Chancellor Helmut Kohl told West German Christian Democrats Monday that they should not judge their East German party colleagues too harshly for their actions under 40 years of communism.
Opening the party's unity congress two days before the German states merge, he acknowledged that the years in which the East German Christian Democrats cooperated with the Communists had been full of "bitter and tragic episodes.""It was a road of desperate struggle for self-preservation and sometimes of insight that came too late," Kohl told nearly 1,000 delegates from both countries. "The road was also marked by ruthless suppression by the regime, human failure and foolhardy illusions."
In an admonition to the Western delegates, he added: "Those who had the privilege to live for 40 years in freedom should beware of making blanket judgments or even of condemning. Everyone should ask himself how he would have behaved under this pressure."
The West German Christian Democrats held their final congress as a separate party Monday, with East German delegates attending as guests. Early in the afternoon the two parties formally became one, and the two-day congress continued as an all-German affair.
Kohl, celebrating exactly eight years in office as chancellor at the head of a center-right coalition, made clear that he expected to be confirmed as all-German chancellor in elections Dec. 2.
Welcoming foreign ambassadors observing the congress, he said: "I hope you will write in your reports home that this is a party on the way to victory."