By Allan Hall
October 2, 2009 / dailymail.co.uk
A mother whose children were taken away by the Stasi secret police of former East Germany has been reunited with one of them nearly 40 years after she was born.
Petra Hoffman, 55, hugged her daughter Mandy Reinhardt, 38, for the first time this week since agents of the hard line Communist regime took her away shortly after she was born.
Ms Reinhardt was born in 1971 when her mother was just 16 and worked in a government cafeteria.
But the father was a man the state disapproved of after he had served prison time for speaking out against the imperfections of life in totalitarian East Germany.
'The Youth Welfare people came to my door one day, said I was not a fit person to be a mother,' said Mrs Hoffman.
'They put me and her into a home. Days later, against my will, Mandy was given up for adoption.'
This was a common practice invoked by the Stasi against its enemies. Rather than resorting to crude torture or beatings, it tried to crush the will of those who displease it with the cruellest psychological pressures.
Mrs Hoffman said: 'I tried to fight them. But I was young.
'And all that happened was that they put me in jail as an enemy of the state.'
When she was released from jail, she became pregnant again and gave birth to a son called Ronny in 1974. He was just days old when he was taken.
'They came to the door at night, pushed me aside, and stole him from his bed,' she said.
Mrs Hoffman spent six years in jail as a dissident because of the fuss she kicked up in trying to find both her children.
During her final court appearance before she was sentenced to Bautzen - the most feared of jails in the German Democratic Republic - the judge told her: 'You are a rat gnawing away at the magnificent pillars of socialism.'
When the Berlin Wall came down and she was released to her hometown of Bad Schlema, in Saxony, Mrs Hoffman began the search for her children.
She badgered authorities, placed notices in newspapers and appealed to old friends but the Stasi had destroyed most of the paperwork and her search came to nothing.
Then, six weeks ago, as Germany prepares massive celebrations for next month marking 20 years since the Berlin Wall fell, a letter came from Berlin which read: 'You don't know me at all, but I believe you are my mother.'
Mrs Reinhardt, a mother-of-two herself, had searched since 1992 for her mother after her foster parents told her she was adopted.
She said: 'I searched and searched on the internet and wrote to the authorities but it was only a few weeks ago I saw my mother's plea on a website.
'We met up and held each other and cried and cried and cried. We worked out together that I was her daughter because of certain facts my foster parents told me.
'They both worked for the party and so were favoured to get a child.
'They also knew about Ronny. That is our goal now - to find Ronny and become a family again.
'My foster parents were lovely people but she is my real mother and I have waited so long for this day.'
Mrs Hoffman added: 'What mother should have to endure such things as this?
'Those b******* robbed me of everything precious to a mother – seeing her grow up, do well at school, get married. But they didn’t win in the end, did they?'
It comes in the same week a film was screened in Germany called 'Beyond The Wall', chronicling a married couple who failed to cross the Berlin Wall and had their daughter taken from them as a result.
The Stasi turned one-in-three people in the old East Germany into a spy for the state.
Even now their shadow is still cast across reunited Germany as some of the former secret policemen continue to hold jobs - amid much controversy - in major government departments, the police and in industry.