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Mother and Daughter Reunited

October 6, 2009 permalink

East Germany has been described as the most perfect example of the police state. A third of all citizens were informants for the police, the Stasi. Surveillance files were filled not with reports on efforts to overthrow the government, but with details of family life.

In 1971 the East German Stasi separated Petra Hoffman from her newborn daughter. They were recently reunited after 38 years of separation. The story shows remarkable parallels with life today in Canada, and many other countries, where secret agencies gather data on family life. Mrs Hoffman was targeted for child removal because the police disliked the actions of her husband. She spent time in jail for her efforts to find her children. Once one child was taken, her later child was seized at birth. One noticeable difference with Canada was that in this case, and one other East German case we have found, the child was sent to a single family for care. In Canada the typical number of new homes is over a half dozen. Also note that in a report on East Germany the press describes the baby theft as an atrocity. In reports on today's cases, they use the language of beneficence.



Mother reunited with daughter 38 years after she was stolen by the Stasi in former East Germany

By Allan Hall, Last updated at 5:03 PM on 02nd October 2009

A mother whose children were taken away by the Stasi secret police of former East Germany has been reunited with one of them nearly 40 years after she was born.

Petra Hoffman, 55, hugged her daughter Mandy Reinhardt, 38, for the first time this week since agents of the hard line Communist regime took her away shortly after she was born.

Ms Reinhardt was born in 1971 when her mother was just 16 and worked in a government cafeteria.

Petra Hoffman and daughter Mandy Reinhardt
Reunited: Petra Hoffman, 55, right, is hugged by daughter Mandy Reinhardt 38 years after the Stasi took her away

But the father was a man the state disapproved of after he had served prison time for speaking out against the imperfections of life in totalitarian East Germany.

'The Youth Welfare people came to my door one day, said I was not a fit person to be a mother,' said Mrs Hoffman.

'They put me and her into a home. Days later, against my will, Mandy was given up for adoption.'

This was a common practice invoked by the Stasi against its enemies. Rather than resorting to crude torture or beatings, it tried to crush the will of those who displease it with the cruellest psychological pressures.

Mrs Hoffman said: 'I tried to fight them. But I was young.

'And all that happened was that they put me in jail as an enemy of the state.'

When she was released from jail, she became pregnant again and gave birth to a son called Ronny in 1974. He was just days old when he was taken.

'They came to the door at night, pushed me aside, and stole him from his bed,' she said.

fall of Berlin wall
Search: Mrs Hoffman looked for her children after being released when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and has finally been reunited with her daughter

Mrs Hoffman spent six years in jail as a dissident because of the fuss she kicked up in trying to find both her children.

During her final court appearance before she was sentenced to Bautzen - the most feared of jails in the German Democratic Republic - the judge told her: 'You are a rat gnawing away at the magnificent pillars of socialism.'

When the Berlin Wall came down and she was released to her hometown of Bad Schlema, in Saxony, Mrs Hoffman began the search for her children.

She badgered authorities, placed notices in newspapers and appealed to old friends but the Stasi had destroyed most of the paperwork and her search came to nothing.

Then, six weeks ago, as Germany prepares massive celebrations for next month marking 20 years since the Berlin Wall fell, a letter came from Berlin which read: 'You don't know me at all, but I believe you are my mother.'

Mrs Reinhardt, a mother-of-two herself, had searched since 1992 for her mother after her foster parents told her she was adopted.

She said: 'I searched and searched on the internet and wrote to the authorities but it was only a few weeks ago I saw my mother's plea on a website.

'We met up and held each other and cried and cried and cried. We worked out together that I was her daughter because of certain facts my foster parents told me.

Erich Mielke with Stasi
Erich Mielke, centre, Minister for State Security in the GDR, poses with other members of the Stasi in this undated photo

'They both worked for the party and so were favoured to get a child.

'They also knew about Ronny. That is our goal now - to find Ronny and become a family again.

'My foster parents were lovely people but she is my real mother and I have waited so long for this day.'

Mrs Hoffman added: 'What mother should have to endure such things as this?

'Those b******* robbed me of everything precious to a mother – seeing her grow up, do well at school, get married. But they didn’t win in the end, did they?'

It comes in the same week a film was screened in Germany called 'Beyond The Wall', chronicling a married couple who failed to cross the Berlin Wall and had their daughter taken from them as a result.

The Stasi formed in 1950, modelled on the Soviet MGB.

Within years, the secret police had turned one in three people in the old East Germany into a spy for the state.

They filtered into apartment buildings, universities and offices in one of the most extensive police infiltrations of a society in history - more than the Nazi Gestapo and the Soviet KGB.

By the 1950s, were carrying out secret executions of dissidents against the German Democratic Republic, the official name of Communist East Germany.

By the 1970s they were acting as a proxy for the Soviet KGB in other Eastern Bloc countries such as Poland.

But by the late 1980s, as Communism was falling apart across Europe, the Stasi faced the threat of losing its choke hold on East Germany society.

The tide turned in 1989, when citizens overran their headquarters in the Peaceful Revolution. Although the Stasi managed to destroy some documents, many survived - and when they were publicised many East Germans learned that their neighbours, friends or family had been informants.

Even now the Stasi's shadow is still cast across reunited Germany as some of the former secret policemen continue to hold jobs - amid much controversy - in major government departments, the police and in industry.

Source: Daily Mail