Saturday, 15 May 2010

Widow of East German leader insists life was better behind the Wall

AFTER 20 years of capitalism, former citizens of the East German Democratic Republic (GDR) have begun to realise they had it better behind the Berlin Wall.

That is the conviction of Margot Honecker, widow of former GDR leader Erich Honecker, expressed at a private party to celebrate the 60th birthday of the vanished socialist state. While the rest of Germany gears up for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall next month, the 82-year-old widow of the man who co-ordinated its construction is rueful, but unrepentant.

“Okay, so we didn’t manage it , but still, 40 years isn’t so bad. It certainly left an impression,” said Ms Honecker in a video on YouTube filmed in Chile, her home since 1992.

A year earlier she left Germany with her husband before his death from cancer in 1994. “There is no news programme, no film that doesn’t try to discredit the GDR, but they haven’t succeeded,” she said under the old GDR flag, after singing a verse of The Internationale. “Fifty per cent of East Germans say ‘we have a worse life under capitalism, we had a good life in the GDR’. People are thinking more and more about what they had in the German Democratic Republic.”

Among young people, in particular, she said there was a “huge interest”. “The left wing is there, getting ever more votes and support as the larger parties are punished for their anti-social politics,” she said, noting the 12 per cent of the poll in September’s general election for the Left Party, a successor to the ruling SED.

“Things in Germany are going downhill for the working class, so things are looking good for the left,” she said. “I’m optimistic, always was and always will be.”

Ms Honecker, who served as education minister in the GDR, was accused, but never charged, of involvement in organising forced adoptions of children of dissidents to loyal party members.

Attitudes to the vanished East Germany vary widely in surveys, depending largely on the question asked. Some 80 per cent of Germans quizzed by Stern magazine this week say they are happy that the Berlin Wall fell.

About one in seven former East Germans quizzed said they would like to see the wall back. In a survey in June for the Emnid polling institute, some 49 per cent of 600 former easterners quizzed said the GDR had more positive than negative sides.

Meanwhile, a former prisoner of the Stasi secret police has locked himself in his former cell – and is streaming the images on the internet – to recall GDR oppression.

Carl-Wolfgang Holzapfel donned his old blue uniform yesterday and entered the cell at Berlin’s Hohenschönhausen prison, where he served nine months in 1965. “We have to remember the leaden years before, the courage of people who were hounded by the authorities, and the revisionist politics of the Left Party.” His website is

DEREK Scally, D. (2009) Widow of East German Leader Insists Life was Better Behind the Wall. [Online] [15/05/2010]

Steffenhagen, J. (2009) Die Mauer im Kopf von Margot Honecker. [Online] [02/05/2010]