Prague, 27 May – On 25 May 2020 the Czech district court in Tachov fully rehabilitated Mr Gerhard Schmidt and his family. After the case of Hartmut Tautz, who was fully rehabilitated by a Slovak court in Bratislava in 2017, now the Czech Republic has also recognised that the killing of refugees trying to escape across the Iron Curtain during Communism was injustice.
The verdict rehabilitates another victim, who was also mentioned by the Platform of European Memory and Conscience (PEMC) in its criminal complaint in 2017. It is the first court decision in the Czech Republic in the case of a refugee killed on the Iron Curtain. The Platform welcomes the court decision and expects dignified compensation for Mr Schmidt’s family.
In 1977, Gerhard Schmidt, a 38-year-old East German, decided to flee with his wife and three children (6, 7 and 11 years old) to the Federal Republic of Germany. On 6 August 1977, near the village of Broumov in the Tachov region, the couple crossed the signal fence with their children and began walking to the state border. At the same time, they were spotted by a Czechoslovak border guard patrol, which immediately began to pursue them. The patrol used a vz. 58 assault rifle against the unarmed civilians, and fatally hit the father of the family. He succumbed to his injuries at the hospital in the town of Planá. The wife and children were subsequently “handed over for further action” back to the GDR. The daughter of the slain person asked for the rehabilitation of the father and family.
“This verdict is an important step forward in the process of rehabilitation of all victims of Communism. It opens the way for dozens of families of those who were killed on the former Iron Curtain. The Czech Republic and Slovakia are setting a good example to be followed by other countries,” said the PEMC president dr Łukasz Kamiński.
Since 2017 more than 30 people have been rehabilitated and compensated by Czech and Slovak courts, and another twenty are in the process of being compensated or awaiting legal proceedings.
The PEMC in its Justice 2.0 project is systematically documenting the violation of human rights of citizens during the Communist regime. The PEMC sees the killing of civilians trying to overcome the Iron Curtain as a crime against humanity. Former senior officials of the Communist regime responsible for killings at the borders in Czechoslovakia, Germany and Poland are currently under investigation.
Since 2019, the PEMC has been documenting further cases of victims of the Iron Curtain (killed, injured, imprisoned) in cooperation with its Polish partner Centrum Historii Zajezdnia, Wroclaw.
- 2014 – 2015 – launch of the Justice 2.0 project
- 21 February 2017 – Polish prosecutors investigating former Czechoslovak politburo member for killings on the Iron Curtain
- 13 March 2017 – Breakthrough court ruling in Bratislava: Killing of refugee was a crime, family has a right to compensation
- 27 March 2017 – German prosecutors call killing of refugees on the border of the ČSSR an international crime and suggest liability for murder for the responsible commanders. Thus the acts have not expired
- 21 September 2017 – Platform files criminal complaint against last surviving Czechoslovak politburo members Jakeš, Štrougal, Colotka and further persons for killing on the borders
- 6 November 2017 – Call on former East German refugees arrested in Czechoslovakia until 1989 to apply for rehabilitation and compensation
- 13 December 2017 – Bavarian state criminal investigation office Munich starts investigating killings of German refugees on the Iron Curtain in former Czechoslovakia
- 11 May 2018 – First rehabilitation in the Czech Republic for German who attempted to escape across the Iron Curtain
- 31 January 2019 – The Ministry of Justice of the Czech Republic for the first time compensated a former German Democratic Republic citizen for injury caused by the Czechoslovak Border Guards
- 5 August 2019 – Czech-German Joint Investigation Team Established for Killing East German Refugees on the Border of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
- 27 November 2019 – Czech Police launch investigation into former high-ranking Communist officials for shootings on the borders