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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Berlin Slams Inquiry Into WWII Historian

A German government official has complained to President Dmitry Medvedev about an investigation into an Arkhangelsk historian accused of violating privacy rights by researching the deportations of Soviet Germans under Josef Stalin.

Marianne Birthler, Germany’s commissioner for the records of the former East German Secret Service, said in an open letter to Medvedev that the investigation into Mikhail Suprun of Arkhangelsk’s Pomorsky State University appeared to be an attempt to silence those researching Stalinist crimes and asked the president to halt it.

“I trust that you, Mr. President, appreciate the rule of law and call upon you to stop Russian authorities’ intimidation of respected historians,” she said in the letter, published this week on her official web site, Bstu.de.

The letter is dated Oct. 8, but a Kremlin spokeswoman said Tuesday that she could not comment because the president had not received it yet.

Birthler’s spokesman, Sebastian Holzinger, told The Moscow Times that the letter was sent through the German Embassy and should arrive “by the end of this week.”

Suprun, who is professor of national history, is researching a book funded by the German Red Cross about the fate of thousands of ethnic Germans who vanished in the gulag prison system.

The Arkhangelsk branch of the Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case into him on suspicion of violating the privacy of deported Germans and surviving family members after reviewing their records in local police archives. If convicted of violating privacy rights, Suprun faces up to four years in prison.

The committee said Tuesday that the investigation into Suprun and Alexander Dudaryev, the police official overseeing archive records, was ongoing. Dudaryev is accused of abuse of office for giving the historian “unchecked access” to personal data about Germans deported between 1945 and 1956, the committee said in a statement posted on its web site.

Suprun has called the allegations absurd and complained that Federal Security Service investigators have confiscated computers, dozens of books and a large amount of documents and research data. “They ruined a lifetime’s work,” he told German news service dpa last week.

Staff at Pomorsky University said Tuesday that Suprun was on a temporary research assignment in Poland and unavailable for comment, but his boss said the history department supported him. “We know him to be a good scientist … and we have no doubt in him as long as this case is undecided and hope that it will be solved quietly and successfully,” Alexei Feldt, the dean of the history department, said by telephone from Arkhangelsk.