Sahra Wagenknecht

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Sahra Wagenknecht, 2019

Sahra Wagenknecht (born on July 16, 1969 in Jena , Gera district , GDR ; officially initially Sarah Wagenknecht ) is a German politician ( PDS , Die Linke ), economist and publicist .

From the early 1990s, she held key positions in various PDS executive committees. After the PDS merged with the WASG in 2007 , it was able to expand its influence in the successor party Die Linke . There, Wagenknecht , who had long been a communist , was the protagonist of the left wing of the party. In addition to her party membership, she is a member of the ver.di union .

From 2010 to 2014 she was one of the deputy party leaders . Before that, she represented the PDS and Die Linke from 2004 to 2009 as a member of the European Parliament . Wagenknecht has been a member of the German Bundestag since September 2009 . From 2011 she was deputy chairman of the left parliamentary group there . On October 13, 2015, together with Dietmar Bartsch , she replaced Gregor Gysi, who had been chairman of the parliamentary group until then, and as such was the leader of the opposition until 2017 . On November 12, 2019, she resigned as group leader. Her successor was Amira Mohamed Ali .

Origin and youth (1969–1990)

Sahra Wagenknecht during her lecture Do we live in a performance society? in Karlsruhe , July 2011
Sahra Wagenknecht during the federal election campaign in Düsseldorf-Bilk , August 2009

Sahra Wagenknecht is the daughter of an Iranian father and a German mother. The father met her mother, who lived in the GDR, as a West Berlin student. Her father has been considered missing after a trip to Iran since she was a small child. When she became a member of the Bundestag for the first time, she changed the official spelling of her first name according to the Persian spelling (زهرا), as it corresponded to the original naming of the parents. According to Wagenknecht, her mother was a trained art dealer and worked for the state art trade. Wagenknecht first grew up with her grandparents in a village near Jena; when she started school she moved to live with her mother in East Berlin . Mother and daughter lived there on Oderberger Strasse , a walled street in Prenzlauer Berg . During her school days she became a member of the Free German Youth (FDJ) and graduated in 1988 from the extended secondary school (EOS) "Albert Einstein" in Berlin-Marzahn with the Abitur . She found the pre-military training for schoolchildren common in the GDR to be extremely stressful: She could no longer eat what the authorities interpreted as a political hunger strike . As a repressive reaction to this, she was not allowed to study in the GDR. The reason given was that she was “not open enough [...] for the collective”. She was assigned a job as a secretary . However, she resigned her after three months, which was extremely unusual for GDR conditions. From then on she no longer received any government support and earned her living by giving tutoring. In the early summer of 1989 Wagenknecht joined the SED , according to his own statements, in order to reshape the dead-end socialism and to oppose opportunists.

Studies and PhD

After the reunification she studied philosophy and modern German literature at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and the Humboldt University in Berlin from the 1990 summer semester . According to the Wirtschaftswoche , she broke off her studies in Berlin because "at the Humboldt University in East Berlin she no longer found any understanding of her research goal". She then matriculated at the Dutch University of Groningen (RUG) for the philosophy course. According to her own information, she had previously done all the certificates except for the thesis in Berlin and in September 1996 acquired the academic degree Magistra Artium (M.A.) in Groningen with a thesis with Hans Heinz Holz on the Hegel reception of the young Marx . This research was published as a book in 1997.

According to her own statements, she started her dissertation on The Limits of Choice in 2005 . Saving Decisions and Basic Needs in Developed Countries ("The Limits to Freedom of Choice. Saving Decisions and Basic Needs in Developed Countries ") in the subject of economics . In August 2012, she submitted her thesis to the Chemnitz University of Technology with the Professor of Microeconomics Fritz Helmedag , who was among other things a liaison professor of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation . Two months later she passed her oral examination for Dr. rer. pole. with an overall rating of magna cum laude . In October 2013 the Campus Verlag published her doctoral thesis on the relationship between income and reserves.

From August 2012 to August 2014, she regularly wrote articles in the column Der Krisenstab in the daily newspaper Neues Deutschland .

Party career (since 1991)

From 1991 Wagenknecht was a member of the PDS party executive. Between 1995 and 2000, however, she had to resign from the board for five years because Gregor Gysi thought she was so intolerable that he threatened to withdraw. From 1991 to 2010 she was a member of the management of the Communist Platform (KPF) classified as left-wing extremist by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution , an association of orthodox-communist-oriented members and sympathizers within the party, and remained so after the merger of the WASG and PDS. The party executive assessed the “positive attitude towards the Stalinism model ”, which Wagenknecht publicly represented as spokeswoman for the PCF, as incompatible with the positions of the PDS.

In 2000 she was re-elected to the PDS executive committee. In March 2006 she was one of the initiators of the Anti-Capitalist Left , a joint grouping of members of the WASG and the Left Party. Wagenknecht has been a member of the executive committee of Die Linke since June 2007 and a member of the program committee since October 2007. After being rejected by party chairman Lothar Bisky and by parliamentary group leader Gregor Gysi in the German Bundestag, Gregor Gysi , she ended her internal party attempt to run for the vice-chairmanship of the Left at the first party congress of the merged party in May 2008 Press release not to run for vice-chair. She was re-elected to the party executive committee at the party congress with 70 percent of the vote. At the suggestion of Gysis and the party executive, Wagenknecht was elected deputy party chairman at the federal left party conference in early May 2010 with 75.3 percent of the vote.

Member of Parliament (since 2004)

For the 1998 federal elections Wagenknecht joined Dortmund as a direct candidate of the PDS. She won 3.25 percent of the first and 2.2 percent of the second votes in her constituency . In the 2004 European elections in Germany , Wagenknecht was able to enter the European Parliament . This was preceded by an internal party vote . In July 2009 she resigned from the European Parliament.

In the 2009 federal elections , Wagenknecht ran for the direct mandate in the Düsseldorf-Süd constituency . On March 18, 2009 she was nominated by the district association of the Left in Düsseldorf. Wagenknecht was voted fifth on the state list in North Rhine-Westphalia by the state party conference . It received 9.7 percent of the first votes on September 27, 2009. She moved into the Bundestag via the state list.

On November 8, 2011 Wagenknecht was elected one of the first two deputy chairmen of the Bundestag parliamentary group with 61.8 percent of the vote. In January 2012 it became known that Sahra Wagenknecht was one of 27 members of the Bundestag left under observation by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution .

After the incumbent parliamentary group chairman Gregor Gysi announced on June 7, 2015 at the federal party conference of the Left in Bielefeld that he would be retiring from this post in autumn that year, Wagenknecht declared that he was ready to stand with Dietmar Bartsch , despite prior announcement that he would no longer stand as a candidate to succeed Gysis in a dual leadership. On October 13, 2015, Wagenknecht and Bartsch replaced Gysi in the parliamentary group chairmanship and acted jointly as opposition leaders in the 18th legislative period of the German Bundestag until October 23, 2017 . Since the 19th Bundestag was constituted , they continued to lead its left-wing faction , but lost opposition leadership to the AfD .

Wagenknecht at the Federal Party Conference 2018 in Leipzig

Together with Oskar Lafontaine , Wagenknecht took up the proposal in 2018 to found a left-wing collection movement, a non-partisan initiative designed to bring the dispersed left together and give it a new socio-political dominance. August 4, 2018 was the start date of the Get Up Movement's website , which officially began in early September.

In March 2019, Wagenknecht announced that, owing to health, he would both withdraw from the leadership of the movement and not run for chairmanship of the left-wing parliamentary group in the Bundestag in the fall. On November 12, 2019, she resigned as group leader. Her successor was Amira Mohamed Ali .

Political positions and actions

Economic policy

Wagenknecht criticized the party's compromises in terms of government participation in the countries, such as the cuts in social benefits and the privatizations in Berlin. The party's participation in government and a “cuddle course towards red-green” are rejected by it due to the “deep political difference” with the SPD and red-green. Wagenknecht belonged to the anti-capitalist left and the Communist Platform for a long time , where she was also a member of the Federal Coordination Council. Since February 2010 her membership in this party stream has been suspended.

In 2000, Wagenknecht called for the capitalist production relations to be overcome . In an article in the "Lifestyle" section of ZEIT-online , Marc Kayser recorded a "dream" of Wagenknecht about meeting a time traveler who describes the basic features of a "different society". However, Wagenknecht rejects a return to the socialism of the GDR. In their opinion, services of general interest such as housing, education, health, water and energy supply, banks and key industries should be borne by the public sector in order to overcome “the dictates of returns and share prices”. Wagenknecht sees on the basis of the Basic Law , especially Article 14, Paragraphs 2 and 3 and Article 15, also possibilities for a different economic order beyond capitalism.

Wagenknecht showed understanding for the economic policy of the states of Cuba and Venezuela . In a press release in 2006, she announced that "the continued existence of the Cuban system means a ray of hope for those in the so-called Third World who are the losers of a market and profit-oriented globalized world". In 2008 she also defended the nationalization of the oil production facilities of the US group ExxonMobil , decided by the Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez .

Financial crisis and euro crisis

In Spiegel Online (2012) Christian Rickens called Wagenknecht's proposal for a solution to the financial crisis and the euro crisis "in its core extremely liberal", it contained a "couple of rather clever approaches". In fact, Wagenknecht appeals to thought leaders of ordoliberalism , whose ideas are usually represented in the FDP . In the new edition of her book Freedom Instead of Capitalism , published in 2012, Wagenknecht proposes a haircut and certain subsequent measures to end the euro crisis while at the same time generating economic growth and regulating the financial markets:

  • “The EU states should decide that all debts above a certain limit will no longer be repaid.” Wagenknecht proposes 60 percent of annual economic output as the limit.
  • The haircut leads to the bankruptcy of many European banks and insurance companies. This bankruptcy is justified, because "risk and liability are simply linked in a market economy."

According to Wagenknecht, politicians should react to these bankruptcies in the financial industry as follows:

  • The state provides the banks with fresh equity and should continue to run those parts of the banks that are relevant to an economy: (a) The business with customer deposits and (b) Lending to the economy. This will prevent a recession. The investment banking of the respective banks should, however, be largely handled.
  • The state guarantees savings and life insurance up to a million euros per person.
  • The euro countries receive loans from the European Central Bank (ECB) directly from the European Central Bank (ECB) up to an upper deficit limit of around four percent of economic output per year and a maximum total debt that has yet to be determined , so that they are no longer cut off from the capital market.
  • The ECB remains independent.
  • Banks should grant loans mainly from the savings deposits of their customers.

Social policy

Wagenknecht calls for "social security that guarantees human dignity". For this purpose, "the Hartz IV standard rates [for 2017] are to be increased to 560 euros per month and humiliating harassment abolished". The current rules of reasonableness are not compatible with the Basic Law. “The Hartz system [must] be overcome in order not to expose even more people to a vicious circle of disenfranchisement and impoverishment.” A “proper unemployment insurance” must protect against social decline “until the person concerned has found a new job”.

She regards the Riester pension as a failure. There is a broad consensus on this, but “the political courage to wind it up and to strengthen the statutory pension” is lacking. She calls for the pension level to be increased back to 53% and the retirement age to be reduced to 65. Civil servants and the self-employed are also to be included in the statutory pension insurance for financing purposes. The pension insurance of Austria is an example of a possible alternative to the solution of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Family policy

At the beginning of June 2015, Wagenknecht and 150 other celebrities from culture and politics signed an open letter to the Federal Chancellor, in which the equality of same-sex partnerships as opposed to two-sex marriage was demanded.

Immigration policy

Wagenknecht is against the demands of many members of the Left Party for open borders . In their opinion, this only benefits the elites in industrialized countries , who benefit from “ dumping wages ” as a result of increasing labor migration . A large majority would not benefit from this and should be protected from such low wages. This would also harm the countries in which there is emigration: "Because it is mostly people with better education from the middle class who emigrate."

refugee policy

In January 2016 Wagenknecht pointed to “capacity limits” and “limits of willingness to accept in the population”, for which she was sharply criticized in her party and beyond. In an interview in March 2016, she said:

“It is a fact that there are limits to the willingness of the population to accept, and also that capacities are not unlimited. Establishing that is neither left nor right, but a banality. "

She further criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee policy as "haphazard", saying that it had led to a "complete failure of the state" in Germany, "in the social field as well as in internal security". She called for greater federal support for the states and municipalities, which would bear the majority of the costs for refugees themselves and would have to cut them elsewhere. Wagenknecht warned against “playing off the poor against the poorest” and cited the threat of food shortages at the table as an example . Wagenknecht described the federal government's fight against the causes of flight as “implausible”, since Germany exports weapons to areas of tension and US drones are flown “with logistical support from Germany”. The foreign policy of Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) in the form of support for the "oil wars of the USA and its allies" is the reason for the existence and strength of the Islamic State .

After the sexual assault in Cologne at the beginning of 2016, Wagenknecht said: "Whoever abuses his right to hospitality has forfeited his right to hospitality" and was criticized almost unanimously in her party and parliamentary group: The right to asylum was not realizable. However, praise came from the AfD .

At the party congress of the Left on May 28, 2016, Wagenknecht was thrown a cake by activists of the “ Antifascist Cakes for Misanthropists Initiative” . The activists justified their action by saying that Wagenknecht, like the AfD, translated “the 'people's anger' into political demands”. Her party colleagues condemned the attack and denied the allegations. A complaint was filed against the activists involved in the throwing of the cake.

Wagenknecht received further criticism in early October 2016 for their joint interview with AfD chairwoman Frauke Petry , in which - despite Wagenknecht's attempts to differentiate themselves - there were similarities in European and refugee policy. The organizer of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung also wrote that the two were “often closer to each other than expected”. The taz editor Ulrike Herrmann , who had called it a “right-wing consensus talk”, was then accused by Wagenknecht's husband, Oskar Lafontaine, of “right-wing smear journalism” of “neoliberal combat press”. CDU General Secretary Peter Tauber described Sahra Wagenknecht and Frauke Petry as " the double lottery of populism in Germany".

After the attacks in Würzburg and Ansbach in the summer of 2016, Wagenknecht made a connection to the lack of control over the reception of refugees and again took a stance against the federal government's refugee policy. For her remarks she received again some violent criticism from her own party. The MP Jan van Aken accused Wagenknecht of arguing with false facts. Wagenknecht's statements are not compatible with her position as chairman of the left-wing parliamentary group in the Bundestag . He demanded her resignation. Even after Wagenknecht relativized her theses after the initial criticism, her party reacted with clear rejection. According to Bernd Riexinger, your statements are “of course not acceptable”. Some of the press compared them with those of the AfD.

In January 2017, in a controversial stern interview , Wagenknecht gave Angela Merkel “joint responsibility” for the terrorist attack in Berlin through her border opening for refugees and the austerity measures taken by the police . Observers then again attested her ideological closeness to the AfD.

Relationship to Stalinism and the GDR

In 1992, in her article Marxism and Opportunism , Wagenknecht assessed the economic development of the Soviet Union during the Stalin era , insofar as the "development of a country that had lagged behind centuries into a modern great power during a uniquely short period of time" took place here. This has overcome misery, hunger, illiteracy, semi-feudal dependencies and the sharpest capitalist exploitation.

Your attitude towards Stalinism was sometimes felt to be too uncritical within the Left Party and criticized by Gregor Gysi and the Bundestag member Michael Leutert , among others . The latter spoke out against her candidacy as deputy party leader in 2008 because she distanced herself too little from Stalinism. In 2008, Wagenknecht spoke to other members of the Communist Platform in a statement against a general commemoration in the form of a memorial stone at the central cemetery in Friedrichsfelde with the inscription "The Victims of Stalinism ", as there were also fascists among them, but expressed their sympathy the innocent dead. In 2009, Wagenknecht himself explained her controversial statements on Stalinism from 1992 retrospectively as “defiance and anger over right-wing falsification of history” and distanced himself from them, as they were “no less one-sided than mainstream historiography, only with the opposite sign”.

In May 2008 she explained to Spiegel that she considered the term dictatorship to be inappropriate for the GDR (which she had previously described as “the most peaceful and philanthropic community that the Germans have created in their history as a whole”). In an interview from 2009 Wagenknecht dealt critically with the “repressive political system of the GDR ”, but refused to characterize the GDR as an injustice state because this amounts to putting it on the same level as the Nazi dictatorship. The GDR was not a democratic state, but no real democracy is possible in today's capitalist system. In an interview with the taz in April 2010, she explained her earlier statements from the early 1990s as a “defiant reaction to this social climate, in which one horror story about the GDR chased the next.” The GDR's economic system was “over-centralized” political repression was "in complete contrast to socialist ideals".

Controversy on Shimon Peres

When Israeli President Shimon Peres spoke as a guest in the German Bundestag on the day of commemoration of the victims of National Socialism in 2010, MEPs Christine Buchholz , Sevim Dağdelen and Wagenknecht did not rise from their seats to the final applause. They were criticized publicly and within the party for this reason, the Berlin state leader of the Left Party, Klaus Lederer , declared the behavior of the MPs as "unacceptable", Michael Leutert declared them "not eligible for election ". Wagenknecht later explained their behavior:

“Of course, I rose from my seat in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. The reason why I did not take part in the standing ovation after Shimon Peres' speech is that I cannot pay such respect to a statesman who is jointly responsible for war himself. "

When asked about it in a radio interview in 2012, she stated again:

“We all stood up, all members of the left, when it came to commemorating the victims of the Holocaust, and it would have been an insolence to remain seated on this occasion. I stayed seated at the end of Peres' speech because Peres also used this speech - which I found very regrettable - not only to commemorate, but also to address current Middle East politics, and there were also passages in it that were already as Preparations for war in the direction of Iran had to be interpreted. And I have to say that at the end of a speech like this I cannot get up because I am an opponent of war, I reject wars, and I now also hope that there will be no war in the Middle East. "


In May 1997 Wagenknecht married Ralph-Thomas Niemeyer . On November 12, 2011, the former SPD politician and later party and parliamentary group leader of the Left, Oskar Lafontaine , declared that he and Wagenknecht were "close friends" - both politicians were already living apart from their spouses at this point. Since June 2012 she has been living with Oskar Lafontaine in Merzig in the Saarland near the French border . The marriage with Niemeyer was divorced in March 2013. Lafontaine and Wagenknecht have been married to each other since December 22, 2014.



The documentary accompanies Wagenknecht and her team from the 2017 federal election campaign to their resignation from top politics in 2019.


Web links

Commons : Sahra Wagenknecht  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

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