Vera Lengsfeld became a Christian Democrat politician after the reunification of Germany and old habits died hard with her. As a Member of Parliament she was frequently rebellious and critical of the CDU leadership under Chancellor Angela Merkel. For a while Knud Wollenberger made a name for himself on chat shows and he published a slim volume of poetry. Nature enacted a painful retribution on him: he was afflicted with a rare form of Parkinson’s disease that left him semi-blind and crippled.
Boldin was among several of Gorbachev’s key aides who ultimately betrayed him. He took part in the (failed) coup against Gorbachev in August 1991 when a group of lacklustre conservative diehards tried to seize power in Moscow while the leader was on holiday at his seaside villa in the Crimea. One of Gorbachev’s weaknesses was that he was not always a good picker of aides and advisers - a factor which, as time went on, became a serious problem for him.
Godfather to Rajk’s then seven-year-old son, Kádár, in order to save his own life, was forced to visit his friend in jail and try to extract a confession of treason out of him. The interview was secretly taped and a transcript published towards the end of 1990. It makes gruesome reading, but is instructive of life in a totalitarian police state.
The Ceauescus closely monitored, and interfered with, their children’s relationships. For a brief period in the 1970s Zoia dated Petre Roman, son of a leading Communist official, a glamorous and well-connected scholar who later became Romania’s first post-Communist Prime Minister after the Revolution. Elena, in particular, did not approve of the liaison. She rang Petre’s father, Walter Roman, and demanded the couple put a stop to their relationship. ‘One Jew in the family is enough,’ she told him - a reference to her brother’s wife, who was Jewish. She and Roman
dispatched the young man abroad to study and the romance fizzled out. She organised a match for her favourite son, Nicu, with a woman she did approve of, Poliana Cristecu. Marriage was the last thing the rakish Ceauescu son wanted. The wedding ceremony was performed by the Mayor of Bucharest and attended by family and a few leading Party chieftains. Immediately afterwards, as the couple signed the marriage register, he turned to his new bride and said: ‘Now, go live with my mother . . . she should sleep with you because
Zoia Ceauescu was jailed for eight months after the revolution but could not find any kind of job after she was released. Her home was confiscated and she spent her last years living in the spare room of friends. She died of lung cancer in 2006. Nicu served two and a half years in prison. Occasionally he was quoted in the Romanian press justifying his parents’ actions, before he died from cirrhosis of the liver in 1996. Valentin is alive at the time of writing; he was often critical of his parents after the revolution and was in jail for nine months before all charges against him were dropped. He was involved in a long legal argument with the post-Communist Romanian authorities in which he claimed they confiscated property that rightfully belonged to the Ceauescu family, whatever his parents had done while in power. He lost.
Women who had five or six children were awarded a Maternity medal; for seven to nine children they received the Order of Maternal Glory and for ten or more children they joined the ranks of Heroine Mother. On the other hand, harsh financial penalties were imposed if you failed to procreate for your country. Couples who remained childless beyond the age of twenty-five faced higher tax bills.
Rust was sentenced to four years in jail but served eighteen months in a KGB cell separated from other prisoners. He was treated relatively well, considering the embarrassment he had caused. Anatoly Chernyaev records in his diary that the kid-glove way his case was dealt with showed the transformations in the Soviet Union. ‘Not so long ago he would just have been taken away, shot and never been heard of again,’ he said. Rust returned to West Germany but never settled down. He took odd jobs in the financial sector and drifted in and out of prison on various criminal charges ranging from theft and fraud to sexual assault on a nun.
Both were tried in the spring of 1992 and their defence was that ‘at the time we were obeying the laws and commands of the German Democratic Republic’. Heinrich was sentenced to three and a half years in prison and Kühnpast was given a two-year suspended sentence in a trial which set the precedent in post-Communist reunited Germany that officials ‘obeying orders’ under the legal East Germany before November 1989 could be prosecuted. A few senior politicians were later convicted, as well as border guards and low-level officials.
Documentary proof that the shoot-to-kill policy existed did not surface until 2004. In 1966 the then Defence Minister Heinz Hoffman put the order on paper: ‘Anyone who does not respect our border will feel the bullet.’ In 1974 the leadership toughened up the rules and issued a written instruction that border guard commanders should be punished if the number of successful escapes went up. Honecker stated: ‘Firearms are to be ruthlessly used in the event of attempts to break through the border - and the comrades who have successfully used their firearms are to be commended.’
On this occasion, although the name sounds familiar, this Petrescu was not a relation of Ceauescu.
He went on, a decade later, to become Prime Minister.
Actually it belonged to one of his secret service guards, which the President had borrowed.
László Tkés subsequently became a bishop and one of the leaders of the Hungarian Reformed Church in Romania.
Indeed, it was only the second meeting ever between a pope and a Russian leader. The last had been in December 1845 when Tsar Nicholas I visited Rome and was received for a brief audience by Pope Gregory XVI.
The venue, controversially, had been suggested by the US President’s younger brother, the entrepreneur Billy Bush, who had visited Malta, had various business interests on the island and told his brother George how wonderful the weather was.