Erich Honecker

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Erich Honecker (1976)
Signature of Erich Honecker

Erich Ernst Paul Honecker (born August 25, 1912 in Neunkirchen (Saar) , † May 29, 1994 in Santiago de Chile ) was a German communist politician . From May 1971 to October 1989 he held the highest and most important functions in the German Democratic Republic as First Secretary or General Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED and Chairman of the State Council and represented them under international law.

Honecker was a full-time functionary of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) from 1931 until he was imprisoned for ten years in 1935 for resisting National Socialism . After the liberation from National Socialism , Honecker founded the youth organization Free German Youth (FDJ) in Berlin on behalf of the KPD in 1946 , of which he remained chairman until 1955. In 1961, as secretary for security issues of the Central Committee of the SED, he was the main organizer of the construction of the Berlin Wall and in this function he was in charge of shooting at the inner-German borderWith. One of his greatest successes is the recognition of the GDR as a full member of the UN in 1973.

In the course of the 1980s, the economic situation, relations with the leading power, the Soviet Union under Gorbachev, and the internal political situation in the GDR became increasingly difficult. During his official visit to the Federal Republic of Germany in September 1987, Honecker was received by Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Bonn and by Prime Minister Oskar Lafontaine in his home in the Saarland .

Under the impression of the peaceful revolution in the GDR, the SED Politburo forced Honecker to resign the following day on October 17, 1989. Because of his responsibility for human rights violations by the GDR regime, he came to court in Berlin in 1992; however, the proceedings were discontinued due to his illness and his constitutional complaint related to it. Honecker immediately traveled to his family in Chile , where he died in May 1994.

Career of the young communist

Childhood and adolescence

His father Wilhelm Honecker (1881–1969) was a miner and married Caroline Catharina Weidenhof (1883–1963) in 1905. The couple had six children together: Katharina (Käthe, 1906–1925), Wilhelm (Willi, 1907–1944), Frieda (1909–1974), Erich, Gertrud Hoppstädter (née Honecker, 1917–2010) and Karl-Robert (1923 -1947).

Parental home (not birth house) Erich Honeckers ( Wiebelskirchen , Kuchenbergstrasse)

Erich Honecker was born in Neunkirchen (Saar) on Karlstrasse (since 1945 Max-Braun-Strasse); A little later his family moved to the current Neunkirchen district of Wiebelskirchen in Kuchenbergstrasse 88. He attended the Protestant elementary school. In 1922, before his tenth birthday, he was housed in the fifty-member communist children's group of Wiebelskirchen, which his siblings Willi, Frieda and Gertrud also visited and which was later renamed the Young Spartakus Bund . After the third grade he switched to the Protestant secondary school , which he left after the eighth grade in 1926, which automatically ended his membership in the Young Spartacus Association .

As a family of miners and farmers, the Honeckers, who are closely connected to the family in their area of ​​the Saarland and who, as house owners and landlords with fruit and vegetable gardens and an agricultural parcel, are among the wealthier miners in Wiebelskirchen, have a relatively well-secured position in terms of material assets, which is contrary to the later ones Depictions of Erich Honecker differed greatly from the plight of the masses of workers impoverished in the German Reich: They were able to pass on their small possessions from generation to generation, had stables for a cow behind the house and kept goats, rabbits and at times one or two pigs. The family survived the turnip winter of 1916/17 , which led to a nationwide famine, thanks to their modest agriculture, which improved their nutritional situation during the war years, while their father Wilhelm Honecker was rarely used as a seaman at the front. Contrary to what Erich Honecker said, his father was not involved in the Kiel sailors' uprising. In truth, he had already returned to Wiebelskirchen as a " complainant " at the end of July 1917 , after the Supreme Army Command had ordered the withdrawal of 40,000 miners from the front because their civilian work underground had become more important than their service as soldiers due to the meanwhile dramatic shortage of fuel . Likewise, Wilhelm Honecker did not already join the USPD in Kiel, as his son claimed, but probably only after his return to Saarland, where the USPD did not come into being until the beginning of 1918.

The workers 'and soldiers' councils, formed equally by SPD and USPD representatives in Saarland , were dissolved by the invading French army on November 24, 1918. The Saar Statute, which was integrated into the Versailles Treaty , made the Saar area part of the French customs and currency area for fifteen years as a new entity under international law, politically dominated by a government commission set up by the League of Nations. The Honecker family retained their German citizenship, but stayed away from the Catholic milieu, to which the majority of the Saar population belonged, and were attracted by the emerging left-wing proletarian milieu.

As Honecker after leaving school because of the worsening economy have found an apprenticeship, he urged his parents at Easter 1926, an alternate activity on it by the Kinderlandverschickung known her yard the farmer Wilhelm prank in behind Pomeranian Neudorf, near the district town Bublitz to accept . According to Honecker's memoir, he stayed there for two years only for free food and clothing, “to work in agriculture”. However, Streich treated him almost as his future son-in-law, made him a young farmer, finally handed over the entire cultivation of the fields to Honecker as a result of a war injury and paid him 20 Reichsmarks a month. In the spring of 1928, Honecker renounced the material temptations of the prospect of taking over the farm. His host family then changed his clothes, provided him with money and he returned to Wiebelskirchen. Since he could not find a job as an agricultural assistant, he trained as an assistant with his uncle Ludwig Weidenhof, who ran a roofing business on the ground floor of his parents' house. He then accepted an apprenticeship as a roofer with the Wiebelskirchen master roofer Müller.

Start of activity for the KPD and Stalinist training

The building of the Reichsparteischule of the KPD in Schöneiche

On December 1, 1928, he joined the Communist Youth Association of Germany (KJVD) - Saar district. At that time the KJVD only had 200 members in eleven local groups. In his later GDR cadre file , he dated the KJVD entry date back to 1926 in order to cover up his two years of work as a young farmer in Western Pomerania in his political battle biography. He was considered "the spokesman for the communists" in the competing youth associations of social democracy and the center. In 1929 he was elected to the district management of the KJVD-Saar. At the same time, he completed various internal party training courses in order to prepare himself to take on leading positions in the KPD youth association. In December 1929 he took part in a two-week course in Dudweiler at the KJVD district school on Marxist theory and practical youth work. In his spare time, Honecker dedicated his membership in the local marching band and the youth organization of the Red Front Fighters' League , Red Jungsturm , who later in Red Youth Front was renamed. In the Communist Youth Association he was initially the cashier and later head of the Wiebelskirchen local group. Honecker formally joined the KPD after having been active in various institutions of the communist party milieu. The exact date of his entry into the party could not be determined to this day. Honecker himself only gave the year 1930 for his admission into the KPD after 1945 and another time “autumn 1931”. Finally, he postponed joining the party to the year 1929, which was associated with the beginning of the global economic crisis (and was accordingly honored in 1979 by the SED for his fifty years of party membership). In July 1930, Honecker and 27 other chosen ones from the various KJVD districts reported to the party executive of the KPD in Berlin's Karl-Liebknecht-Haus - in order to take part in a preparatory course for a training year at the International Lenin School in Moscow - that was at the Reichsparteischule of the KPD in Fichtenau (today a district of Schöneiche near Berlin ) took place. In this “training center for the professional revolution”, according to Martin Sabrow , that rite of passage took place “which transformed the individual into a comrade and subjected the communist world and its party to a rule of personal feelings, scruples and doubts that was no longer attainable.” In a symbolic one Honecker was given his new party name Fritz Molter , which is also the name of the party in Moscow , and was introduced to the basics of conspiratorial behavior with the other course members . They were given "the first impressions of a charismatic chosen one through superior insight that contributed so decisively to the fascination of the paradoxically rationality-believing rule of communism in the 20th century."

Honecker broke off his apprenticeship as a roofer - because he left in August 1930 for training at the Moscow Stalinist cadre school established by the Executive Committee of the Communist International (EKKI) - after two years without a journeyman's examination. In the summer of 1931 he completed the compulsory internship of the KIM course set up by the Communist Youth International , from which numerous cadres of communist power apparatuses in East Central Europe emerged after 1945. During this time he took part with 27 other course participants as the "International Shock Brigade" in a work assignment in Magnitogorsk , where a steel mill was built since 1929 as the future center of Soviet steelmaking . Honecker's teacher at the Lenin School was Erich Wollenberg , who was persecuted by the NKVD as an opponent of Stalin during the Great Terror in the course of the Wollenberg-Hoelz conspiracy . In the era of the headmistress Kirsanova , who was considered an “iron Stalinist” until her final dismissal in 1937, Honecker was subjected to “purification rituals” through indictment and self-indictment . In this way, his ego interests should be systematically subordinate to the collective and the interests of the party within a closed worldview. Six days a week he had to do a rigid daily workload of ten hours or more. The workload of a school lesson comprised 4–5 pages of Marx or Engels, 6–7 pages of Lenin, 7–8 pages of Stalin and 20 pages of fiction. According to Martin Sabrow, Stalin remained Honecker's most formative political figure until the end of his life.

During his Moscow cadre training, Honecker met his first girlfriend Natascha Grejewna at one of the cultural and dance events of the Elektrokombinat Elektrosawod , thereby violating the strict conspiracy rules of the Comintern School, which strictly forbade him to hang out with strangers. The discovery of this love affair could have led to Honecker's school career being broken off. In August 1931, Honecker returned to Wiebelskirchen in order to take up a full-time position at the head of the KJVD in Saarbrücken in September.

Resistance to National Socialism

After the takeover of the Nazi Party in 1933, the work of the Communist Party in Germany was only possible in the underground. The Saar area, however, did not belong to the German Empire. Honecker was briefly imprisoned in Germany, but was soon released. He returned to the Saar region in 1934 and worked with the later first Saarland Prime Minister Johannes Hoffmann in the campaign against reintegration into the German Empire. During this time in the resistance in 1934 and 1935 he also worked closely with the KPD functionary Herbert Wehner , later the SPD . In the Saar vote on January 13, 1935, however, 90.73 percent of the voters voted for unification with Germany (“ Heim ins Reich ”). The young functionary, like 4,000–8,000 other people, fled to France first .

On August 28, 1935, Honecker traveled illegally to Berlin under the code name “Marten Tjaden” with a printing press in his luggage and was again active in the resistance. On December 4, 1935, he was arrested by the Gestapo . After five days of interrogations by Heinrich Müller , who was close to Heydrich - without the systematic torture methods otherwise customary in dealing with the communist resistance - the matter went to the People's Court after the arrest warrant was issued by the Berlin Regional Court , where Hans-Joachim Rehse until March 1937 - essentially without additional results - further determined against Honecker. He spent this extended pre-trial detention, during which he was also beaten by Rehse according to his own statements, in the Lehrter Strasse cell prison in Berlin .

On June 8, 1937, he was by a senate of the People's Court, chaired by Robert Hartmann found guilty of "preparing a treasonable enterprise with aggravating circumstances" guilty and a prison sentence convicted of ten years; Bruno Baum , who was also accused , was sentenced to thirteen years in prison. According to the court records, it was Honecker's lack of caution in a delicate situation that had helped expose a Czech spy and ultimately his entire resistance group. The files also show that Honecker, like Bruno Baum, largely confessed to what the Gestapo had already determined by then, so that one of the comrades who had been arrested was mutually incriminated.

Long-term prisoner in Nazi prisons

Honecker served his imprisonment during the Nazi era from July 6, 1937 in the Brandenburg-Görden prison . From the first arranged for him solitary confinement, which should keep long-term and convicted young communists of less dangerous inmates assessed politically, Honecker came after half a year in a three-man cell and was at the same time for two years Kalfaktor the prison doctor. Honecker was also used in two other functions as a cinderella in the organization of prison work: in yarn recycling and in the manufacture of war toys.

In the spring of 1943, as a trained roofer, he was assigned to a construction crew that was driven by truck to the buildings in the area damaged by bombing in order to repair the bomb damage. Soon afterwards, the construction crew was also deployed in Berlin to uncover bombs that had been struck in houses or on the street for defusing by ordnance experts - in Honecker's words a "suicide mission" without adequate equipment and training. During the winter of 1943/44, Honecker was repeatedly used in Berlin for tasks "that made anyone run away who was not tired of life". This included digging up people buried in prone to collapse cellars as well as hastily removing incendiary rods from roofs and attempting to extinguish phosphorus bullets by throwing sand. In the spring of 1944, Honecker's work detachment was moved to Berlin and housed in the Barnimstrasse women's prison , on the roof of which Honecker kept track of a heavy air raid on February 26, 1945. Honecker got lamps, picks and shovels to dig his way through to the victims under the wing of the women's prison, which had been hit by air mines. He succeeded in bringing an injured Dutchman past SS guards to the Friedrichshain bunker with the help of the prison guard Charlotte Schanuel. She became his first wife in 1946, which Honecker left unmentioned for his entire life.

On March 6, 1945, Honecker and fellow inmate Erich Hanke fled in a highly risky manner over the roof ridge of the women's prison, probably from the double risk of either being liquidated as political prisoners in the last hour of the war or, like others, "on probation as Germans" into a fatal one Front insert to be pressed. In poorly reworked prisoner clothing, both of them roamed the streets of Lichtenberg and Neukölln - in constant danger of being blown up - on a long, unsuccessful search for shelter with acquaintances who either weren't there or whose homes were bombed out. Finally, if there was a risk of an entire conspiratorial underground network being blown up, there was a refuge in Neukölln, but only for one night, and another with an Uncle Hankes, in which Honecker could also only spend one night, only to get by himself afterwards to beat the foreign city. In this situation, he decided to go to the place of residence of Charlotte Schanuel and her mother ("Oma Grund") at Landsberger Strasse 37, not far from the women's prison, in order to hide there. After a week, however, his situation there appeared so untenable that, probably out of fear of discovery and extradition to the Gestapo, he returned to the women's prison and there, supported by Charlotte Schanuel and the responsible public prosecutor Kolb - the Honecker's mission from February 26 - was resumed with impunity.

Liberation, contacts with the communist leadership and first marriage

When the Red Army tanks reached the eastern city limits of Berlin on April 21, 1945 during the Battle of Berlin , Honecker's construction crew left the women's prison in Lichtenberg to return to Brandenburg-Görden via Plötzensee prison , where they arrived on April 23 . After the prison was liberated by a Red Army tank on April 27, Honecker set off on his way, accompanied by fellow inmate Alfred Perl, with no regard for his Communist comrades among the prisoners, who did not march to Berlin until the following day Charlotte Schanuel and her mother. This action apart from party and comrade solidarity caused Honecker later internal party difficulties and strained his relationship with former fellow prisoners. In relation to the public, Honecker falsified the events in his memoirs and in interviews.

The two hastily set off did not get far, but were picked up by the Polish and Soviet military and led back towards Brandenburg, where their paths parted. Honecker was claims to Adviser to the Komsomolsekretärs the army unit that had captured him and accompanied him on official trips among others to Oranienburg and Bernau near Berlin , where he was released into the wild on May 4 and walk across Berlin Weissensee yet Arrived at Landsberger Strasse 37 in the evening.

Honecker 1950 at the three-country meeting of young people in Zittau

According to his own information, Honecker's first political post-war activities involved the collection of members of the KPD and the Communist Youth Association on site in Friedrichshain as well as the procurement of flags of the victorious powers to decorate Landsberger Strasse on the occasion of the German total surrender on May 8, 1945. Two days later, Honecker met in of the Political Headquarters of the Red Army in Berlin-Lichtenberg happened to be Richard Gyptner , who introduced him to the Ulbricht group, where he also met old friends such as Hans Mahle and Grete Keilson . He was introduced to Walter Ulbricht through Waldemar Schmidt . Up to the summer of 1945, no decision was made about Honecker's future function, as he had to face party proceedings that ended with a stern reprimand. His escape from prison in early 1945 was also discussed. But in April 1946 he was appointed to the eighty-member party executive; soon afterwards he became the founding chairman of the FDJ. The forced unification of the SPD and KPD in April 1946 established Honecker's membership in the SED.

Because of his relationship with Charlotte Schanuel, which he tried to hide, Honecker stayed at 37 Landsberger Strasse, unlike the other management cadres who were concentrated in the Ulbricht group's headquarters. On December 23, 1946, the marriage ceremony took place at the registry office in Berlin-Mitte , in which Honecker's political friends did not act as witnesses, but instead two other prison guards as colleagues of Charlotte Schanuel. But just six months later, Honecker's first wife died on June 6, 1947 in the St. Joseph Hospital in Berlin-Weißensee .

Career in the GDR

Run to power

In the GDR, which was founded in October 1949, Honecker pursued his political career with determination. As FDJ chairman, he organized the three German youth meetings in East Berlin from 1950 and was accepted as a candidate in the Politburo of the SED Central Committee one month after the first German meeting . He was an outspoken opponent of church youth groups. In the internal party disputes after the popular uprising of June 17 , he and Hermann Matern openly sided with Ulbricht, whom the majority of the Politburo around Rudolf Herrnstadt tried to overthrow. On May 27, 1955, he gave the FDJ chairmanship to Karl Namokel . From 1955 to 1957 he stayed in Moscow for training purposes and experienced the XX. Party congress of the CPSU with Khrushchev's speech on de-Stalinization . After his return, he became a member of the Politburo in 1958, where he was responsible for military and security issues, and in 1960 he became Secretary of the National Defense Council of the GDR (NVR). As secretary for security issues of the Central Committee of the SED, he was the main organizer of the construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961 and, in this function, he carried the order to shoot at the inner-German border.

At the 11th plenum of the Central Committee of the SED , which met in December 1965, he stood out as one of the spokesmen and sharply attacked various cultural workers such as the directors Kurt Maetzig and Frank Beyer , whom he described as “immorality”, “decadence”, “ bourgeois skepticism "and" public hostility "accused. In this criticism, he also included those responsible for cultural policy in the SED, although without naming them: They had "not fought on principle against the [...] shown phenomena." The plenum put an end to the attempts to liberalize the GDR in terms of cultural policy had shown after the building of the wall.

Secretary General of the Central Committee of the SED

Erich Honecker (left) and Leonid Breshnew (passenger seat) on a hunting trip, GDR (1971)
Erich Honecker (left) congratulates Erich Mielke on the 30th anniversary of the Ministry for State Security (1980)
Erich Honecker visiting the troops, 1972

While Ulbricht had brought economic policy to the fore with the New Economic System of Planning and Management in order to advance the construction and the technological and system-oriented further development of the economic basis, Honecker declared the " unity of economic and social policy " to be the main task and headed it thus a paradigm shift in economic policy. In order to get rid of his critic before the Eighth Party Congress in 1971, Ulbricht suspended Honecker from the unofficial position of head of the Central Committee's secretariat at an extraordinary Politburo meeting on July 1, 1970. Leonid Brezhnev had him reverse this decision, which had not been agreed with him, at the Politburo meeting on July 7, 1970. After Honecker had assured himself of the support of the Soviet leadership, 13 of the 20 members and candidates of the Politburo signed a letter to Brezhnev, written under Honecker's leadership and dated January 21, 1971, in which they demanded Ulbricht's removal. On April 26, 1971, Honecker drove to Ulbricht's summer residence in Groß Dölln , accompanied by persons armed with submachine guns from the "Personal Protection Department" . There he had all gates and exits occupied, the telephone lines cut and forced Ulbricht to sign a resignation letter to the Central Committee. On May 3, 1971, Honecker became Ulbricht's successor First Secretary (from 1976 Secretary General ) of the Central Committee of the SED . Economic problems and resentment in the factories played a major role in this change of power. After he had also succeeded Ulbricht as chairman of the NVR in 1971, the People's Chamber elected him on October 29, 1976 as chairman of the State Council . Honecker thus held the highest government offices in personal union. From now on he decided all relevant questions together with the SED chief ideologist, Kurt Hager , the Central Committee Secretary for Economic Affairs, Günter Mittag , and the Minister for State Security, Erich Mielke . Until the autumn of 1989, the "small strategic clique" of these four men stood unchallenged at the top of the ruling class in the GDR, the increasingly aging monopoly elite of around 520 state and party officials. According to the historian Martin Sabrow , Honecker gained together with these three a "power like no other ruler in recent German history, including Ludendorff and Hitler ", which is why he describes him as a " dictator ". Under Honecker, the Politburo quickly developed into a collective of uncritical, submissive executors and yes-sayers. Honecker always answered requests from citizens quickly, which is why Sabrow, referring to enlightened absolutism, describes him as “the highest carer of his state”. Honecker's closest personal collaborator was the Central Committee secretary for agitation and propaganda, Joachim Herrmann . With him he held daily meetings about the party's media work, in which the layout of New Germany and the sequence of messages in the current camera were determined. He responded to bad news about the state of the economy by closing the Institute for Public Opinion Research around 1978 . Honecker also attached great importance to the field of state security , which he discussed with Erich Mielke once a week after the Politburo meeting. Honecker's long-time secretary was Elli Kelm.

During his tenure, the basic treaty was negotiated with the Federal Republic of Germany . In addition, the GDR took part in the CSCE negotiations in Helsinki and was accepted as a full member of the UN (→  Germany in the United Nations ). These diplomatic successes are considered to be Honecker's greatest achievements in foreign policy.

On December 31, 1982, the stove setter Paul Eßling tried to ram Honecker's motorcade, which was portrayed as an assassination attempt in Western media.

Domestically, there was initially a tendency towards liberalization, especially in the field of culture and art, but this was not so much the result of the change in personnel from Walter Ulbricht to Erich Honecker, but rather served propaganda purposes in the context of the Xth World Festival of Youth and Students , which took place in 1973 . Only a little later came the expatriation of regime critics such as Wolf Biermann and the repression of domestic political resistance by the Ministry for State Security. In addition, Honecker campaigned for the further expansion of the inner German state border with self- firing systems and the ruthless use of firearms when attempting to breach the border. In 1974 he said, "It is the comrades who have successfully used the firearm to be commended." In economic policy, the nationalization and centralization of the economy was promoted under Honecker . More recent economic and system theoretical findings in the areas of heuristics , economic cybernetics , operational research and organizational development were rejected and discarded for ideological reasons, even if they were associated with considerable disadvantages in economic development. The difficult economic situation forced the Federal Republic of Germany to borrow billions in order to maintain the standard of living.

The London Financial Times saw Honecker at the height of his popularity in 1981 and makes this comparison with the then Federal Chancellor:

“If Helmut Schmidt, the West German Chancellor, is one of Germany's best speakers, Erich Honecker must be one of the least gifted. Exposing oneself to his high-pitched singsong voice, which conjures up the litany of the East German Communist Party, without even a hint of emotion on his face, can be a deadly boring experience. "

GDR State Council Chairman Honecker in 1987 during a visit to his birthplace in Saarland (on the right, Lord Mayor Peter Neuber )

In 1981 he received Chancellor Helmut Schmidt in the Hubertusstock hunting lodge on the Werbellinsee . Honecker's assessment that the GDR had “reached world-class economic level and is one of the most important industrial nations in the world”, Schmidt later commented with the verdict of “a man of limited judgment”. Despite the economic problems, Honecker brought increased international recognition in the 1980s, especially when he visited the Federal Republic of Germany on September 7, 1987 and was received by Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Bonn . On his journey through the Federal Republic of Germany he came to Düsseldorf , Wuppertal , Essen , Trier , Bavaria and on September 10th to his birthplace in Saarland . Here he gave an emotional speech in which he said that one day the borders would no longer separate people in Germany. This trip had been planned since 1983, but was blocked by the Soviet leadership at the time because they distrusted the special German-German relationship. In 1988, among other things, Honecker was on a state visit to Paris . His big goal, which he no longer achieved, was an official visit to the USA . In the last few years of the GDR, he therefore relied on a positive relationship with the World Jewish Congress as a possible “door opener”.

Fall and resignation

At the Warsaw Pact summit in Bucharest on July 7th and 8th, 1989 within the framework of the "Political-Advisory Committee" of the Comecon States of the Warsaw Pact , the Soviet Union officially abandoned the Brezhnev doctrine of the limited sovereignty of the member states and announced the " Freedom of choice ”: In future, as the Bucharest final document says, relations with one another should be developed“ on the basis of equality, independence and the right of each individual to independently develop his own political line, strategy and tactics without outside interference ” . The Soviet guarantee of existence for the member states was thus called into question. Honecker had to break off his participation in the meeting; On the evening of July 7, 1989, he was admitted to the Romanian government hospital with severe biliary colic and then flown to Berlin. On August 18, 1989, he had his gall bladder and a section of his colon removed in the government hospital in Berlin-Buch . A kidney tumor was discovered during the operation , but the doctors did not dare tell Honecker about it. It was not until September 1989 that Honecker reappeared in the Politburo, emaciated and aged. Meanwhile, Günter Mittag chaired the weekly meetings of the Politburo. Only in August 1989 did Honecker attend a few appointments. He declared on 14 August 1989 the delivery of the first functional samples of 32-bit - processors through the combine microelectronics Erfurt : "keeps the Socialist Road neither ox nor donkey."

But the number and size of the demonstrations grew in the cities of the GDR, and the number of GDR refugees via the West German embassies in Prague and Budapest and across the borders of the “socialist brother states” rose steadily, to several tens of thousands per month. The Hungarian government opened the border with Austria at one point on August 19, 1989 and on September 11, 1989 everywhere . Tens of thousands of GDR citizens traveled to the Federal Republic via Austria on this alone. The ČSSR declared the influx of GDR refugees to be unacceptable. On October 3, 1989, the GDR effectively closed its borders with its eastern neighbors by suspending visa-free travel to the ČSSR; As of the next day, this measure was also extended to transit traffic to Bulgaria and Romania . As a result, the GDR was not only sealed off to the west by the Iron Curtain as before , but now also from most of the states of the Eastern Bloc . Protests from GDR citizens up to threats of strike from the border areas to the Czechoslovakia were the result.

The relationship between Honecker and the General Secretary of the CPSU and President of the USSR Gorbachev had been tense for years: Honecker considered his policy of perestroika and cooperation with the West to be wrong and felt himself betrayed by him, especially in Germany. He made sure that official texts of the USSR, especially those on the subject of perestroika, could no longer be published or put on the market in the GDR. On October 6th and 7th, 1989, the state celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the GDR took place in the presence of Mikhail Gorbachev, who was greeted with shouts of “Gorbi, Gorbi, help us”. In a one-on-one conversation between the two general secretaries, Honecker praised the country's successes. But Gorbachev knew that the GDR was in reality facing insolvency.

At the end of a crisis meeting on October 10 and 11, 1989, the SED Politburo asked Honecker to submit a situation report by the end of the week, the planned state visit to Denmark was canceled and a declaration that Egon Krenz had pushed through against Honecker's resistance was published. Also predominantly at Krenz's initiative, discussions and explorations followed over the next few days on the question of persuading Honecker to resign. Krenz secured the support of the army and the Stasi and arranged a meeting between Mikhail Gorbachev and Politburo member Harry Tisch , who informed the Kremlin chief about the planned removal of Honecker on the sidelines of a visit to Moscow one day before the meeting. Gorbachev wished good luck, the sign Krenz and the others had been waiting for. SED chief ideologist Kurt Hager also flew to Moscow on October 12, 1989 and discussed the modalities of Honecker's replacement with Gorbachev. Hans Modrow, on the other hand, avoided recruiting.

The meeting of the SED Central Committee planned for the end of November 1989 was brought forward to the end of the week, the most urgent item on the agenda: the composition of the Politburo. On the evening of October 16, Krenz and Erich Mielke tried by telephone to win over other Politburo members for the removal of Honecker. At the beginning of the Politburo meeting on October 17, 1989, Honecker routinely asked: “Are there any suggestions on the agenda?” Willi Stoph answered and proposed as the first item on the agenda: “Release of Comrade Honecker from his function as Secretary General and election of Egon Krenz as Secretary General ”. Honecker looked motionless at first, but quickly composed himself: “Good, then I'll open the debate.” All those present said one after the other, but no one spoke out for Honecker. Günter Schabowski even expanded the application and called for Honecker to be dismissed as Chairman of the State Council and Chairman of the National Defense Council. Even Günter Mittag moved away from him. Alfred Neumann, in turn, called for Günter Mittag and Joachim Herrmann to be replaced. Allegedly Erich Mielke made Honecker responsible for almost all current grievances in the GDR and screamed Honecker threatened to release compromising information he had if Honecker did not resign. After three hours the unanimous decision of the Politburo was made. As was the custom, Honecker voted for his own dismissal. It was proposed to the Central Committee of the SED that Honecker, Mittag and Herrmann be relieved of their functions.

At the Central Committee meeting on the following day, 206 members and candidates were present. Only 16 were missing, including Margot Honecker . The Central Committee followed the recommendation of the Politburo. The only dissenting vote came from the 81-year-old Hanna Wolf , the former director of the party college "Karl Marx" . Public it said: "The Central Committee has the request Erich Honecker met him on health grounds of the function of the Secretary General, the Office of the Council of State and of the function of the Chairman of the National Defense Council of the GDR to give birth." Was Egon Krenz by acclamation unanimously elected new general secretary of the SED. On October 20, 1989, Margot Honecker also had to resign from her office.

Aspects of private life

Honecker was married three times. After Charlotte Schanuel died in June 1947 of complications from a brain tumor, he married the FDJ functionary Edith Baumann in December 1949 ; their daughter Erika was born in 1950. In December 1949 in Moscow, Honecker got to know Margot Feist , then head of the pioneer organization Ernst Thälmann , at a birthday party for Josef Stalin and began an affair with her. After she had an illegitimate daughter, Sonja, from Honecker in December 1952, Edith Baumann and Honecker divorced in 1953 under pressure from Ulbricht, who later married Margot Feist.

Sonja Honecker married the Chilean Leonardo Yáñez Betancourt. The couple have a son, Roberto Yáñez Betancourt y Honecker , born in 1974 , and a daughter, Vivian, born in 1988. Another granddaughter, Mariana, died in 1988 at the age of two, which hit Honecker hard, according to Martin Sabrow . In 1993 the marriage was divorced. Sonja Honecker, her ex-husband and their son now live in Santiago de Chile, Margot Honecker died there in 2016.

Honecker's hobby was hunting (see hunting in the GDR ). He had become a passionate hunter after Klement Gottwald had given him a hunting rifle as a FDJ boss. Soon after taking office in the Politburo, Honecker set up the State Hunting Inspection , a working group that centrally carried out construction projects and briefing hunting guests in the state and diplomatic hunting areas. The Hubertusstock hunting lodge in the Schorfheide was the scene of visits by western politicians and managers. Honecker's passion for hunting was part of a cross-system tradition in terms of effort and practice; he last went hunting on November 8, 1989.

The memoir

In 1980, Honecker's memoirs were published under the title Out of My Life , a process that was still quite unusual for the time. Because with a representative of the communist idea in a political leadership function, the personal usually had to withdraw from his tasks and the role of the party, even in the " reading country GDR ". From the point of view of the SED leadership, it might speak in favor of such a publication “that all means of discourse control of the SED state were insufficient to integrate the circulating versions and scattered documented eyewitness memories into a coherent life story of Erich Honecker and the contradictions that arise between them to be resolved credibly. "

The impetus for the project came from the initiative of the powerful British print media and publishing house owner Robert Maxwell , who had previously published autobiographical portraits of Leonid Brezhnev and Morarji Desai for a series of publications Leaders of the World and announced Jimmy Carter and Helmut Schmidt as additional authors. As a pioneer, Brezhnev made the otherwise hardly acceptable western publisher socially acceptable to the SED party apparatus, especially since media policy in the Honecker era was often not aimed at its own population but at the international public and at the same time ensured its own credibility “by referring to the Western opponent, whose thinking she constantly fought as misleading. "

The Institute for Marxism-Leninism (IML) was entrusted with the elaboration of the individual book chapters , with finished parts being submitted to Honecker, who took over the chapters on his own youth history until the end of the war. Ultimately, only the first nine of thirty-four chapters of the work "had the character of personal memories in terms of narrative attitude and writing style, while the remaining sections were barely disguised as the thematic reports of the party apparatus on various political fields, which they actually were."

After the disempowerment

Law enforcement and escape to Moscow

In mid-November 1989, the People's Chamber of the GDR set up a committee to investigate corruption and abuse of office, the chairman of which reported on December 1, 1989. He accused the previous SED rulers of extensive abuse of public office for private purposes. Since 1978, Honecker has also received annual grants of around 20,000 marks from the GDR Building Academy . The public prosecutor's office in the GDR then initiated criminal investigations against 30 former GDR top officials, including ten members of the Politburo. Most of them were taken into custody, including Honecker's Wandlitz neighbors Günter Mittag and Harry Tisch on December 3, 1989, for personal enrichment and waste of national wealth. On the same day, Honecker was expelled from the SED by the Central Committee. He then joined the newly founded KPD , of which he was a member from 1992 until his death.

On November 30, 1989, the Honecker couple had their apartment in Wandlitz given notice and on December 7, 1989 they were searched . Because of the heated atmosphere, the Honeckers turned down an offer to live on Bersarinplatz , but complained several times that they had been made homeless .

On December 5, 1989, an investigation was initiated against him. Honecker was "suspected of having misused his function as Chairman of the State Council and the National Defense Council of the GDR and his presumptuous political and economic power as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED" and "misused his powers of disposal as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED for financial advantage for himself and others to have". Until January 1990 the Office for National Security (AfNS) of the GDR was in charge, i.e. the successor to the Stasi, which had drawn up an "action plan in the investigation against Erich Honecker".

On January 6, 1990, after a further examination by a medical commission, Honecker learned from the evening news on the current camera of East German television that he had kidney cancer . On January 10, 1990, urologist Peter Althaus removed a kidney tumor the size of a plum. On the evening of January 28, 1990, Honecker was arrested in his hospital room at the Charité , the next day he was admitted to the prison hospital in Berlin-Rummelsburg and released one day after being incapable of imprisonment.

Attorney Wolfgang Vogel turned to the Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg on behalf of Honecker and asked for help. Pastor Uwe Holmer , director of the Hope Valley Institutions in Lobetal near Bernau, then offered the couple accommodation in his parsonage. Althaus drove it there on the evening of January 30, 1990. On the same day there was criticism and later demonstrations against the church's help for the couple, as both would have disadvantaged such Christians who would not have adapted to the SED regime. The couple stayed with Holmers until April 3, 1990, with the exception of accommodation in a holiday home in Lindow, which had to be broken off in March 1990 after just one day due to political protests. Then the couple moved to the Soviet military hospital near Beelitz . When the doctors at Honecker were re-examined for their ability to adhere, the suspected diagnosis was a malignant liver tumor. On October 2, 1990, the eve of German reunification , the criminal investigation files in the Erich Honecker case were handed over to the Federal Republic of Germany by the Public Prosecutor General of the GDR. On November 30, 1990, the Tiergarten district court issued another arrest warrant against Honecker on suspicion that he had issued the order to shoot at the inner-German border in 1961 and confirmed it in 1974. The arrest warrant was not enforceable because Honecker was in Beelitz under the protection of Soviet authorities. On March 13, 1991, the couple were flown from Beelitz to Moscow by Soviet President Gorbachev after having informed Federal Chancellor Kohl in advance.

Extradition to Germany

The Chancellery had been informed by the Soviet diplomacy of the imminent departure of the Honeckers to Moscow. However, the federal government publicly limited itself to protesting that an arrest warrant had already been issued and that the Soviet Union was therefore violating the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Germany and thus against international law . After all, at this point in time the two-plus-four treaty , which was supposed to grant Germany full sovereignty, had not yet been ratified by the Supreme Soviet . It was not until March 15, 1991 that the treaty officially entered into force when the Soviet instrument of ratification was deposited with the German Foreign Minister. From that moment on, German pressure increased on Moscow to transfer Honecker.

The relationship between Mikhail Gorbachev and Honecker had been deteriorating for years anyway, and the USSR was in the process of dissolution. Gorbachev survived the August coup in Moscow only weakly. The new strong man, Boris Yeltsin , president of the Russian republic RSFSR , banned the CPSU, whose general secretary was Gorbachev. On December 25, 1991, Gorbachev resigned as President of the Soviet Union. The Russian government under Yeltsin asked Honecker in December 1991 to leave the country, otherwise he would be deported. On December 11, 1991, the Honeckers fled to the Chilean embassy in Moscow. As Margot Honecker remembers, North Korea and Syria had also offered asylum, but Chile was hoping for special protection: after the military coup of 1973 under Augusto Pinochet , the GDR under Honecker had granted many Chileans, including Ambassador Clodomiro Almeyda , exile in the GDR, and Honecker's daughter Sonja was married to a Chilean. In allusion to the GDR refugees in the West German embassies in Prague and Budapest, the Honecker couple was ironically called the "last GDR embassy refugees". Chile, however, was ruled by a left-bourgeois coalition at the time, and the German federal government said that if Russia and Chile wanted to redeem their claim to be constitutional states , Honecker would have to be transferred to the Federal Republic because an arrest warrant was sought in Germany. On July 22nd, the German Ambassador Klaus Blech in the Russian Foreign Ministry stated : “In the opinion of the German government, the illegal removal of Mr. Honecker violates the contract on the conditions of the temporary stay and the modalities of the scheduled withdrawal of Soviet troops from the territory of the Federal Republic Germany and against general international law, because it served to evade prosecution of a person who was wanted by arrest warrant for incitement to multiple deliberate killing. "

However, the suspicion of liver cancer already raised by Honecker in Beelitz was reinforced in February 1992 in Moscow by an ultrasound examination with the finding “focal disease of the liver - metastasis”. Three weeks later, however, the fundamentally more reliable examination using a computer tomogram is said to have shown: "Values ​​for a focal infestation of the liver were not determined". Now it was spread against Honecker that he was a simulant . Three days later, the Russian Justice Minister Fyodorov announced on German television that Honecker would be transferred to Germany as soon as he left the embassy. On March 7, 1992 it was said that the Chilean government was correcting its position in the Honecker case, that Ambassador Almeyda had been ordered to report to Santiago, and that they were annoyed by his attempt to get him to enter Chile with apparently manipulated reports about the terminally ill Honecker. Almeyda has been dismissed from his post. A group of doctors from the Russian parliament protested on March 18, 1992, claiming that it was the March diagnosis that had been manipulated. But for the public, Honecker's age-appropriate good general condition seemed to speak against cancer. In June 1992 the Chilean President Patricio Aylwin finally assured Chancellor Helmut Kohl that Honecker would leave the embassy in Moscow. The Russians added that they saw “no reason” to abandon their decision of December 1991, “according to which Honecker has to return to Germany”. On July 29, 1992, Erich Honecker was flown to Berlin, where he was arrested and taken to the Moabit correctional facility . Margot Honecker, on the other hand, traveled on a direct Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Santiago de Chile, where she initially stayed with her daughter Sonja and lived until her death on May 6, 2016.


On July 29, 1992, Honecker was taken into custody in the hospital of the Berlin penal institutions in Berlin-Moabit .

The jury charge of May 12, 1992 accused him of being chairman of the State Council and the National Defense Council of the GDR together with several co-defendants, including Erich Mielke, Willi Stoph, Heinz Keßler , Fritz Streletz and Hans Albrecht , from 1961 to 1989 on He was involved in the manslaughter of a total of 68 people, in particular as a member of the NVR ordering the expansion of the border systems around West Berlin and the barriers to the Federal Republic in order to make passage impossible. Between 1962 and 1980 in particular, he had taken several measures and stipulations for the further pioneering expansion of the border by erecting expanded metal fences to attach the self-firing systems and creating a field of vision and field of fire along the border security systems to prevent border breaches. In addition, at a meeting of the NVR in May 1974, he stated that the pioneering expansion of the state border must continue, a perfect field of fire must be guaranteed everywhere and that firearms must still be used ruthlessly when attempting to breach the border. “The comrades who have successfully used the firearm” are “to be commended”.

This charge was admitted by a decision of the Berlin Regional Court of October 19, 1992, with the opening of the main proceedings. By decision of the same day, the proceedings were severed with regard to 56 of the accused cases, the hearing of which was postponed. The remaining 12 cases were the subject of the main hearing that began on November 12, 1992. Also on October 19, 1992, the criminal chamber issued an arrest warrant for the remaining twelve cases.

A second indictment dated November 12, 1992 accused Honecker of having committed abuse of trust in unity with unfaithfulness to the detriment of socialist property between 1972 and October 1989. These were processes in connection with the supply and care of the Waldsiedlung Wandlitz. Another arrest warrant was issued on May 14, 1992 in this connection.

According to many lawyers, the trial, which was eagerly awaited by all over the world, had an uncertain outcome. Because the laws according to which the head of state of the former GDR could actually be convicted was controversial. The politicians of the old Federal Republic also had to fear that their “former banquet journeyman” (according to the GDR writer Hermann Kant ), whom they had received with all protocol honors in Bonn, Munich and other cities in 1987, would be confronted in the courtroom.

In his statement presented to the court on December 3, 1992, Honecker assumed political responsibility for the dead on the wall and barbed wire, but he was "without legal or moral guilt". He justified the construction of the wall by saying that, due to the worsening Cold War, the SED leadership had come to the conclusion in 1961 that a “third world war with millions of dead” could not have been prevented otherwise, and he emphasized the approval of all of the socialist leaderships Eastern Bloc states on this jointly made decision and referred to the functions that the GDR had been granted during his tenure in the UN Security Council, despite the order to shoot at the wall. He also stated that the trial against him was being conducted for purely political motives and compared the 49 deaths from the Wall for whom he was charged, for example with the number of victims in the US-led Vietnam War or the suicide rate in Western countries. The GDR had proven "that socialism can be possible and better than capitalism". He dismissed public criticism of persecution by the Stasi by saying that “sensational journalism” in Western countries also works with denunciation and has the same consequences.

At that time, Honecker was already seriously ill. Another computed tomography on August 4, 1992 confirmed the Moscow ultrasound examination: In the right lobe of the liver there was a "five centimeter large space-occupying process", presumably a late metastasis of kidney cancer, which Honecker had removed in January 1990 in the Charité. Citing these findings, Honecker's lawyers Nicolas Becker , Friedrich Wolff and Wolfgang Ziegler applied for the proceedings, insofar as they were directed against Honecker, to be separated, terminated and the arrest warrant lifted. The procedure is a acid test for the rule of law. Her client suffers from an incurable disease that leads to death either by switching off the liver function directly or by metastasis in other areas. His life expectancy is less than the estimated process duration of at least two years. The question should be asked whether it is humane to negotiate against a dying person.

By decision of December 21, 1992, the criminal chamber rejected the application. In its reasoning, the regional court stated that there were no procedural obstacles. It is true that the assessment of the likely incapacity to negotiate has increased in time due to the updated written reports. The prognosis of the incapacity to stand trial is, however, still too uncertain in view of the gravity and importance of the allegation and the resulting weight of the constitutionally required criminal prosecution duty for an immediate termination of the proceedings to be imperative.

The appeal lodged against this was rejected by the Court of Appeal on December 28, 1992. However, the Court of Appeal came to the conclusion that, based on the opinions and reports of the medical experts, it could be assumed that due to a malignant tumor in the right lobe of the liver, Honecker would not be able to stand trial with a high degree of probability will last longer and Honecker will almost certainly not survive the conclusion of the proceedings. The Court of Appeal was nevertheless prevented from terminating the proceedings itself, because according to Section 260 (3) StPO this could only be pronounced by the Regional Court after the start of the main hearing. Accordingly, it could not revoke the existing arrest warrant before the regional court had decided on the existence of a procedural obstacle.

Honecker lodged a constitutional complaint against this before the Constitutional Court of the State of Berlin . Honecker stated that the decisions violated his fundamental right to human dignity. Human dignity is a fundamental principle of the constitution, also in relation to the state penal system and the criminal justice system. The continuation of criminal proceedings and a main hearing against a defendant who can be expected with certainty that he will die before the conclusion of the main hearing and therefore before a decision on his guilt or innocence is made violates his or her human dignity. Human dignity includes in particular the right of a person to be allowed to die with dignity.

By decision of January 12, 1993, the Constitutional Court approved Honecker's constitutional complaint. Based on the findings of the Court of Appeal, according to which Honecker will almost certainly not see the conclusion of the proceedings, it can be assumed that the criminal proceedings can no longer achieve their legal purpose of fully investigating the offenses against which Honecker is accused and, if necessary, conviction and punishment . The criminal proceedings become an end in itself, for which there is no justifying reason. The maintenance of the arrest warrant violates Honecker's claim to respect for his human dignity. People become the mere object of state measures, especially when their death is so close that criminal proceedings have lost their meaning.

On the same day, the Berlin Regional Court closed the proceedings under Section 206a of the Code of Criminal Procedure and revoked the warrant. The regional court did not remedy the complaints raised by the public prosecutor's office and the co-plaintiffs. The application for a new arrest warrant was rejected by order of January 13, 1993.

On January 13, 1993, the Berlin Regional Court refused to open the main proceedings in relation to the November 12, 1992 indictment and also overturned the second arrest warrant. After a total of 169 days, Honecker was released from custody, which sparked protests from victims of the GDR regime.

Departure to Chile

Immediately afterwards Honecker flew to Santiago de Chile to his wife Margot and their daughter Sonja (* 1952), who lived there with her Chilean husband Leo Yáñez and their son Roberto. On the other hand, those accused with him were sentenced on September 16, 1993 to imprisonment between four and seven and a half years. On April 13, 1993, the last trial against Honecker, which had been separated in order to speed up the proceedings and continued in the absence of the defendant, was also dropped by the Berlin district court. On April 17, 1993, the 66th birthday of his wife Margot, Honecker settled accounts in a speech with the West and regretted his comrades who were still in prison in Moabit and “defied the class enemy”. He concluded his speech with the words: “Socialism is the opposite of what we have in Germany now. So I would like to say that our fond memories of the GDR say a lot about the design of a new, just society. And we want to stay true to this cause forever. "

In the last few months, Honecker had to be fed artificially. He died on May 29, 1994 at the age of 81 in Santiago de Chile. His body was cremated in the crematorium of the Santiago Central Cemetery. After the funeral, his urn was taken home by his widow, but later probably buried in this cemetery. According to his grandson, the urn is still in private hands and awaits a later burial in Germany.

Reception aspects

curriculum vitae

Martin Sabrow finds it amazing how strongly Honecker's “individual and generational life experience shimmers through the impersonal character of SED rule on closer inspection”. He refers specifically to Honecker's upbringing and early work in Saarland and presents two plausible readings of Honecker's career and life story, each in its own way.

On the one hand, according to Sabrow, discrepancies and aspects of failure in Honecker's vita can be presented in a “unmasking gesture”: Honecker grew up in a more petty-bourgeoisie than a classic proletarian model; the younger brother joining the Nazis; Honecker's intermittent flirtation with an agricultural existence in Western Pomerania; the miserable failure in the "Saarkampf" ; the clumsy and burdensome action on the entire Berlin underground organization in connection with his arrest by the Gestapo at the end of 1935; the highly risky and ultimately hopeless escape attempt at the beginning of March 1945, in which he again endangered comrades underground; the solitary approach after the liberation "under disreputable personal circumstances in the living environment of his own dungeon staff."

On the other hand, however, it is just as plausible to make a counter-calculation in the sense of the "type of communist ruler biography" based on steadfastness: Honecker's early, in the family tradition, unselfish engagement for the communist movement; the rapid rise to district manager Saar in the communist youth association; the immediate action in the resistance at the beginning of the Nazi regime; the never-ending energy and willingness to take responsibility in the nerve-wracking illegal association work up to the arrest after almost three years; the loyalty to the idea of ​​humanity that determined his life, which persists even after years of imprisonment in Nazi prisons.

According to Sabrow, Honecker's spiritual anchoring in his own youth biography was also evident in 1989 and after his fall. His “stubbornness to change, which is determined by life history [...] was expressed in a remarkable insensitivity to the historical defeat of socialism.” Based on his own experience, he could say “that today's losers are infallibly tomorrow's winners.” The rebellious GDR -The people seemed misled to him, especially since he treated the easy manipulation of the people as historically proven. Without clear leadership by a Marxist party, it would simply not work. The examining doctor in the Moabit detention hospital noted as a self-characterization of Honecker: "I was a communist, am a communist and will remain a communist."


Like his predecessor as head of state and party leader, Ulbricht, Honecker is described by some historians as not very charismatic in his public appearances and as not particularly gifted, while others admit that he has a certain rhetoric. Above all, his speeches at party congresses and diplomatic events, which cabaret artists and satirists outside the GDR public were able to use as models for parodies , are described by some as clumsy and wooden in style. During his time as Secretary General, his attitude was once outlined as "almost uncanny, rehearsed immobility". According to the memoirs of one of his bodyguards hired by the Stasi, Honecker, who lived in isolation from the population, increasingly lost “contact with reality”.

In picture and sound

Dmitri Wladimirowitsch Wrubel : My God, help me to survive this deadly love . Mural with a socialist brotherly kiss between Honecker and Brezhnev on the East Side Gallery in Berlin from 1991.

Honecker was depicted twice on postage stamps: in the GDR in 1972 by Deutsche Post together with Leonid Brezhnev on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Society for German-Soviet Friendship ; and in 1984 by the Post Office of North Korea together with Kim Il-sung in honor of his visit to the GDR.

Udo Lindenberg 's greatest commercial success, the song Sonderzug nach Pankow , to the melody Chattanooga Choo Choo , was ironically addressed directly to the then Chairman of the State Council, addressed his lack of looseness and achieved great popularity in the GDR. In order to initiate a concert appearance in the Palace of the Republic , he gave Honecker a leather jacket in 1987. In return, he received such an instrument from Honecker, who had played a shawm in his youth for the Red Front Fighter League. During his state visit to the Federal Republic of Germany in 1987, Lindenberg gave him an electric guitar with the label “Guitars instead of creaking”.

Dmitri Wrubel's graffito Mein Gott, help me to survive this deadly love on the Berlin Wall (spring 1990), which addressed a " brotherly kiss " between Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker, became known worldwide.

In 2017 Erich Honecker was shown in two films. On October 3, 2017, ARD showed the comedy Welcome to the Honeckers with Martin Brambach as Honecker. A short time later, the movie Forward Always! , in which Honecker is portrayed by actor Jörg Schüttauf .

Awards and honors

Honecker received all the important awards of the GDR, including the Karl Marx Order , the honorary title of hero of the GDR with the associated gold medal, the Patriotic Order of Merit with a bar of honor , the banner of work , hero of work , and from the Soviet Union the highest honor, the Lenin order .

In 1981, during his state visit to Japan, Honecker was awarded an honorary doctorate from Nihon University Tokyo . In 1985, Honecker received the Olympic Gold Medal from the IOC .


  • Speeches and essays. Twelve volumes. Dietz, Berlin 1975–1988.
  • On the youth policy of the SED. Two volumes. New life, Berlin 1985.
  • The role of the working class and its party in socialist society. Marxist sheets, Frankfurt am Main 1974, ISBN 3-88012-292-X .
  • Out of my life. 14th edition. Dietz, Berlin 1989, ISBN 3-320-00744-0 .
  • For a worldwide coalition of reason and realism. Dietz, Berlin 1989, ISBN 3-320-01418-8 .
  • Great things have been done by the people and for the people. Ceremonial address by Erich Honecker, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED and Chairman of the State Council of the GDR. In: New Germany . October 9, 1989 ( excerpt ).
  • Erich Honecker on dramatic events. Runge, Hamburg 1992.
  • "... I don't need to correct anything". A conversation with Paul Oestreicher in the prison. In: epd documentation. H. 6a (February 1, 1993), pp. 1-12.
  • Personal statement by Erich Honecker before the Berlin Regional Court on December 3, 1992. In: Blätter für German and international politics . Volume 38, 1993, No. 1, pp. 118-126 (see also web links).
  • Moab Notes. The last written testimony and minutes of the interview from the visit to Germany in 1987 from the personal possession of Erich Honecker. Edition Ost, Berlin 1994, ISBN 3-929161-14-1 .
  • Frank Schumann (Ed.): Last records. For Margot. Edition Ost, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-360-01837-3 .
  • with Eva Ruppert: Dear Eva. Erich Honecker's prison letters. Edition Ost, Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-360-01883-0 .


  • Wilma Kottuck: Sketch of a Decay. In the footsteps of Erich Honecker, Süddeutscher Rundfunk, VHS, Stuttgart 1990.
  • Harald Lüders, Peter Boultwood: TV interview "Erich Honecker - The Interview". VHS, Frankfurt am Main 1991.
  • Thomas Grimm : Honeckers Flucht - with Thomas Kunze , Das Erste, 45 min, 2002.
  • Thomas Grimm: The Honeckers private - MDR television, 45 min, 2003.
  • Eric Friedler : The Fall - Honecker's End , 2012.
  • Francis Meletzky : Forward Always! , 2017.
  • Thomas Grimm: Die Honeckers - Die private Geschichte - as co-author with Mario Sporn - ZDF-History, 45 min, 2017.
  • Thomas Grimm: Honecker's Last Journey - with Thomas Kunze , MDR TV, 90 min, 2019.


Web links

Commons : Erich Honecker  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual references and comments

  1. Jürgen Leinemann : "Those who let themselves be carried away by feelings ..."  DER SPIEGEL September 13, 1987
  2. a b Gravesearch
  3. Martin Sabrow : Erich Honecker. The life before. 1912-1945 . CH Beck, Munich 2016, p. 53, p. 55.
  4. Antifascist with a sergeant ., October 31, 2016
  5. Martin Sabrow: Erich Honecker. The life before. 1912–1945 , CH Beck, Munich 2016, p. 40 f, p. 48–50.
  6. Martin Sabrow: Erich Honecker. The life before. 1912-1945 . CH Beck, Munich 2016, pp. 48–50.
  7. Martin Sabrow: Erich Honecker. The life before. 1912-1945 . CH Beck, Munich 2016, pp. 55–57, p. 59 f.
  8. Martin Sabrow: Erich Honecker. The life before. 1912-1945 . CH Beck, Munich 2016, p. 58, p. 61 f., P. 64.
  9. "In the revelations from the period of upheaval around 1989 and in the public prosecutor's investigation conducted against Honecker, this discrepancy was judged to be a deliberate maneuver by Honecker to skillfully upgrade accession against the background of the global economic crisis that was beginning at that time." (Sabrow 2016, p. 65, with document Przybylski, Tatort Politbüro , p. 39)
  10. Martin Sabrow: Erich Honecker. The life before. 1912-1945 . CH Beck, Munich 2016. p. 61 and p. 64–67.
  11. Martin Sabrow: Erich Honecker. The life before. 1912-1945 . CH Beck, Munich 2016. P. 60 and P. 72-77.
  12. Martin Sabrow: Erich Honecker. The life before. 1912-1945. Beck, Munich 2016, on Grejewa and return p. 75 f., On first functions p. 78 f.
  13. ↑ For the investigators, more important than uncovering the “last ramifications” of their activities was the permanent elimination of the communist cadre. (Sabrow 2016, p. 305)
  14. Sabrow 2016, pp. 299-310.
  15. Sabrow 2016, p. 300 f.
  16. ^ Topic: Mielke's "Red Suitcase" - Stories - BStU. Retrieved April 8, 2020 .
  17. Sabrow 2016, pp. 322–331.
  18. Sabrow 2016, pp. 355–357. “If necessary, we carried it a little further, indefinitely,” says Honecker's memoir. (Quoted from Sabrow 2016, p. 356.
  19. Sabrow 2016, pp. 360–363. "In the general confusion, nobody knew better what to do than convict 523/237, who after numerous life-threatening evacuation missions had more nerves and leadership than all the civil servants put together." (Ibid., P. 363)
  20. Sabrow 2016, p. 363 f. “In order not to come into conflict with the truth of the life story or with considerations of political opportunity, Honecker narrated his future wife into the individual roles she played in his political biography. […] His memoirs from 1980 speak of her once as an unnamed guardian, then as the daughter of 'Grandma Grund' who had given him shelter during the escape, and finally as an 'acquaintance' who later organized his return to the work detachment . "(Ibid., P. 364 f.)
  21. Sabrow 2016, pp. 372-400. "The fact that the top guard over the Berlin prisons was ready and able to successfully cover up the failed escape of a prison inmate can only be explained by the progressive dissolution of the state order in the Reich capital and was based on the legal construction, Honecker no longer as a convict, but to be regarded as already pardoned, who remained imprisoned only for his own protection. "(Ibid., p. 403)
  22. Sabrow 2016, pp. 409-427.
  23. ↑ On this with evidence Peter Przybylski : Tatort Politbüro. The Honecker file. Berlin 1991, pp. 55–65 and Ulrich Völklein: Honecker. A biography. Berlin 2003, pp. 154-178.
  24. Sabrow 2016, pp. 428-432.
  25. Sabrow 2016, pp. 433 and 441 f.
  26. Wolfgang Leonhard: Search for traces. Cologne 1992, ISBN 3-462-02170-2 .
  27. Sabrow 2016, p. 445.
  28. Sabrow 2016, p. 445 f. The cause of death was given as "brain softening". (Ibid., P. 246)
  29. a b c d e Martin Sabrow : The underrated dictator . In: Der Spiegel . No. 34 , 2012, p. 46-48 ( online ).
  30. ^ Sylvia Conradt: German-German border - 25 years ago: GDR government canceled shooting order In:, April 3, 2014.
  31. Regine Sylvester : "This is insulting our party." . In: Die Zeit , No. 50/2015, p. 23.
  32. ^ Olaf Klenke: Operational conflicts in the GDR 1970/71 and the change of power from Ulbricht to Honecker. In: Yearbook for Research on the History of the Labor Movement , Issue II / 2004, page number is missing.
  33. ^ Heike Amos: Politics and organization of the SED headquarters 1949-1963. Structure and functioning of the Politburo, Secretariat, Central Committee and Central Committee apparatus. LIT-Verlag, Münster 2003, p. 616
  34. Wolfgang Benz, Michael F. Scholz: Handbook of German History , Volume 22, Germany under Allied occupation 1945-1949; The GDR 1949-1990 . Klett-Cotta 2009. p. 448.
  35. ^ Mario Frank : Walter Ulbricht. A German biography. Siedler-Verlag, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-88680-720-7 . Page 415.
  36. ^ Jochen Stelkens: Change of power in East Berlin. In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte , 1997, issue 4, p. 507
  37. Ed Stuhler: Margot Honecker. A biography. Ueberreuther, Vienna 2003, p. 149, p. 147ff.
  38. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler : German history of society, Vol. 5: Federal Republic and GDR 1949-1950. CH Beck, Munich 2008, p. 218.
  39. Martin Sabrow: The pale dictator. Erich Honecker as a biographical challenge . Lecture as part of the institute colloquium of the Center for Contemporary History on February 9, 2012 in Potsdam. ( Memento of March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 110 kB) Center for Research on Contemporary History ; Retrieved October 2, 2012
  40. Ed Stuhler: Margot Honecker. A biography. Ueberreuther, Vienna 2003, p. 152.
  41. ^ Günter Schabowski: The crash. Rowohlt, Berlin 1991, p. 115f.
  42. a b Minutes of the 45th meeting of the National Defense Council of the GDR , May 3, 1974
  43. Financial Times England, Leslie Colitt: President Erich Honecker - Trusted in Moscow, respected at home , December 10, 1981, p. 3. (translated from English)
  44. from December 19, 2008, Helmut Schmidt: My meeting with Honecker, Why I liked going to Hubertusstock Castle in 1981 Merkur online from October 19, 2009
  45. Klaus Schroeder : The SED state. Bavarian State Center for Political Education, Munich 1998, p. 293 f .; Heinrich August Winkler : The long way to the west. German history II. From the “Third Reich” to reunification. CH Beck, Munich 2014, pp. 453–459.
  46. ^ Christian Thonke: Hitler's long shadow. The arduous way to compensate the Nazi victims. Böhlau-Verlag, Vienna 2004, p. 49 f.
  47. Netzeitung of June 6, 2008, reparation: When the GDR discovered its Jews. When the GDR discovered its Jews ( Memento from December 2, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  48. Honecker's illness during the Comecon Summit
  49. Ed Stuhler: Margot Honecker. A biography. Ueberreuter, Vienna 2003, p. 194.
  50. Stasi file excerpt from October 23, 1989, "Gorbi, Gorbi hilf uns!" Source: Robert Havemann Society (BStU copy)
  51. According to The East German Transition Game ( Memento of 21 September 2003 at the Internet Archive ) by Kurt-Henning Tvedt ( Word -Dokument; 447 KB)
  52. ^ Christiane Wolters: Stasi documents: Mielke's story in a suitcase. In: Spiegel Online . March 31, 2004, accessed January 19, 2012 .
  53. ^ Günter Schabowski : The Politburo. End of a myth. A survey. Reinbek 1990. p. 104 ff .; Günter Schabowski: The crash. Berlin, 1991. p. 267 ff.
  54. Erich Honecker and the women. In: , August 19, 2012.
  55. ^ "For Margot". Erich Honecker kept a kind of diary during his pre-trial detention in 1992. In: Tages-Anzeiger , February 24, 2012.
  56. Bodyguard reports. Erich Honecker: That's how he treated women, families and cars. In: Abendzeitung , May 9, 2014.
  57. ^ Hans-Joachim Neubauer : Two Saarlanders at the top. In: Die Zeit , No. 35/2012.
  58. Marian Blasber: Honecker's grandson. "I'm only a rebel today". In: Die Zeit Magazin , No. 10/2011.
  59. Erich Honecker - the hunter. In: , January 4, 2010.
  60. Meike Haselmann: The hunt in the GDR: between feudalism and socialism. 2005. cited from the summary (PDF) at the Federal Foundation for the Processing of the SED Dictatorship ; Martin Sabrow : The underrated dictator. In: Der Spiegel , August 20, 2012.
  61. Sabrow 2016, pp. 470–472. “The overwhelming majority of East German memorabilia only saw the time of a life report after 1989, which was written with the will to be truthful, in order then, in the spirit of Karl Schirdewan , to bring their 'detailed knowledge of the functioning of the Ulbrichtian system into the general enlightenment process' or theirs to process one's own share in the failure of the socialist experiment biographically. "(Ibid., p.475)
  62. Sabrow 2016, p. 476.
  63. Sabrow 2016, pp. 476–479 (quotation). Only New Germany was irritated by the publication in an English scientific publisher, noting that “it would of course have been conceivable that such a biography would appear in a publisher in the GDR, for example. If one had known the publishing policy in the GDR, that would actually have been normal. ”(Quoted from Sabrow 2016, p. 486)
  64. Sabrow 2016, pp. 479 f. And 481.
  65. Ed Stuhler: Margot Honecker. A biography. Ueberreuter, Vienna 2003, p. 199.
  66. Ed Stuhler: Margot Honecker. A biography. Ueberreuter, Vienna 2003. pp. 201f.
  67. Jörg Marschner: Asylum for the enemy ( memento from September 13, 2012 in the web archive ); sz-online / Sächsische Zeitung from January 25, 2010.
  68. Sabine Kinkartz: Calendar sheet: March 13, 1991 escape to Russia ; Deutsche Welle: Calendar sheet, March 13, 2008 . Also published on einestages ( Spiegel Online )
  69. We wanted to get rid of him . In: Der Spiegel . No. 32 , 1992, pp. 21 ( Online - Aug. 3, 1992 ).
  70. ^ Personal declaration by Erich Honecker before the Berlin Regional Court on December 3, 1992 ; published on
  71. ^ Supreme Court, decision of December 28, 1992 - 4 Ws 217, 218 and 248/92 -, NJW 1993, 947.
  72. Constitutional Court of the State of Berlin, decision of January 12, 1993 - 55/92 - , NJW 1993, 515.
  73. Berlin Regional Court, decision of January 13, 1993 - 572-10 / 92 -, NStZ 1993, 298.
  74. Berlin Regional Court, decision of January 13, 1993 - 514-35 / 92 -, NJW 1993, 1608.
  75. October 1989 - May 1994: Erich Honecker - the end ( memento of November 14, 2010 in the Internet Archive );
  76. Ed Stuhler: Margot Honecker. A biography. Ueberreuther, Vienna 2003, p. 210.
  77. Honecker's last journey into exile: The passenger in 13A, January 12, 2018, accessed on January 17, 2018.
  79. Sabrow 2016, p. 488 f. Honecker's “nostalgic visit” to Herbert Wehner, who was already “dawning in severe dementia” in his private home in 1987 was determined by this. Then Honecker announced that Wehner was "completely rehabilitated" and could "take his place in the Politburo again." (Ibid., P. 449)
  80. Sabrow 2016, pp. 449–451.
  81. Sabrow 2016, p. 451 f.
  82. Sabrow 2016, pp. 503 and 505. For Honecker, according to Sabrow, the people remained an “unreliable mass that needed constant education and the right guidance in order not to go astray again and again” - “that was the real one Lessons from his first life, which Honecker took with him into the new era and which was to determine his path leading to the heights of command of world communism until the last day. "(Ibid., P. 505)
  83. Quoted from Sabrow 2016, p. 14.
  84. See for example Michael Behnen : German history from the beginnings to the present. Metzler, Tübingen 1997, p. 884; Stefan Wolle : The perfect world of dictatorship. Everyday life and rule in the GDR 1971–1989. Ch. Links, Berlin 1998, p. 41; Martin Sabrow , in: Patrick Bahners and Alexander Cammann (eds.): Federal Republic and GDR. The debate about Hans-Ulrich Wehler's “German history of society”. Beck, Munich 2009, p. 129; Sebastian Huhnholz: "... wedged between two larger houses." Attempt of a psychopolitical double portrait on the occasion of Erich Honecker's hundredth birthday. In: Berliner Debatte Initial , 23/2 (2012), p. 5, (PDF)
  85. Norbert F. Pötzl: philistines with an instinct for power. In: Spiegel Geschichte 2/2009. March 31, 2009, accessed January 19, 2013 .
  86. Stefan Wolle: The ideal world of dictatorship: Everyday life and rule in the GDR 1971–1989. Ch. Links, 1998, p. 42 ff.
  87. Timothy Garton Ash : "And don't you want to be my brother ...". The GDR today. From the English by Yvonne Vesper-Badal, Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1981, ISBN 3-499-33015-6 , p. 168.
  88. Bernd Brückner: To Honecker's side. The First Man's bodyguard. Publishing house Das Neue Berlin. Berlin 2014, p. 14.
  89. ^ Rolf Langebartels: Udo Lindenberg and Erich Honecker. Shawm and guitar. Sound bag No. 109, August 8, 2002
  90. Peter Zander: “Forward always!” - Jörg Schüttauf as Erich Honecker . ( [accessed on October 22, 2017]).
  91. Neues Deutschland, May 29, 1981, p. 1.
  92. Honecker's last journey - The tug of war for the former head of state of the GDR. In: Grimmchronik: Remembrance as responsibility. June 9, 2020, accessed April 28, 2021 (German).