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.

One Response to Honecker’s prison diary

  1. I haven’t spent much time in Friedrichshain lately, but of the two districts where I’m out and about the most at the moment, I’ve seen tons of these ads in Prenzlauer Berg and none at all in Neukölln. Of course it makes sense to target your ads where your readers are, but it’s also interesting with regard to the content of the articles. You don’t see see gossipy stories about old GDR figures in papers with a western readership, but what do you see instead? It would be interesting to buy all the Berlin papers for a week and tally what kind of stories they run about the GDR. I’m guessing this kind of Ost-gossip piece is only found in the papers with a mostly eastern readership. And what kind of stories about the East do the papers which sell better in the old West run? This survey could be extra-interesting in the run-up to the choosing of a new president – the papers got stuck into the east/west pasts of the candidates last time. (Or was it the time before? It’s happening so often, I can’t keep up!)

    Wanna do this survey sometime? Could be fun!

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