the SED dictatorship, which failed due to legal problems. In the new coalition, we see good chances for an amendment.
The FDP parliamentary group refers to the explicit mention of the injustice of the SED in the government program. The Greens also say there is agreement within the coalition to improve access to aid and services for victims of the SED dictatorship.
But the competent Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs stated opposite contrasts, the right to compensation already provides for “a number of substantial simplifications of proof in favor of the persons concerned”. The law on social compensation was extensively reformed in 2019, and “the facilitation of the recognition of a health disorder as a result of damage” is also planned. Apparently there is no need to act there. After decades of experience with authorities and courts, it looks like mockery for Ralf Weber.
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