"It is your duty to use your combat … skills in such a way as to overcome the cunning of the border breacher, to challenge or liquidate him in order to thwart the planned border breach... Don’t hesitate to use your weapon even when border breaches happen with women and children, which traitors have often exploited in the past.” Order to Border Guards October 1, 1973.
"If we get shot, will you write about us?"
- E. German Student, demonstrating against GDR regime question to journalist
Fidel Castro's first visit to Berlin began on June 13, 1972 and at various points addressed the border guards that policed the Berlin Wall to prevent East Germans from escaping to the West. At Brandenburg gate on June 14 in the afternoon (pictured above) he addressed the men charged with shooting East Germans fleeing to West Germany as "the courageous and self-denying border guards of the GDR People's Army who stand guard in the front line of the entire-socialist community." Later in the evening Premier Castro addressed the Nikolay Bezarin Barracks in East Berlin:
It is very important to know that the people of the GDR have great confidence in you, that they are truly proud of you. The comrades of the party and the citizens of socialist Berlin have told us with great satisfaction about the activity of the border troops, speaking with great admiration for you and for your services.Later on in the same speech Mr. Castro offered his take on what he saw there and prospects for the future:
We have no doubt that a great political and revolutionary victory has been won in the GDR. You have created the foundations for the future, a truly revolutionary state, a border state to whom the future belongs. You are the new generation, which will continue this work.He spent most of his visit accompanied by Erich Honecker, who as Central Committee secretary for security matters in 1961 was the individual in charge of building the Berlin Wall, and by 1971 via a power struggle and Soviet support had become the defacto head of state. Below Mr. Castro following the signing of a communique with Mr. Honecker presents him with a map of Cuba.
Seventeen years later the people of the German Democratic Republic were finally able to let the border guards and the GDR leadership know what they really thought of the Berlin Wall and the activities at the border. The GDR was dissolved in 1990 and a short time later Mr. Honecker had to flee Germany for the Soviet Union to avoid being prosecuted for the extrajudicial executions of 192 East Germans who had "illegally" tried to leave the GDR. Only to be extradited by Boris Yeltsin back to Germany to be placed on trial in 1993 - where as in the case of Pinochet- he was released due to the belief that he would not live long enough to be punished but had exaggerated his health status and on January 13, 1993 fled to exile in Chile where he died on May 24, 1994 of liver cancer. German courts tried and convicted 126 Germans ranging from politburo members to border troops for the extrajudicial killings of East Germans trying to escape to the West. The Castro brothers have demonstrated similar cruelty with fleeing Cubans and some cases are fully documented but the full number remains unknown.
Nineteen years later on July 20, 2008 in Nicaragua Daniel Ortega awarded Margot Honecker, the widow of the GDR fugitive and former of head of state Erich Honecker, the Ruben Dario Award. This despite the fact that Ms Honecker is unrepentant of seizing the children of dissidents and East Germans who attempted to flee to the West and placing them in foster homes. More than 2,000 Germans are searching for missing family members. During the dictatorship East Germans reviled her hard line politics and nicknamed her the purple witch for the tint of her hair.
The images, censored even today in Cuba, of the German people celebrating their freedom and the end of the GDR police state in 1989, have circled the globe. If you have friends in Cuba with access to internet please make copies of the videos below and send it to them so that they can see what is possible.
Berlin Wall Opens (November 1989)
Berlin Wall Opens (November 1989)