A former member of East Germany’s communist secret police has been charged with murder for the killing of a Polish national at a border crossing in divided Berlin in 1974, prosecutors said Thursday.
The indictment against the 79-year-old, whose name has not been released, was filed with the state court in the German capital.
It concerns an incident on March 29, 1974, in which a 38-year-old Pole brought a fake bomb to the Polish embassy in an attempt to force an unimpeded exit to West Berlin, prosecutors said in a press release.
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The East German secret police, the Stasi, reportedly decided to pretend to allow the man to leave. His employees provided him with exit documents and accompanied him to a border crossing at Friedrichstrasse station in East Berlin, prosecutors said.
They said the suspect, aged 31 at the time, was on a mission to render the Pole “harmless”. After the Pole passed the last checkpoint, the suspect allegedly shot him in the back from a hiding place.
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East Germany built the Berlin Wall in 1961, preventing most of its citizens from traveling to the West. Many attempted to escape by tunneling underwater, swimming past, climbing up, or flying over. At least 140 people died in the attempt.
The heavily fortified border was opened on November 9, 1989, a key moment in the collapse of communism in Europe. Germany was reunified less than a year later.