This year , ten years will have passed since German unification on October 3, 1990. After the Wall came down, East and West faced the challenges of assimilating cultures and "mastering the past" of the socialist regime. This coming to terms with the past included the trials and convictions of East German border guards and the political leadership responsible for the nearly 600 deaths at the inter-German border. The convictions raise fundamental questions: What was the law in East Germany - the language on the statute books or the secret orders to kill rather than to permit escape? May the courts resort to notions of morality to deal with a system of state injustice, holding that wicked rules cannot be law? And, ultimately, should the ban on retroactive punishment apply in times of transition from an unjust system to a rule-of-law democracy? While there are no easy answers, the judgments are a significant part of the effort of joining two societies and building a stable democracy for the future. The cases were decided correctly because they condemn the killings and vindicate the East Germans' sense of justice and law, yet emphasize the rule of law. In this way, the decisions aid the process of coming to terms with the past.