Egon Bahr

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Egon Bahr (2014)

Egon Karl-Heinz Bahr (* 18th March 1922 in Treffurt , district Mulhouse i Th.. , Province of Saxony , Free State of Prussia ; † 19th August 2015 in Berlin ) was a German politician of the SPD .

From 1972 to 1974 he was Federal Minister for Special Tasks and from 1974 to 1976 Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation . Under the guiding principle of “change through rapprochement”, which he coined, he was one of the decisive masterminds and leading co-creators of the East and Germany policy initiated by the government under Willy Brandt from 1969 onwards .

Youth, training and work

The son of a student from Silesia and a bank clerk left Treffurt with his family at the age of 6 and lived in Torgau until he was 16 . When the National Socialists asked his father to separate from his wife, whose mother was Jewish, he gave up his job and the family moved to Berlin . Egon Bahr wanted to become a musician because of his musical talent. Because of his Jewish grandmother, however, he was not allowed to study music or become an aviator under the Nazis. After graduating from high school in 1941, Bahr was forced to train as an industrial clerk at Rheinmetall Borsig AG in Berlin. From 1942 to 1944 he took part in the Second World War as a soldier , most recently as a Fahnenjunker at Luftkriegsschule  6 in Kitzingen . According to German media reports, he was transferred back to Rheinmetall-Borsig as a “ non-Aryan ” armaments worker for “sneaking into the Wehrmacht ” because he had kept his Jewish grandmother a secret. Egon Bahr contradicted this representation. After the war he worked in West Berlin as a journalist for the Berliner Zeitung , then for the Allgemeine Zeitung and the Tagesspiegel . From 1950 to 1960 he was chief commentator and head of the RIAS Bonn office . In 1959 he became press attaché of the German embassy in Ghana .

Political activity

Egon Bahr (1978)

Egon Bahr joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany in 1956 . From 1960 to 1966, Bahr was head of the press and information office of the State of Berlin and, as such, spokesman for the Berlin Senate, led by the Governing Mayor Willy Brandt . The motto of social-liberal Ostpolitik “change through rapprochement” and the “politics of small steps” goes back to Bahr. From 1966 to 1969, during Brandt's tenure as Foreign Minister, Bahr was a special envoy and, with the rank of ministerial director, head of the political planning staff at the Foreign Office , where he prepared the “new Ostpolitik” in detail. After the Bundestag election in 1969 , he followed Brandt to the Federal Chancellery as State Secretary . Brandt sent him to Moscow at the end of 1969 as an agent for the federal government . As a negotiator in Moscow and East Berlin, Bahr was instrumental in the Moscow Treaty , Warsaw Treaty , Transit Agreement and the Basic Treaty . The latter were signed by Bahr and the chief negotiator of the GDR Michael Kohl . Bahr himself commented on the treaty with the words that the “non-relations between the two German states” would now be replaced by “bad relations”.

Bahr is sometimes referred to as the “architect of the Eastern Treaty” and was - with regard to the détente policy - one of Willy Brandt's most important and influential advisors and perhaps his closest friend: when Herbert Wehner , head of the SPD parliamentary group, was in the parliamentary group meeting on September 7th On May 24th, 1974 on the occasion of Brandt's resignation, he exclaimed: “Willy, you know we all love you,” Bahr put his hands over his face and had a crying fit. That was filmed. As he later said, he found Wehner's exclamation to be an unbelievable peak of hypocrisy, since he was of the opinion that Wehner had been driving Brandt's overthrow for a long time and had ultimately contributed to it.

According to the historian Daniela Münkel , the secret liaison man of the GDR government, Hermann von Berg Bahr , asked Brandts in an interview on March 21, 1972 how he would react to the possibility of "measures against the CDU / CSU" by the GDR state security Secure majority in the upcoming ratifications of the Eastern Treaties in the Bundestag. After consulting with Brandt and Chancellery Minister Horst Ehmke , at another meeting on March 24th, Bahr rejected the offer that had now been expanded to include the possibility of bribery . However, in 2013 Bahr denied having had such discussions. In a conversation with Michael Kohl on April 25th, he said he rejected the offer to buy votes from the opposition before the impending vote of no confidence , pointing out that in this case the federal government would work “with the same resources” as the opposition: “ Whatever is possible would be tried. "(Cf. Steiner-Wienand affair )

From 1972 to 1990 Bahr was a member of the German Bundestag , from 1976 to 1983 as a directly elected member of the constituency of Flensburg - Schleswig and otherwise on the Schleswig-Holstein state list . After Willy Brandt's resignation on May 7, 1974, Bahr was no longer a member of the cabinet of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who was in office from May 16, 1974 . When Erhard Eppler resigned from the office of Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation , however, Bahr entered the federal government again on July 8, 1974.

After the federal election in 1976 , he left the federal government on December 14, 1976. From 1976 to 1981 he was federal manager of the SPD. Mainly at his instigation, the then federal chairman of the Jusos , Klaus Uwe Benneter , was expelled from the SPD. Benneter had previously stated that the DKP was a potential ally of the SPD because it was only a "political opponent" and not, as with the CDU , a "class opponent" . In addition, Benneter had also questioned the status of the Young Socialists as an SPD youth organization. From 1980 Bahr was chairman of the subcommittee on disarmament and arms control in the Bundestag.

In the 1980s, Bahr repeatedly took the view that a peace treaty for Germany as a whole had become a fiction. It could “only be about two peace treaties for the two German states”. In September 1986, during talks on behalf of the SPD leadership, Bahr assured the GDR state and party leader, Erich Honecker , that "when the SPD takes over government" after the federal election in 1987, "the government of the FRG will fully respect the citizenship of the GDR " ; this should "be part of an official government declaration and would [...] be clearly stated by J. Rau [...] when announcing his government program." In a speech at the "Munich Podium in the Kammerspiele '88": "I know the formulas and have used them myself, from the reunification, which are repeated like a prayer wheel, as if nothing essential had changed in forty years. But prayer wheels cannot change reality. ”There are more pressing problems - e. B. hunger, AIDS, environmental destruction, population explosion, armaments - and these could not be combined with a solution to the German question. Therefore there will be two German states while disarmament processes are taking place, a Western European Union is being tried and “the European House” is being designed. “Anyone who raises the German question is disturbing Europe. The Germans are no longer allowed to be troublemakers. ”In the late autumn of 1988 he described the demands for German reunification as“ Sunday talk, (...) lies, hypocrisy that poison us and others, political pollution ”. Five days after the fall of the Berlin Wall , he still called it a “lie of life to talk about reunification”.

Family and private

The grave of honor at Chausseestraße 126 in Berlin-Mitte in August 2016

Egon Bahr's mother was of Jewish origin. Because of this, his father, a teacher, was pressured to end the marriage during the Nazi era. His father resisted successfully.

Egon Bahr had a son and a daughter from a marriage with Dorothea Grob in 1945. He separated from his wife in 1977 but remained married to her until her death in 2011. From the relationship with the journalist Karena Niehoff (1920-1992) he had another daughter. Christiane Leonhardt (* 1941) was his partner from 1977 to 2002.
Since 2011 he was married to the former university professor Adelheid Bahr (* 1935; previously Adelheid Bonnemann-Böhner).

Bahr died on August 19, 2015 at the age of 93 years of complications from a heart attack . Bahr received an honorary grave in Berlin at the Dorotheenstadt cemetery .

Other offices, initiatives, honors and awards

In 1980 Bahr became a member of the " Independent Commission for Disarmament and Security " chaired by the Swedish politician Olof Palme . The Commission published its report in 1982 under the title Common Security . One of the Commission's proposals was the idea of ​​a nuclear-weapon-free corridor in Central Europe.

Bahr published various writings on future German foreign policy after the end of the Cold War . Bahr advocated the thesis that Europe and Germany should seek greater influence in the world within the framework of a civil power . From 1984 to 1994 he was Scientific Director of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg. Since 1984 he has been an honorary professor at the University of Hamburg . He was a co-founder of the yearbook Friedensgutachten, first published in 1987, and its co-editor until 1991. In 1991, Bahr initiated a discussion on the creation of a "German Peace Corps".

In 1963 Egon Bahr received the Great Silver Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria . In 1973 he was awarded the Great Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and two years later with the star and shoulder ribbon. In 1976 Bahr received the Theodor Heuss Prize and in 1982 the Gustav Heinemann Citizen Prize .

In 2002 he was given honorary citizenship by the city of Berlin. In 2007 Egon Bahr was honored with the Willy Brandt Prize of the Norwegian-German Willy Brandt Foundation, in 2008 with the Göttingen Peace Prize and the Marion Dönhoff Prize . On October 6, 2008, the International University Institute (IHI) Zittau awarded him an honorary doctorate for his services to the European unification process . On November 11, 2008 he received the German Society Award . V. for services to German and European understanding. In 2009, Egon Bahr was awarded the Heckerhut for his concept of change through rapprochement. On January 14, 2010 he received the Order of Merit of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia . In 2011 he was awarded the Steiger Award and in 2012 the Tutzinger Lion of the Evangelical Academy in Tutzing . In 2013 he received the Kaiser Otto Prize .

On December 13, 2013, Bahr was awarded the Heinrich Albertz Peace Prize of the Workers' Welfare Association for his work and actions. In March 2015, Bahr received the Friedrich Joseph Haass Prize of the German-Russian Forum in Berlin .

Egon Bahr had been a member of the German PEN since 1974 .

Even during his lifetime, the street in which he was born was named after him in his hometown of Treffurt. He inaugurated it himself in 2004. He had moved away at the age of six and only returned to his hometown 55 years later.

Egon Bahr at the Leipzig Book Fair 2013


  • In my time . Autobiography , Blessing, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-89667-001-8 .
  • Wolfram Hoppenstedt (ed.): Willy Brandts European foreign policy. Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt Foundation, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-933090-02-4 (= series of publications of the Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt Foundation , issue 3).
  • German interests: pamphlet on power, security and foreign policy. Goldmann, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-442-75593-X .
  • The German way: natural and normal. Blessing, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-89667-244-4 .
  • Plea for a transatlantic division of labor. In: Thomas Jäger, Alexander Höse, Kai Oppermann (Ed.): Transatlantic Relations. Security - Economy - Public. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2005, ISBN 3-531-14579-7 , pp. 489–495.
  • Eastward and don't forget anything! Cooperation instead of confrontation. VSA-Verlag, Hamburg 2012, ISBN 978-3-89965-504-9 .
  • “You have to tell” - memories of Willy Brandt. Propylaea, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-549-07422-0 .
  • with Peter Ensikat : gaps in memory. Two Germans remember. Construction Verlag, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-7466-2972-8 . - based on conversations started in April 2006 as part of a television broadcast.
  • The apple tree principle: 11 personalities on the question “What remains?” Published by the initiative “My heritage does good. The Apple Tree Principle ”. Photographs by Bettina Flitner . Past Publishing, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-86408-182-8 .
  • Experience with scientists and the new challenges for European security: opportunities for arms control and disarmament , lecture at the event on 60 years of the Russell Einstein Manifesto on July 9, 2015.
  • Security is only possible together . In: Neues Deutschland from 29./30. August 2015, p. 21.


  • Andreas Vogtmeier: Egon Bahr and the German question. On the development of social democratic East and Germany policy from the end of the war to unification. (Political and Social History Series, Volume 44), Bonn 1996.
  • Jens Hacker : German errors. Whitewashers and accomplices of the SED dictatorship in the West. Ullstein publishing house. Berlin / Frankfurt a. M. 1992, pp. 244-251 ISBN 3-550-07207-4
  • Daniel Friedrich Sturm : “Metternich” in Moscow. Egon Bahr's change through rapprochement. In: Germany Archive. Vol. 42, No. 5, 2009, pp. 841-846.

Web links

Commons : Egon Bahr  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Hermann Schreiber : He thinks too much - people are dangerous . In: Der Spiegel . No. 53 , 1972 ( online - 25 December 1972 ).
  2. a b The Diplomat Egon Bahr - Feature by Steffen Lüddemann , NDR Info Special from 23 August 2015, accessed 23 August 2015
  3. Andreas Vogtmeier, Egon Bahr and the German question, p. 77. 1941 is also mentioned in Politische Studien Vol. 18 (1967) p. 326.
  4. ^ Egon Bahr in conversation ( memento from August 29, 2015 in the Internet Archive ), NDR-Info, 2013
  5. ↑ Learned a lot . In: Der Spiegel . No. 7 , 1970 ( online - Feb. 9, 1970 ).
  6. ^ Change through rapprochement (PDF; 110 kB) , Egon Bahr's speech on July 15, 1963 in the Evangelical Academy in Tutzing. Last accessed on December 23, 2013.
  7. Jens Hacker: German errors. Whitewashers and accomplices of the SED dictatorship in the West. Berlin / Frankfurt a. M. 1992, p. 245.
  8. Willy Brandt - memories of a politician's life. In: ARTE TV from December 10, 2013, 8.15 p.m. (88 minutes).
  9. ^ Daniela Münkel: campaigns, spies, secret channels. The Stasi and Willy Brandt (BF informed, 32/2013). Online publication by the Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the Former German Democratic Republic - Department of Education and Research, Berlin, November 2013, p. 48 ff.
  10. Michael Bohnet: History of German Development Policy: Strategies, Interior Views, Contemporary Witnesses, Challenges , Konstanz / Munich, UVK Verlagsgesellschaft 2015 (utb 4320), ISBN 978-3-8252-4320-3 .
  11. Egon Bahr, On European Peace - An Answer to Gorbachev . Berlin 1988, pp. 45-46.
  12. Jochen Staadt, After over there. How the GDR organized a stream of asylum seekers to the Federal Republic of Germany in 1985/86 and how the SPD responded to it, in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , November 30, 2015, p. 9.,
  13. Martin Walser / Kurt Sontheimer / Walter Jens / Egon Bahr / Klaus Höpcke, speeches about one's own country: Germany, Munich 1988, p. 104
  14. ^ "Illusion, not vision" Egon Bahr, Reflection on one's own country, Frankfurter Rundschau , December 13, 1988.
  15. ^ " Schlaglichter der Deutschen Einheit" Ed. Michael Borchard. Bonn 2008, p. 28.
  16. ^ The secret diplomat Egon Bahr. Documentation, D 2012.
  17. ^ Christiane Leonhardt, Archive of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. Last accessed on December 23, 2013.
  18. Entry in the State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia ( Memento from September 24, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  19. Happy: SPD politician Egon Bahr remarried at the age of 89. In: Berliner Morgenpost -Online from June 25, 2011. Last accessed on December 23, 2013.
  20. Egon Bahr is dead - he died of heart failure at the age of 93 - Germany. Retrieved August 20, 2015 .
  21. Egon Bahr's grave
  22. List of all decorations awarded by the Federal President for services to the Republic of Austria from 1952 (PDF; 6.9 MB)
  23. Announcement of awards of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. In: Federal Gazette . Vol. 25, No. 43, March 9, 1973.
  24. Super User: 2008 - Deutsche Gesellschaft eV Accessed on December 11, 2017 .
  25. ^ SPD Radolfzell: Egon Bahr receives the Heckerhut 2009 . Published on November 16, 2009
  26. ^ Tutzinger lion . Evangelical Academy Tutzing. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  27. ^ Heinrich Albertz Peace Prize to Egon Bahr . From on December 13, 2013, accessed on December 23, 2013.
  28. The alarmed prize winner. German-Russian Forum honors 'bridge builder' Egon Bahr. In: Neues Deutschland , 28./29. March 2015, p. 7
  29. ^ Obituary of the city of Treffurt in Egon Baht , accessed on May 6, 2020.
  30. 60 Years of the Russell Einstein Manifesto. Retrieved March 5, 2019 .
  31. Security is only possible together . August 29, 2015. Retrieved March 19, 2016.