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West German ban on radicals in civil service under fire

By Howard ReasonSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / February 2, 1982



Bonn

A controversial West German ban on political radicals holding public service jobs has come under fire from all sides.

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When Willy Brandt and the premiers of 10 federal states first issued the ''basic principles on the question of forces hostile to the constitution in the public service'' 10 years ago, they were not prepared for what was to come.

The ban would be used to usher in an era of systematic surveillance of the political loyalty of candidates for state employment.

Although the ban applies chiefly to members of the tiny West German Communist Party (DKP) and a handful of leftist splinter groups, instances of evidence being used against would-be public servants is wide-ranging.

The controversial ban applies to all public service jobs - not just senior officials in sensitive government posts but also teachers, train drivers, and even park-keepers.

Today the ban has been restricted to only occasional cases by the federal government, but the administrations of conservative-governed states have just begun a new purge of alleged communist sympathizers in the teaching profession.

Candidates for teaching posts interviewed recently said they were asked questions such as: ''You were seen in 1974 handing out leaflets about repression in Chile. Did you support the Marxist Allende regime?'' And ''You wrote an article on youth soccer for a newspaper in Stade in 1977. Were you aware that the paper is Communist-funded?''

The ammunition for such hearings is supplied by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, West Germany's domestic intelligence agency. Candidates are not aware in advance what questions they will be asked. And since the whole procedure is administrative, not judicial, there is no binding legal definition of what is subversive or ''hostile to the constitution.''

In conservative states, membership of the youth wing of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt's Social Democratic Party (SPD) is sometimes declared sufficient grounds to refuse an applicant. Activity in the ''peace movement'' campaigning against deployment of nuclear missiles here was used recently, against applicants for teaching posts in Monchengladbach.

A ruling last October by the federal administrative court, a branch of West Germany's high court, set a precedent for the latest purge of radicals. The court approved the firing of telephone technician Hans Peter after 30 years of blameless service in the federal post office because he had run for local office on a Communist ticket.

Any activity for the pro-Moscow DKP constituted a breach of a civil servant's duty and therefore was grounds for dismissal, it said. In a twist reminiscent of the novel ''Catch-22,'' it cited as one of the grounds for dismissal the fact that Mr. Peter ''took part in campaigns against professional bans.''

Federal Interior Minister Gerhart Baum was dismayed by the verdict and is seeking to limit its impact by preparing legislation to differentiate between the loyalty required from senior officials and that expected of minor civil servants.

But the Christian Democratic governments in lower Saxony, Baden-Wurttemberg, and Bavaria seized on the judgement, which for the first time explicitly authorized the removal of life-long civil servants. Lower Saxony's interior minister announced he was taking steps to fire 23 teachers who ran for town councils, and in some cases were elected, on DKP-backed lists. The watchdog committee reports similar cases in the two southern states.

Though the DKP is a legal political party entitled to organize and contest elections, it is regarded for the purposes of the radical ban as ''hostile to the constitution.''

The decree against radicals was originally issued to counter survivors of the late 1960s student movement whose leader, Rudi Dutschke, had called for a ''long march through the state institutions.'' Its widespread application betrayed West Germany's lack of confidence in its own citizens. But the chief result of the ban may have been to deepen young West Germans' mistrust of their state.

The ''berufsverbot'' - a term the government detests because it was coined by the Nazis - is almost always one of the first reasons cited by alienated youngsters for their rejection of state authority. It has also done little for Bonn's international standing. In 1979, West Germany had the dubious distinction of playing host to the international Bertrand Russell Tribunal, which held hearings on ''civil and professional liberties in the Federal Republic of Germany.''