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Cold War ban is lifted at last

GERMANY. The last communist to be barred from teaching has finally got a job, reports Yojana Sharma.

A TEACHER banned from the profession for being a communist has finally won his fight for a post after a 23-year wait.

More than a decade after the Berlin Wall came down, Anton Brenner, 50, started his first teaching job at a school in the southern German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg after the state's education minister Annette Schavan intervened on his behalf with school administrators.

Brenner walked through the doors of a vocational school in the small town of Balingen, south of Stuttgart, more than two decades after being certified as a secondary teacher of German and religion.

Brenner was a Communist party member. Under the Radikalenerlass, a decree issued in 1972 under Social Democrat Chancellor Willy Brandt, members of the party and some other "extremist" organisations were barred from the civil service which includes teaching posts.

The decree affected thousands of trained teachers throughout the former West Germany. Most of them were cleared for re-instatement in the 1980s but the case of Brenner, fought in the courts, became a cause celebre.

After German re-unification, Brenner joined the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), successor to East Germany'scommunist party. Although it is now a mainstream party, and represented in the Bundestag, he continued to be excluded from teaching posts.

When the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 1995 that banning applicants to the civil service for political reasons was illegal, Brenner filed several complaints with the schools authority but was judged "too old" to begin a career as a teacher.

It was only in March this year that the Baden-Wuerttemberg state parliament decided that candidates turned down under the Radikalenerlass could ask to have their cases reviewed.

Brenner's case was pushed by minister Ms Schavan in the face of considerable opposition from the schools authority.

The case has been closely watched by politicians in other states who have been suggesting a ban on neo-Nazi civil servants after a wave of extreme-right

violence this summer. The Brenner case has shown it may be controversial move, likely to be challenged by those affected.

Brenner, a PDS member of his local city council, says he will give up his copy shop which he has run for several years, to devote himself to teaching. He has yet to hear if he will be paid an entry-level salary or one commensurate with his age.

He will teach Catholic religion and information technology.

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