Disgraced former East German leader Erich Honecker is a broken man, barely able to comprehend the momentous changes in the country he ruled for 18 years, his security chief said today.
"It is difficult for him to understand everything. His whole world has collapsed," Maj. Gen. Guenter Wolf said at the compound that for 30 years housed the Communist Party elite north of Berlin behind high walls and under armed guard.
He spoke to Western reporters during an unprecedented tour of the previously top-secret settlement, focus of many rumors and stories among East Germans.
"I visited him after he left the Politburo . . . to discuss certain questions about him living here and so on," Wolf told reporters in an empty house, one of the 23 large but not sumptuous dwellings on the snow-coated forest site.
"He's a broken man," the tough security chief said before pausing, looking down moist-eyed and visibly overcome.
Honecker, 77, resigned last month as party chief and head of state after a wave of pro-democracy protests. Now he is in disgrace, facing a party disciplinary hearing and an investigation into corruption during his authoritarian rule.
"What's he got to live for? He wouldn't be able to stand appearing in public again," said Wolf.
There was no sign of life behind the net-curtained windows at the front of No. 11, Honecker's home in the "Wandlitz Forest Settlement," which the leadership built for themselves in 1958 as a response to the failed 1956 Hungarian uprising against Soviet domination.
But photographers saw him through blinds in a room at the rear of the two-story, cream-colored house that would not look out of place in a West German suburb.
The blinds snapped shut when he noticed the cameramen.
Outside the house stood an East German Wartburg, the car of Honecker's wife, Margot, who was sacked as education minister last month.
Honecker was forced to step down Oct. 18 in the face of huge street protests and an exodus of disgruntled citizens.
He was replaced by Egon Krenz, who like almost all the remaining active party leaders has moved out of the compound and into a smaller property in East Berlin.