The GDR under Honecker (1971-1989) Part III

By | October 28, 2021

The SED leadership was aware of the lack of legitimation for party rule. The constant expansion and refinement of the repressive apparatus resulted from the knowledge of the party leadership about the lack of political support in the population; especially since June 17, 1953 the fear of the citizens’ displeasure with the prevailing living conditions was latent. The domestic political climate deteriorated rapidly after the manipulated local elections of May 7th, 1989 and after declarations by the SED Politburo and People’s Chamber (5th and 8th June respectively), in which, contrary to the opinion of the population, approved the brutal suppression of the democracy movement in China at the beginning of June 1989 became. As a result of these events and a hitherto unknown wave of refugees across the Hungarian-Austrian border (from 2.5.1989 the dismantling of barriers began on the Hungarian side) and embassies of the Federal Republic of Germany in Prague, Budapest and Warsaw received political demands in the early summer and summer of 1989 Special emphasis on reforms, but the SED leadership remained stubborn and was unable to act. In the course of the events that followed in and outside the GDR, the state structure of the GDR collapsed rapidly.

a. the ” New Forum ” founded on 9.9.1989 near Berlin. Since the end of September / beginning of October, people have gathered in Leipzig and other cities (Berlin, Dresden, Halle, Magdeburg, Plauen) for demonstrations to protest against the political situation. On October 9, 1989, the Leipzig Monday demonstration (70,000 participants) took place peacefully (peaceful revolution) despite a large number of armed forces following an appeal for non-violence by K. Masur and others. Learn more about Germany and Europe, please click

On the same day in Dresden, after peaceful demonstrations from October 4th to 8th, which were still brutally fought by the state authorities, negotiations began between the state authorities and the spokesmen for the demonstrators appointed on October 8th, 1989 (“Gruppe der Zwanzig”, including Steffen Heitmann [* 1944 ]Arnold Vaatz [* 1955]). In view of the power crisis that broke out openly, Honecker resigned as party leader on October 18, 1989, also at the instigation of the politburo, which had no conception, and a little later also as head of state.

Fall of the Wall and the end of the GDR (1989/1990)

Honecker’s successor in all offices was E. Krenz (October 18, General Secretary, October 24, Chairman of the Council of State and the National Defense Council). Nevertheless, v. a. the Monday demonstrations in Leipzig turned into mass protests (10/30/1989: 300,000). On November 4th demonstrated, now under legal conditions, on Alexanderplatz in Berlin (East) around 1 million (questionable) on November 6th. around 500,000 people in Leipzig, among others. for freedom of travel, free elections, the abandonment of the SED’s monopoly on power and the dissolution of the State Security Service. The persistent pressure of the demonstrations now taking place throughout the GDR, the ongoing refugee movement and the failure of a new travel law led to the opening of the Berlin Wall and the borders with the Federal Republic of Germany on November 9th / 10th, 1989.

In the period that followed, a sometimes controversial debate developed on the question of German unity, which finally shaped the Monday demonstrations from December onwards. The flow of people moving to the Federal Republic of Germany remained very high (1.1.1989 to the end of February 1990 around 482,000).

On November 13, 1989, the People’s Chamber elected the SED District Chief of Dresden, H. Modrow , to succeed Stoph as Chairman of the Council of Ministers. He led a government coalition made up of the SED and the previous bloc parties CDU (until January 1990), LDPD, NDPD and DBD, which increasingly broke away from their political and organizational dependence on the SED and re-profiled them. In his government policy, Modrow v. a. to an economic reform that should take place within the framework of a close contractual community with the Federal Republic of Germany. On December 1, 1989, the People’s Chamber deleted the leading role of the SED from the constitution of the GDR. Far-reaching allegations of corruption and abuse of office against former top SED officials (esp. HoneckerStophMittagHarry Tisch [* 1927, † 1995]) led since October 1989 to several reorganizations of the Politburo. Finally, on December 3rd, also under pressure from the party base. the Central Committee and the Politburo of the SED closed. At a special party congress (December 8/9 and December 16/17, 1989) the SED announced its break with the Stalinist system, adopted a new statute and renamed itself SED – Party of Democratic Socialism (SED-PDS); since February 1990 it has only been called PDS. With a new leadership under G. Gysi she tried to renew herself programmatically and organizationally.

Krenz also resigned as Chairman of the State Council and the National Defense Council on December 6, 1989; acting chairman of the State Council was Manfred Gerlach (* 1928, † 2011; LDPD ), the National Defense Council was dissolved. To control the work of the government, constituted on December 7th. Representatives of the opposition groups (including New Forum, Democratic Awakening, Democracy Now, Initiative Peace and Human Rights, Social Democratic Party [SDP], Green Party), the bloc parties and the SED under the leadership of the churches to a so-called Central Round Table (analogue soon became proceed at the municipal level).

The GDR under Honecker 3