Wolfgang Harich

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Wolfgang Harich 1947

Wolfgang Harich (born December 9, 1923 in Königsberg i. Pr. , † March 15, 1995 in Berlin ) was a philosopher , journalist and one of the most important and contradicting Marxist intellectuals in the GDR .

life and work

1927 to 1945

Wolfgang Harich was born from the marriage of the literary historian and writer Walther Harich (1888–1931) to Anne-Lise Wyneken (1898–1975), his grandfather Ernst Harich was the editor of the Allensteiner Zeitung , his grandfather Alexander Wyneken the editor of the Königsberger Allgemeine Zeitung . He grew up in Neuruppin and later in Berlin-Wilmersdorf . In addition to attending grammar school, he was a frequent guest auditor of philosophical lectures at Berlin University , for example with Nicolai Hartmann and Eduard Spranger .

In 1942 Harich was called up for military service. After lengthy hospital stays and an interim punishment for "unauthorized removal from the troops", he deserted in 1944 and lived in hiding in Berlin. This created connections to the communist resistance group "Ernst".

1945 to 1957

At the beginning of May 1945 Harich was entrusted by Wolfgang Leonhard on behalf of the Ulbricht group with the organization of the cultural work in Wilmersdorf and other parts of the city of the later western sectors of Berlin. The preparation of the establishment of the Kulturbund for the democratic renewal of Germany resulted in a close cooperation with Johannes R. Becher and other cultural workers returning from emigration. In February 1946 he became a member of the KPD .

Wolfgang Harich initially worked as a literary and theater critic for the French-licensed Kurier and later - when his opportunities to work in the western sectors were hindered - for the Daily Rundschau , the daily newspaper of SMAD . He was friends with the actors Paul Wegener and Victor de Kowa and the theater critic Friedrich Luft .

From 1948 Harich gave lectures in Marxist philosophy at the Berlin University . After a short stay in a mental hospital in Thuringia , he received his doctorate in 1951 after submitting a dissertation on Herder and was appointed professor at the Philosophical Faculty of the Humboldt University, where he was considered an excellent university lecturer. Together with Ernst Bloch he published the German newspaper for philosophy from 1953 . After June 17, 1953 , Harich openly criticized the party's dogmatic cultural and media policy. He had to leave the university and in 1954 became head editor of the Aufbau-Verlag, run by Walter Janka .

After the XX. Party congress of the CPSU and influenced by Georg Lukács and Ernst Bloch the “ circle of like-minded people ”, an informal group of Marxist intellectuals who demanded internal party reforms. Harich was commissioned to summarize the results of the discussion as a “platform for the special German path to socialism”. He presented a copy of the platform to the Soviet ambassador in Berlin, which called for Ulbricht's disempowerment and German reunification as a neutral, demilitarized state. He also informed Rudolf Augstein and employees of the East Office of the SPD about the content of the platform - probably without consulting the other parties involved . Immediately afterwards - on November 29, 1956 - Harich was arrested. In December 1956, Der Spiegel published a ten-page cover story in which he made the unconventional biography and career of the party official known.

The GDR leadership set an example under the impression of the Hungarian popular uprising and its suppression by Soviet troops. In a show trial in March 1957, Harich was sentenced to ten years in prison for “forming a conspiratorial anti-state group”. With him and in a further process, Bernhard Steinberger and Manfred Hertwig as well as Walter Janka , Gustav Just , Richard Wolf and Heinz Zöger also received prison sentences of several years.

Fearing a death penalty, Harich cooperated with the investigative and judicial authorities. In his closing remarks he stated:

“It is clear to me that the State Security is to be thanked for protecting our state from greater damage [...] I would have been unstoppable. I was like a runaway horse that you can't stop by shouting. With these ideas in mind, I just went through it, and if they hadn't arrested me, I would not be ripe for the ten years that the attorney general applied for, but for the gallows. And that's why [...] I thank the State Security for that. "

Fritz J. Raddatz , at that time editor at the (East) Berlin publisher Volk und Welt , after he had learned about his Stasi files, settled sharply with his former intellectual companion Harich, calling him a "traitor" and "butcher's tongue" .

1957 to 1995

Wolfgang Harich was released from prison through an amnesty at the end of 1964 and assigned to the Akademie Verlag Berlin. As a freelancer, he edited the large Ludwig Feuerbach edition of the publishing house, and also worked on the completion and publication of his Jean Paul book. From the seventies he became increasingly concerned with ecological problems, but met with massive criticism from the left in East and West for the views expressed in his book Communism Without Growth (“Eco-dictatorship”).

Harich represented inappropriate positions, for example with his criticism of Heiner Müller's Macbeth treatment or his critical contributions to the cautious Friedrich Nietzsche reception in the GDR. He rejected its inclusion in the literary canon of the GDR. In 1994 the content of a letter from Harich to the GDR Prime Minister Willi Stoph became known in which he characterized Nietzsche as the "most reactionary, misanthropic figure that has existed in the entire development of world culture from antiquity to the present". Harich submitted an application to leave Germany, which was rejected by the authorities. Instead he received a permanent visa with which he could leave the GDR abroad at any time without losing his citizenship. In 1979 Harich was disabled. After long stays in Austria and the Federal Republic, where he was met with interest but also with suspicion, he returned to the GDR in 1981, disappointed. In 1987 Harich asked to be re-admitted to the SED , but this was rejected.

In 1990 Wolfgang Harich was rehabilitated by the Supreme Court of the GDR . The political change in the GDR was welcomed by him as an opportunity for an eco-socialist development of the unified Germany, but the further development disappointed him. Together with the publicist Stephan Steins, he worked out a concept for the reconstitution of an all-German Communist Party in 1992, and he became a member of a ZK (“Central Coordination Committee”) of the KPD initiative .

Harich became co-founder and chairman of an alternative study commission on GDR history . In response to Janka's book Difficulties with the Truth and further allegations about his behavior in 1956/57, he wrote in 1993 No Difficulties with the Truth . He also took legal action against Janka. In 1994 he became a member of the PDS and joined their left wing.

Wolfgang Harich died in Berlin in 1995 at the age of 71. He was buried at the side of his parents in the Harich-Hess family grave in Cemetery III of the Jerusalem and New Churches in Berlin-Kreuzberg . His maternal aunt, Susanne Hess b. Wyneken (1890–1972), and her husband, the singer Ludwig Hess (1877–1944).


Wolfgang Harich was married four times. His daughter Katharina Harich (1952-2016) came from his marriage to Isot Kilian . One of his long-term partnerships was with Gisela May .

The writer Susanne Kerckhoff and her older sister, the soprano Lili Harich (1916–1960), were his half-sisters from his father's first marriage with the harpsichordist, musicologist and Japanologist Eta Harich-Schneider . His sister Gisela Harich, married Witkowski, was born in 1925.

From 1975 until his death, Harich lived in Berlin's Friedrichshain , in the house at Friedenstraße 8.


  • Rudolf Haym and his Herder book. Contributions to the critical appropriation of literary heritage . Aufbau-Verlag, Berlin 1955.
  • Jean Paul's Critique of Philosophical Egoism. Evidenced by texts and passages from letters by Jean Paul in the appendix . Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt 1968.
  • To the criticism of revolutionary impatience. A settlement with the old and the new anarchism . Edition Etcetera, Basel 1971.
  • Jean Paul's revolutionary poetry. Attempt to reinterpret his heroic novels . Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1974.
  • Communism without growth? Babeuf and the Club of Rome. Conversations about ecology. Rowohlt, Hamburg 1975, ISBN 3-498-02827-8 .
  • No trouble with the truth. On the national communist opposition in the GDR in 1956 . Dietz Verlag, Berlin 1993.
  • Nietzsche and his brothers . Kiro, Schwedt 1994.
  • Ancestral passport. Attempt an autobiography . Ed. Thomas Grimm . Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-896-02168-0 .
  • Nicolai Hartmann. Life, work, effect . Königshausen and Neumann, Würzburg 2000.
  • Nicolai Hartmann - size and limits. Attempt at a Marxist self-understanding . Königshausen and Neumann, Würzburg 2004.

Since autumn 2013 the “ estate of Wolfgang Harich ” has been published in 16 volumes by Tectum-Verlag. Editor is Andreas Heyer:

  • Volume 1: Early Writings, Volume 1: Rebuilding in Destroyed Berlin, Volume 2: From the "Daily Review" to Herder, Volume 3: The Path to Modern Marxism
  • Volume 2: Logic, Dialectics and Epistemology
  • Volume 3: Contradiction and Controversy - Studies on Kant
  • Volume 4: Herder and the end of the Enlightenment
  • Volume 5: On the ideological front. Hegel between Feuerbach and Marx
  • Volume 6: Lectures on the history of philosophy, Part 1: From antiquity to the German Enlightenment, Part 2: From the development of the Enlightenment to contemporary criticism
  • Volume 7: Writings on Anarchy
  • Volume 8: Ecology, Peace, Growth Criticism
  • Volume 9: Georg Lukács - Documents of a Friendship
  • Volume 10: Nicolai Hartmann. The first teacher
  • Volume 11: Arnold Gehlen. A Marxist Anthropology?
  • Volume 12: Friedrich Nietzsche. Documents of enmity
  • Volume 13: Politics and Philosophy in the Second Half of Life
  • Volume 14: Cultural Challenges
  • Volume 15: Key dates in German history: 1953, 1956, 1968, 1989
  • Volume 16: Autobiography


  • Alexander Amberger, Siegfried Prokop : A “red-green” Germany? About a vision of Wolfgang Harich 1989/90. Helle Panke, 2011. ( Issues on DDR history 123)
  • Alexander Amberger, Andreas Heyer: The constructed dissident. Wolfgang Harich's way to an undogmatic Marxism. ( Issues on DDR history 127.Berlin 2011)
  • Alexander Amberger: Bahro - Harich - Havemann. Marxist criticism of the system and political utopia in the GDR. Verlag F. Schöningh, Paderborn 2014, ISBN 3-506-77982-6 .
  • Jürgen Große: Nietzsche emergency. Debates before and after 1989. Aisthesis-Verlag, Bielefeld 2010, ISBN 978-3-89528-771-8 .
  • Anne Harich: "If I had known ...". Memories of Wolfgang Harich . The New Berlin, Berlin 2007.
  • Andreas Heyer:  Harich, Wolfgang. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 31, Bautz, Nordhausen 2010, ISBN 978-3-88309-544-8 , Sp. 609-621.
  • Andreas Heyer: Wolfgang Harich's political philosophy. Kovac-Verlag, Hamburg 2012, ISBN 978-3-8300-6749-8 .
  • Andreas Heyer (ed.): Wolfgang Harich in the struggles of his time. Laika Verlag, Hamburg 2016, ISBN 978-3-944233-52-9 .
  • Hans-Christoph Rauh, Bernd-Rainer BarthHarich, Wolfgang . In: Who was who in the GDR? 5th edition. Volume 1. Ch. Links, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-86153-561-4 .
  • Sven Sieber: Walter Janka and Wolfgang Harich. Two GDR intellectuals in conflict with power (= Chemnitz Contributions to Politics and History . Vol. 1). Lit, Berlin a. a. 2008, ISBN 978-3-8258-0401-5 .
  • Andreas Heyer: Wolfgang Harich spoke about Georg Lukács - With documents and texts. Philosophical Conversations Volume 33. Helle Panke e. V. Rosa Luxemburg Foundation Berlin. Berlin 2014.
  • Guntolf Herzberg: Wolfgang Harich - a philosophical rediscovery / Walter Janka and the Harich group . Helle Panke, Berlin 2017. ("Hefte zur DDR-Geschichte", Issue 146).


  • Thomas Grimm : Show trials - comrades in court - rbb television - documentation, 45 min. 2014

Web links

Commons : Wolfgang Harich  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Wolfgang Leonhard: The revolution releases its children. Ullstein Verlag, ISBN 3-548-02337-1 , p. 290 ff.
  2. For Stalin and for you . In: Der Spiegel . No. 1 , 1950, p. 11 f . ( Online - Jan. 5, 1950 ).
  3. Susanne Kerckhoff . In: Der Spiegel . No. 12 , 1950, pp. 33 ( Online - Mar. 23, 1950 ). Quote: “Susanne's half-brother Wolfgang Harich [...] also has a nerve crack. When Hannelore Schroth asked about him out of old friendship on her last visit to Berlin, she was informed by the Soviet authorities that Wolfgang Harich currently had a new address. It was the address of a mental hospital in Thuringia. "
  4. Hit the neck . In: Der Spiegel . No. 51 , 1956, pp. 13-24 ( Online - Dec. 19, 1956 ).
  5. ^ Karl Wilhelm Fricke : Indictment: Treason. 50 years ago: The Harich Trial in East Berlin . Deutschlandfunk , March 9, 2007.
  6. ^ Fritz J. Raddatz: Troublemaker. Memories. Verlag Heyne-List Munich 2005, section “Appearance of the traitors”, pp. 94–108.
  7. Wolfgang Harich: The runaway dingo, the forgotten raft. On the occasion of the “MacBeth” editing by Heiner Müller. In: Sense and Form . Contributions to literature 25.1 (1973), pp. 189-218.
  8. "The most misanthropic apparition". A letter from Harich to Stoph. Der Tagesspiegel , October 15, 1994, p. 19.
  9. Detlef Kannapin , Genealogie des Verfall. Wolfgang Harich was largely isolated in the GDR. He fought relentlessly against the rehabilitation of Friedrich Nietzsche there - in vain, in: Junge Welt, March 16, 2020, pp. 12-13.
  10. “Strange relationship with the Stasi” article in the Berliner Zeitung, 2001
  11. Stephan Steins, Wolfgang Harich Berlin Manifesto , 1992
  12. ^ Hans-Jürgen Mende : Lexicon of Berlin burial places . Pharus-Plan, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-86514-206-1 , p. 242. Prof. Ludwig Hess, born on: March 23rd, 1877, died on: February 5th, 1944 . Photo and description of the Harich-Hess family grave on the website “Historical personalities in Berlin cemeteries” (accessed on March 29, 2019).
  13. see also the film of his funeral on March 28th (Zeitzeugen TV Film- & Fernsehproduktion GmbH)