German Protestant theologian Horst Kasner
08-06-1926 - 09-02-2011 (years 85)
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Horst Kasner (Aug. 6 1926 in Berlin – Sept. 2, 2011) was a German Protestant theologian and father of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Kasner was born in 1926 as the son of a policeman in the Pankow suburb of Berlin, where he was also raised. Little is known about his wartime service, and he was held as a prisoner of war at age 19. From 1948 he studied theology, first in Heidelberg then in Hamburg. He married an English and Latin teacher, Herlind Jentzsch (born July 8 1928 in Gdańsk), and their daughter Angela was born in 1954.

Several weeks after the birth of their daughter, the family moved from Hamburg to East Berlin. The interior border was not yet completely closed, but most German migration was in the opposite direction. In the first five months of 1954, 180,000 people had fled the GDR, and during the building of the border defenses between 1949 and 1961, around 2.5 million had left.

Kasner moved to the East according to the wishes of Hamburg Bishop Hans-Otto Wölber who feared a shortage of parish priests in the East would work against the church. The priest found a pastor's position with the Evangelical Church Berlin-Brandenburg and the family moved to a rectory in the village of Quitzow by Perleberg. The East German church and Christianity at the time was characterized by oppression on account of the Eastern Socialist Party. Priests took various positions in their willingness to cooperate with the "construction of socialism."

Three years later in 1957 Kasner moved to the small Brandenburg town of Templin. There, at the request of General Superintendant Albrecht Schönherr, he took a development position in the religious education office. Schönherr, in a 2004 interview indicated he made the appointment "due to the good working conditions and Kasner's abilities as a pedagogue." The location of the continuing education buildings was the Waldhof, a complex of church buildings erected outside the center of Templin, which from 1958 on, also housed a facility for the mentally handicapped.

The family bore a son Marcus on July 7 1957 and a second daughter, Irene, on August 19 1964.

Kasner was regarded as a religious leader and idealist who did not oppose the church governance or the policies of the Socialist party, unlike Schönherr and Hanfried Müller (members of the Weissenser Worker's Circle standing in opposition to dominant national-conservative trend of Berlin bishop Otto Dibelius). From a perspective of governance, Kasner was considered one of the more "progressive" forces. His nickname during GDR times, quoted repeatedly in the press, was "Red Kasner." He was the longtime director of the Pastoral college in a key position within the Evangelical church. All theologians were required as part of their education and training to spend some time as a vicar with their second theological examination in Templin. In this context there is little record of any pressure put on priests to conform to the system.

Kasner took trips abroad as part of the National Front and was given the privilege of traveling to the West either by company car or private vehicle, which could be procured through Genex. On the other hand, his wife, Herlind, was forbidden to do so due to her position as a GDR teacher. A recruitment effort by the Stasi is presumed to have failed. Unlike the children in other pastor's families, the higher education of the Kasner children was not impeded.

From the late 1960's onward, Kasner criticized the social order of West Germany and he did not support reunification.

Kasner's regular interlocutors in terms of church politics were Wolfgang Schnur and Clemens de Maizière, the father of the later GDR president Lothar de Maizière. Schnur, later chairmen of the opposition party Democratic Awakening, was a member of the Synod of the Evangelic church in Mecklenburg and temporarily vice president of the Synod of the Evangelic Church Union and the Synod of the Evangelic Churches in the GDR. He was, alongside the Synod of the Berlin/Brandenburg Church, one of the earliest members of the Christian Democratic Union in East Germany. Also negotiating alongside Kasner, Schnur, and Maizière in the East German government from 1979-1988 was state secretary for church affairs, Klaus Gysi.

After Die Wende, Kasner advocated against further military use of the Bombodrom, a military allotment in northern Brandenburg and fell out of good relations with Lothar de Maizière when the latter's association with the Stasi was exposed.


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