* 1900 IN BERLIN †1989 IN HALLE
A NEW BEGINNING IN THE GDR
In 1937, Arthur Wegner, professor of law at the university of Halle (Saale), is removed from his position by the National Socialists because his wife is Jewish. Wife and daughter flee to Great Britain, and Wegner is subsequently arrested by the Gestapo. After the closing of the proceedings against him, he follows his family to Great Britain in 1938. He returns to Germany after the war, but the Western Allies refuse to allow him to return to Halle. In 1946 he is appointed professor at the university of Munster and becomes head of its Canon Law Institute.
Wegner is critical of Chancellor Adenauer’s policy of western integration. He advocates for state recognition of the GDR by West Germany at a National Council event in East Berlin in 1959. The Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs in Dusseldorf takes legal action against Wegner, who is considered politically hostile. In August of 1959, he is asked in an official letter to have his “mental-spiritual and physical condition” examined. Shortly thereafter, preliminary proceedings on the charge of high treason are initiated against him
Just imagine the damage inflicted on you when you’re suddenly suspected of not being quite right in the head anymore!
Wegner knows that his is by no means an isolated case. He is acquainted with Walter Hagemann, who also teaches in Munster and who, for similar reasons, has also been undergoing disciplinary proceedings since April 1959. Because of this, Wegner does not even try to defend himself. He moves to the GDR and publicly asks for temporary asylum.
He becomes professor at the university of Halle in 1963, and retires two years later. Arthur Wegner is grateful for his acceptance in the GDR. This is also reflected in his 4,000 page unpublished autobiogra- phy, entitled “The Unknown Priest.” He sends annual updates of this work to the Central Committee of the SED for safekeeping.