Killing of young GDR citizen on Czechoslovak border was a crime

Hartmut Tautz killing is ruled illegal. After his name has been rehabilitated, his family is entitled to damage compensation.

The Hartmut Tautz memorial in SlovakiaThe Hartmut Tautz memorial in Slovakia (Source: TASR)

The District Bratislava I Court, in a breakthrough move, ruled on March 13 that the killing of Hartmut Tautz aged 18, during his flight from East-German and Czechoslovak communism, was a crime. Tautz was caught on the Czechoslovak-Austrian border near Bratislava in 1986, the TASR newswire wrote, and savaged by guard dogs controlled by the border police. He died later, as a result of his injuries.

“A criminal prosecution must ensue,” the Nation’s Memorz Institute {(ÚPN) wrote in a statement. It added that due to the practices of Slovak justice so far, this is a huge success. “Finally, after many decades, the bereft family have been given moral satisfaction,” the head of ÚPN board, Ondrej Krajňák, told TASR. “This is a first, precedential decision of the Slovak court which expresses moral satisfaction for victims of the Iron Curtain,” lawyer Lubomír Müller, representing the family, said as quoted by TASR.

The court decision has also been welcomed by the Platform of European Memory and Conscience which identified, within the Justice 2.0 project, that the killing of civilians fleeing to the West in times of communism was a crime against humanity, ÚPN spokesman Peter Juščák informed the newswire.

The Platform filed criminal complaints in Germany and Poland in cases in which German and Polish citizens were killed on the Czechoslovak borders. “Now, the doors have been opened for all families of the Iron Curtain victims to go the same path,” head of the platform, Neela Winkelmann, said.

A memorial commemorating the fate of Hartmut Tautz was unveiled last year, close to the Slovak-Austrian border.

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