East German dictator’s widow calls the regime’s victims ‘criminals’
Widow of GDR leader Erich Honecker gives unapologetic interview in documentary showing her at home in Chile
She was known as the “purple witch” for her arresting lilac rinses and tenacious political outlook. Now the widow of the former East German leader Erich Honecker has broken a 20-year silence to defend the dictatorship, attack those who helped to destroy it, and complain about her pension.
Margot Honecker, 84, who as education minister of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) served alongside her dictator husband, describes her homesickness for a “lost nation” and calls its demise a tragedy in an interview due to be broadcast on German television on Monday evening.
The documentary, which was years in the making due to Honecker’s dogged insistence she would never give an interview to “West German” media, shows her at home in Chile where she escaped to with her husband after the collapse of the Berlin Wall in the early 1990s.
For the first time since 1989 Germans are given an insight into Honecker’s life and a full-blown taste of her unforgiving views about a GDR that she continues to idealise. In shockingly frank exchanges in which she cuts a robust, vigorous figure, she defends East Germany to the hilt and refuses to accept any responsibility for its more tyrannical traits, including her own role as the minister responsible for thousands of forced adoptions.
“It is a tragedy that this land no longer exists,” she tells the interviewer, Eric Friedler, adding that, while she lives in Chile “my head is in Germany”. She does not, however, mean united Germany, rather the “better Germany” of the GDR.
Honecker dismisses in a single sentence the fate of hundreds of people who lost their lives trying to escape East Germany for a better life in the west.
“There was no need for them to climb over the wall, to pay for this stupidity with their lives,” she says.
Asked why the revolution of 1989 took place if, as she claims, the country was such a good place to live, she suggests that the demonstrations were driven by the GDR’s enemies. “The GDR also had its foes. That’s why we had the Stasi,” she says, referring to the country’s repressive secret police.
Questions about the programme of forced adoptions of the children of regime opponents, for which she was responsible, are met with the response: “It didn’t exist”. Equally, the economic demise of the GDR “is simply untrue”, and she describes victims of the regime as “criminals who today make out that they were political victims”, who were in some cases “paid”. Does she have any feelings of guilt? “It didn’t touch me at all. I have a thick skin.”
Friedler said that over the several days he interviewed her, Honecker, who during her 26-year tenure as education minister introduced weapons training to schools, and ordered every teacher to report all incidences of deviation by pupils from the communist line, remained bizarrely detached from reality and resolute in her defence of East Germany.
“Margot Honecker showed no remorse, or discernment, she expressed no word of regret or apology,” he said.
“She might be in Chile, but she is very well connected to a whole guard of old comrades. She regularly spends hours reading the internet, knows exactly what’s going on in Germany, but says her desire for Germany is restricted to … the GDR.”
She also takes the opportunity to complain about her €1,500 state pension which she receives every month from Germany, calling it “derisory”.
Honecker predicted the socialist Germany for which she and her husband, who died of cancer in 1994, fought for, would have its chance again. “We laid a seed in the ground which will one day come to fruition,” she says. “We just didn’t have enough time to realise our plans.”
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