Honecker’s prison diary

February 19th, 2012

The Berliner Kurier, one of the most popular tabloid newspapers in Berlin, has been running a series of articles over the past month based on extracts from the prison diaries of Erich Honecker.

Honecker - Das Gefängnis Tagebuch | Berliner Kurier | 2012

(Photo: “Honecker – The Prison Diaries” – an advertisement for the Berliner Kurier in Friedrichshain, Berlin, February 2012.)

Honecker – leader of East Germany from 1971 until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 – spent most of 1992 in prison, awaiting trial for the deaths of people who had attempted to escape East Germany. He was eventually released due to ill-health, and died in Chile in 1994.

There is a certain aptness in the Kurier being the paper which has published these extracts. The paper was founded in East Berlin in 1949 as BZ am Abend, with the clear intention that it should function as a mouthpiece of the ruling communist SED, of which Honecker was the leader from 1971 onwards.

BZ am Abend

After the Wende, the paper was snapped up by a consortium of publishers (including Gruner + Jahr and Robert Maxwell) and transformed into its current incarnation. Despite this metamorphosis, to this day the paper still sells significantly more copies in the former East Berlin than in the former West Berlin – another of the small daily manifestations of the ‘Mauer im Kopf’ – the wall in the mind.

Perhaps Honecker would have appreciated the irony – the route of the wall lives on in something as mundane as the daily distribution patterns of a newspaper that once did his bidding.

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