Egon Krenz

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Egon Krenz, 1984
Signature of Egon Krenz

Egon Krenz Rudi Ernst (* 19th March 1937 in Kolberg , Pomerania ) is a former German politician of the SED . From October 17 to December 6, 1989, he was Erich Honecker's successor, SED General Secretary and Chairman of the State Council of the GDR . In his televised speech on this occasion, he introduced the term turnaround in GDR politics, which is still in use today for the final phase of the GDR, but is rejected mainly by former civil rights activists in the GDR, partly because of this origin. In the wall protecting processes in 1997, Krenz was convicted of manslaughter for six and a half years imprisonment convicted, of whom he after entering prison in the Moabit prison until his release in 2003 was serving in 1999 almost four years. Krenz has been publishing works of remembrance since 1989.

Childhood, education and military service

Krenz was born the son of a tailor in Kolberg, where he started school in 1943. He acted as an extra during the shooting of the film Kolberg in his hometown in 1943/44 . In 1944 his mother fled to Damgarten with him and his sister . His father died in World War II. Krenz finished school in Damgarten in 1953. In the same year he became a member of the Free German Youth (FDJ). Krenz broke off an apprenticeship as a locksmith at VEB Dieselmotorenwerk Rostock , studied from 1953 to 1957 at the “ Diesterweg ” - Institute for Teacher Training in Putbus on Rügen, and graduated with a lower-level teacher diploma. At the teacher training institute he was secretary of the FDJ basic organization and from 1956 also a member of the FDJ district leadership Rügen. In 1955 he became a member of the SED. From 1957 to 1959 Krenz served in the National People's Army (NVA) in Prora as a non-commissioned officer and exercised FDJ functions at division level . In 1958 he was a delegate of the party organization of the NVA to the fifth party  congress of the SED .

Political career

Advancement in youth organization and party

Egon Krenz 1974 in conversation with Polish contract workers

In 1959 Krenz was first 2nd, then 1st district secretary of the FDJ in the Rügen district . From 1960 he was first secretary of the Rostock district management of the FDJ. In 1961 he became secretary of the central council of the FDJ and was responsible for the work of the youth association at universities, colleges and technical schools. From 1964 to 1967 Krenz studied at the party college of the CPSU in Moscow and graduated as a social scientist . Subsequently, from 1967 to 1974, he was secretary of the central council of the FDJ, responsible for agitation and propaganda as well as for the work of the FDJ in schools. At the same time he worked from February 8, 1971 to January 9, 1974 as chairman of the pioneering organization "Ernst Thälmann" . From 1974 to 1983 he held the function of First Secretary of the Central Council of the FDJ.

From 1971 to 1990 Krenz was a member of the People's Chamber of the GDR, from 1971 to 1981 also a member of its presidium. In 1973 he became a member of the Central Committee (ZK) of the SED. From 1981 to 1984 Krenz was a member of the State Council of the GDR . In 1983 he became a member of the Politburo and Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED for security issues, youth, sport, state and government affairs. Legal issues elected. With his appointment as deputy chairman of the State Council , Krenz became the second man behind Erich Honecker in 1984 .

Peaceful revolution

Egon Krenz, Chairman of the State Council and the National Defense Council of the GDR and member of the State Council at the first meeting after the 10th People's Chamber on October 24, 1989
Egon Krenz and Wolfgang Herger (front) at the round table, January 22, 1990

In May 1989, Krenz, as head of the Central Election Commission, was responsible for the falsification of the results of the local elections . Regarding the bloody suppression of the student uprising on Tiananmen Square in Beijing , he said that "something has been done to restore order." The fear of a "Chinese solution" intensified in the GDR when Krenz traveled there during the beginnings of the revolutionary developments on October 1, 1989 on the 40th anniversary of the founding of the PR China. Manfred Görtemaker described this trip as a signal for "political support for an undemocratic, totalitarian regime". The bloody suppression of the student uprising was openly supported by Krenz there. After that, however, as the Central Committee secretary responsible for security issues and spokesman among the younger forces in the SED party leadership, he campaigned for a peaceful reaction by the security forces at the Monday demonstrations . However, it was not until Order 9/89, which Krenz formulated together with Deputy Defense Minister Fritz Streletz, bypassing Honecker on October 13, that the use of firearms during demonstrations was prohibited . The National People's Army had previously been placed in "increased combat readiness " for October 6-9 . In relation to the Leipzig events on October 9, which were decisive for everything else , Krenz's presentation and the information provided by the Leipzig human rights groups in 1989 differ considerably. While the former writes with reference to himself that the "course for the restraint of the emergency services [...] in Berlin had been set", their leaders, the police chief and the SED district chief of Leipzig during the demonstration with their decisions were the first were subsequently approved by Krenz, largely on their own.

Whatever happened before in Berlin as a reorientation “setting the course”, it had obviously not been “put through” to the base of the NVA. In the afternoon, machine gunmen were threatened with a military court if they refused to give orders.

Despite Honecker's poor state of health and the fact that he had forgotten reality , which harbored great dangers, it was not until mid-October 1989 that the Politburo suggested that he resign. On October 18, the "Crown Prince" Krenz succeeded him as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED. In his inaugural address, Krenz officially used the term "Wende" for the first time . The aim was to stabilize SED rule:

"With today's conference we will initiate a turning point, above all we will regain the political and ideological offensive."

Krenz also became chairman of the State Council and the National Defense Council of the GDR on October 24, 1989 . He left the housing estate for the members of the SED Politburo Waldsiedlung Wandlitz near Berlin with his wife and son and wanted to “send a signal”.

On November 1, he accepted Gorbachev's invitation to Moscow. The book Endspiel says: “Egon Krenz heated up the mood again on November 1st. At a press conference in Moscow [...] he said that everything that had developed positively in the last few days and weeks was the result of the Politburo and the Central Committee of the SED. ”However, he described this in his book from 1990 as a“ mistake ”:

“I talked about my party turning things around. But I wanted to say that we had turned the party around. So many understood: The turning point caused by the people had never happened. That had made the party 'at the top' alone. Of course, that's not what I meant, and I felt sorry for this slip-up. "

This repentant portrayal is little known. In his diary-like report, published years later, there are 15 pages as of November 1st, on which the press conference (with 100 minutes of direct broadcast on GDR television) is not mentioned at all.

On November 3, Krenz signed the order 11/89 in view of the large demonstration announced for Berlin on the following day. It said:

"The use of firearms in connection with possible demonstrations is generally prohibited."

After the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9th, which could also be reached without bloodshed, the uncertainty surrounding his actions increased considerably. At a meeting of the " Democratic Bloc " on November 11 to prepare the Modrow cabinet , he met the new CDU chairman and later Prime Minister Lothar de Maizière for the first time . He characterized his pre-formulated “small press release” for the conference as “old-style court reports” and suggested abbreviated titles with “Herr Generalsekretär Krenz” without Council of State and Defense, etc. Krenz with pen and paper: “Can you tell me that again. "

On November 29th, he tried to jump on the bandwagon of the appeal " For our country ". This contained the plea for an initially independent, socialist GDR.

On December 3, 1989, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the SED (including Egon Krenz) resigned after massive protests, including from the base of the party. After seven weeks in office, Krenz handed over the chairmanship of the State Council to the LDPD politician Manfred Gerlach on December 6th . In January 1990 he resigned his mandate from the People's Chamber and was expelled from the SED-PDS under Gregor Gysi , which has since been renamed . His book from the same year ends with this statement.

Sentencing and imprisonment

After 1991 Egon Krenz was heard as a witness in various criminal proceedings against former representatives of the GDR. In 1992 he denied having noticed the systematic election fraud in his function as the top election officer in the GDR. An earlier statement by Krenz at the 12th Central Committee meeting of the SED in December 1989 contradicts this, however . There he said about the local elections in May:

“Of course, it is clear to me and I am aware, also from today's perspective, that the election result achieved did not agree with the actual political situation in the country either then or now. But there was no other way to announce another election result, because it was put together in accordance with the protocols that also exist in the districts. If we were to reopen this question now, as some people suggest, comrades, I am afraid that we will not only vacate positions that we still have, then we can go home entirely. I ask you not to take this on the record. "

In 1993 he denied the responsibility of the former members of the GDR Defense Council for the situation on the inner-German border. From 1993, the public prosecutor's office started investigating Krenz because of the use of weapons by the GDR border troops against refugees (fatal shots at the inner-German border ) and incitement to falsify elections.

In June 1993, the Berlin public prosecutor's office brought charges of "manslaughter and joint responsibility for the border regime of the GDR". Egon Krenz described the charges because of the deaths as "unconstitutional and contrary to international law". The so-called Politburo trial came about . Also in February 1996 he denied the Federal German judiciary the right to sit in court over former citizens of the GDR. In June 1997, Krenz firstly regretted the victims at the inner-German border, but on the other hand rejected his responsibility. In August, a large criminal chamber of the Berlin Regional Court sentenced Egon Krenz to a prison sentence of six years and six months for manslaughter in four cases. He was released from custody after 18 days in September due to a complaint. From these days comes a controversial and historically significant correspondence with Friedrich Schorlemmer , who said that Krenz should be happy "to be in Moabit and not in Bautzen ". - In November the proceedings against him for fraudulent elections were dropped.

In November 1999 the Federal Court of Justice rejected the appeal against the 1997 judgment, which became final . Egon Krenz described the judgment as a "Cold War in the courtroom". His constitutional complaint was rejected by the Federal Constitutional Court on January 11, 2000. He had to start his prison sentence on January 13th in the prison in Berlin -Hakenfelde. On January 24th, Egon Krenz was transferred to the Plötzensee correctional facility . On March 22, 2001, the European Court of Human Rights unanimously rejected Krenz's human rights complaint.

On 18 December 2003 Krenz was - a resolution of the - after serving less than four years Supreme Court granted early release from prison, the rest of the sentence was for parole suspended. He had been in the open prison for a long time and only had to go to prison at night. During the day, Krenz was employed by the Germania airline at Berlin-Tegel Airport , for which he was supposed to translate Russian texts into German. Since then he has lived in the Mecklenburg Baltic Sea resort of Dierhagen .

Denial of the order to shoot

When in 2007 the order to fire to members of a special unit of the Ministry for State Security within the border troops who had to “guard the guards” was published again in the media (“Do not hesitate to use the firearm, even if the Border breaches with women and children take place, which the traitors have often made use of. "), Krenz again denied the existence of the" shooting orders ":" There was no order to kill, or as you call it, 'shooting order'. I don't know that from files, I know that from my own experience. Such an order would have contradicted the laws of the GDR. "

further activities

Krenz was the guest of honor for Ernst Thälmann's 125th birthday on April 16, 2011 in Hamburg and gave a speech to the almost 100 mostly communist guests. In it he underlined Thälmann's achievements and at the same time complained that his achievements are no longer recognized today. Concerning the fall of the GDR, he did not criticize German unity "as such", but the way it came about, and said, "... I too look with anger at the crimes committed under the false flag in the name of communism" .

In an interview with Christoph Dieckmann in spring 2020, Krenz defended the GDR against the allegation that it had withheld millions of people from free exploration of the world and that they "inevitably lived below their talents and dreams": The GDR had played a role for 40 years that she couldn't choose. It was thankfully liberated from its occupying power, but for what Germans had done in the Soviet Union, it was also covered with political demands. While the Federal Republic benefited from the Marshall Plan , the GDR had to pay reparations . Both German states were not sovereign in terms of foreign policy.

Krenz is one of the authors of the communications of the Communist Platform , which works with the DKP and the KPD-Ost .


Egon Krenz in a BR broadcast on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's death in 2013

In 2009, Saskia Handro called Krenz's most sustainable ideological word creation the talk of the turnaround in the GDR , whose relationship to the term peaceful revolution is still unclear and far from a consensus. The civil rights activist Rainer Eppelmann wrote in the context of the analysis “Are we the fans of Egon Krenz?”, The use of the term Wende indicates “that the East German revolution is fundamentally misunderstood.” Lothar de Maizière also turned against the term, because "it takes up a term from Krenz instead of designating it [the time 1989] as what it really was, namely the time of a peaceful revolution". On the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Federal Government issued a statement that the catchphrase of the turnaround was short and catchy, but “not welcome everywhere”; Many would see it as "an attempt at linguistic appropriation". Even if the term “ turning point” is rarely used in politics and social science, it is often used in everyday language, according to Saskia Handro, because, regardless of their opinion on Krenz, many people “are extremely resistant to accentuation”.

On Krenz's 70th birthday in 2007, children from the Dierhagen day care center performed this song, which caused media outrage because Krenz showed a lack of insight despite his joint responsibility for the order to shoot at the inner-German border and his support for the Tian'anmen massacre . The non-party mayor Dierhagens spoke of " sniping ", the daycare manager described the excitement as "silly"; she said: "Mr. Krenz has served his sentence and is a friendly person." On the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Frank Schirrmacher wrote in 2009 after a conversation with Krenz that it was "a requirement of historical and personal righteousness to recognize one's role in the nonviolent end . ... In a sense, there is no aesthetic-political category for him. ”Before Krenz's 75th birthday on March 19, 2012, the Saxon Free Press headlined this event and wrote that Krenz“ still sees himself as a victim ”.

Some members of the party Die Linke , which Der Spiegel referred to as "Krenz troops", applied in 2009 to (re) admit Krenz to the party. The party leadership confirmed the unchanged validity of his exclusion from the SED / PDS on January 21, 1990. There was also an agreement between the federal manager of the successor party that Krenz would not apply for membership.


Krenz was married to Erika Krenz, née Brusch (born November 11, 1939, † March 4, 2017), a teacher. The couple had two sons together.


  • The tasks of the FDJ basic organizations at the secondary schools. Berlin 1972.
  • On the youth policy of the SED. On the way to the XI. Party congress of the SED. Berlin 1985.
  • Speech at the 9th meeting of the Central Committee of the SED, October 18, 1989. In: Beginning of the turning point and renewal. Dietz Verlag , Berlin 1989, ISBN 3-320-01539-7 .
  • The well-being of the people is our fundamental principle. Declaration by the Chairman of the State Council of the GDR on October 24, 1989 before the People's Chamber of the GDR. State publishing house of the German Democratic Republic , Berlin 1989, ISBN 3-329-00688-9 .
  • When walls fall. The peaceful revolution. Prehistory - process - effects. With the collaboration of Hartmut König and Gunter Rettner. Paul Neff Verlag, Vienna 1990, ISBN 3-7014-0301-5 .
  • Fall '89. With a current text. edition ost , Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-360-01806-9 . (1st edition 1999)
  • Counter words. From letters and references 1990 to 2005. edition ost, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-360-01071-X .
  • Exclusive interview with Comrade Egon Krenz. We are firmly on the side of Cuba. In: RotFuchs. (PDF)
  • Jail notes. edition ost, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-360-01801-4 .
  • German anniversaries and lessons of history. In: STOP NATO! 60 years of NATO. 60 years of threat to peace. Verlag Wiljo Heinen, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-939828-38-9 .
  • He would have scolded us. In: “But I believe in the triumph of truth”: Ernst Thälmann on his 125th birthday. Eberhard Czichon (Ed.), With contributions by Margot Honecker and others. Heinen Verlag, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-939828-66-2 .
  • As editor: Walter Ulbricht. Verlag Das Neue Berlin , Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-360-02160-1 .
  • Witness of the century . In: Horst Sindermann. Before daylight. Autobiography. edition ost, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-360-01871-7 , pp. 7-30.
  • “I don't want the last word here” - Heinz Rudolf Kunze and Egon Krenz in conversation . Interview book. 158 pages, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-355-01845-6
  • China. How I see it. edition ost , Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-360-01885-4 .
  • We and the Russians. Relations between Berlin and Moscow in autumn '89 . edition ost, Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-360-01888-5 .



  • Mario Sporn and Thomas Grimm . The 50 days of Egon Krenz , ZDF-History, 45 min, 2016.
  • Interview with Egon Krenz. Interview about political life in the service of the GDR, witnesses of the century on May 1, 2016 on ZDF.

Web links

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

Notes and individual references

  1. ^ Acts of violence on the German-German border. Walter de Gruyter, 2002, p. 645 ( ).
  2. TIME No 16-2020, page 20, "Old Man by the Sea" Egon Krenz was something like the last leader of the GDR. He had to go to prison for those who died on the wall. , Interview leader: Christoph Dieckmann
  3. Witnesses of the Century. (No longer available online.) Second German TV (ZDF), archived from the original on May 7, 2016 ; accessed on May 1, 2016 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. Flying urns. In: Der Spiegel , March 12, 1990; The incomprehensible election fraud. In: , Heute im Osten, May 2, 2011; Annabelle Petschow: Local elections in the GDR. In: Lebendiges Museum Online , Foundation House of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany , February 26, 2016.
  5. Irmgard Zündorf: Biography Egon Krenz. In: LeMO -Biografien, Foundation House of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany , January 15, 2016. See Bernd Schäfer : Egon Krenz and the Chinese solution. In: Martin Sabrow (Ed.): 1989 and the role of violence. Wallstein, Göttingen 2012, pp. 153–172 (preview) .
  6. ^ Manfred Görtemaker: Collapse of the SED regime. In: Dossier: The Path to Unity. Information on political education , issue 250, March 19, 2009.
  8. Frank Schirrmacher: Where is Egon Krenz? In: FAZ , November 9, 2009 ( online text from ).
  9. IFM Archives Saxony: October 9, 1989 * Day of the decision : Sheet 9/1999 , especially p. 9.
  10. E. Krenz 1990, p. 138.
  11. ^ Krenz 2009, October 9th . Pp. 129-137 and 204f. In the preceding “current text” of this edition, on p. 8, his 1990 view of his own activities is confirmed, whereby he again claims the authority to interpret the events 20 years later.
  12. ^ Roland Mey: The shooting order on October 9, 1989. Online shop offer with table of contents , Osiris Online-Verlag, 2011.
  13. Krenz 2009, p. 172.
  14. Krenz 2009, p. 164: There is nothing to indicate that when this term was chosen the previous night, its use on the Spiegel cover two days earlier or in the appeal of the opposition United Left of September 4, 1989 played a role . Its use could rather have had a stimulating effect in the Federal Republic of Germany , where it was introduced into the election campaign against the SPD by Helmut Kohl in the early 1980s . Eppelmann and Grünbaum (2004, p. 865) say: “Anyone who ..., especially with a view to 1982, uses the term 'Wende' for the events of 1989 will degrade the overthrow of SED rule in the GDR for a mere change of government. "
  15. Neues Deutschland , October 19, 1989. - In the original sound, but without the explosive second half-sentence: Krenz listening to the “Wende” (0'05 ”) under the heading“ GDR government ”.
  16. Krenz 2009. There, on p. 179, when this speech was repeated on TV, a transmitter mistake when addressing the GDR citizens as “Dear Comrades” is suspected, which the people resented.
  17. Krenz 1990, p. 235.
  18. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 447.
  19. Krenz 1990, pp. 150f. and p. 223.
  20. Krenz, first in 1999. The “current text” that preceded it in 2009 reads like a retraction of the 1990s insights.
  21. Schorlemmer 1990, p. 113f. from the speech of the Wittenberg pastor on November 4th on Alexanderplatz : “We trust everyone to turn things around! ... Let us think about the fears that the new first man aroused and what new movement has already started with him. ”Incidentally, the order was not known to the demonstrators, who risked life and limb,“ the Chinese fear in the stomach and the security machinery before your eyes ". (Schorlemmer 1990, p. 130.)
  22. When he took over the chairmanship of the Defense Council on October 24, Krenz was apparently not yet able to bring about an immediate order against the use of firearms. However, the risk of escalation was far higher at many previous meetings than at the Alexanderplatz rally . Also, the “possible demonstrations” in the order of November 3rd did not necessarily include some borderline situations on November 9th.
  23. Krenz 2009, pp. 325f.
  24. de Maizière 2010, pp. 88–90: He then dictated his text to him and was whispered to him by a neighbor: "You see, this is how a general secretary becomes a secretary."
  25. ^ New Germany , November 30, 1989.
  26. Krenz 2009, p. 397: "If I had suspected the reaction my signature evokes, I would have done without it."
  27. Krenz 1990, pp. 238-240.
  28. ^ Friedrich Schorlemmer : Dreams and Nightmares: Interferences 1982 to 1990. 1st edition. Verl. Der Nation, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-373-00420-9 , p. 134: "... so that we can finally win unity in peace." As one of the 30 first signatories of the appeal on November 26th (together with two other important Church representatives), Friedrich Schorlemmer said this in his acceptance speech for the award of the Carl von Ossietzky Medal in December 1989 in Berlin (West).
  29. Exclusion. The Politburo in front of the party court
  30. Krenz 1990, p. 246. According to p. 198 "the printing presses ... until the morning after election night" on March 19, 1990 were stopped for the then written, dejected commentary on the unexpected result.
  31. Quoted from: Hans-Hermann Hertle, Gerd-Rüdiger Stephan (Ed.): The end of the SED. The last days of the Central Committee. Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-86153-143-7 , p. 465f.
  32. Krenz 2009, pp. 453–465, section Two letters and two views . - The Bautzen II Stasi prison is the epitome of injustice in the GDR and was converted into the Bautzen Memorial from 1993 onwards .
  33. ^ Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights of March 22, 2001
  35. Instructions to members of the special unit of the MfS within the border troops of the GDR (shooting order) Wikisource.
  37. The brutal truth about the GDR. In: image . August 13, 2007.
  38. a b "On, on to the fight ..." - birthday party for Ernst Thälmann in Hamburg. In: Neues Deutschland , April 18, 2011.
  39. "Krenz helps Lötzsch ". Dossier. In: Spiegel Online , April 23, 2011
  40. In: E. Cichon (Ed.) 2011
  41. Christoph Dieckmann: Old man by the sea. Egon Krenz was something like the last boss in the GDR. He had to go to prison for those who died on the wall. A home visit. In: The time . April 8, 2020, p. 20.
  42. Saskia Handro : 1989 and us. Historical didactic reflections. In: History for Today. Journal for historical and political education . Vol. 2, 2009, issue 2, pp. 5–14, here pp. 9–12.
  43. Eppelmann and Grünbaum 2004, p. 865. The title of the analysis is based on the slogan “We are the fans of Egon Krenz” from Krenz's time as FDJ boss, see Stefan Berg: GDR work-up. Spiegel Online , February 16, 2009.
  44. Lothar de Maizière 2010, p. 52.
  45. "turning point"? "Peaceful revolution"? "Fall of the Wall"? ( Memento from June 23, 2013 in the Internet Archive ). In: , October 19, 2009.
  46. Handro 2009, p. 11.
  47. ^ J. Oberwittler: Tricky birthday serenade. Spiegel Online , April 9, 2007.
  48. Fall of the Wall: Where is Egon Krenz? In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , November 9, 2009.
  49. The penultimate GDR state council chairman turns 75 ( memento from December 26, 2012 in the Internet Archive ). In: Freie Presse , March 13, 2012.
  50. Krenz troops mobilize. Spiegel Online , February 16, 2009.
  51. Egon Krenz is in mourning - his Erika closed her eyes forever
  52. ^ Obituary notice Erika Krenz, Ostsee-Zeitung