Schabowski in 1982 (age 53)
|Born||4 January 1929|
Anklam, Pomerania, Prussia, Germany
|Died||1 November 2015 86) (aged|
|Political party||Socialist Unity Party of Germany|
|Alma mater||University of Leipzig|
Günter Schabowski (4 January 1929 – 1 November 2015) was an official of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands abbreviated SED), the ruling party during most of the existence of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Schabowski gained worldwide fame in November 1989 when he improvised a slightly mistaken answer to a press conference question, raising popular expectations much more rapidly than the government planned so that massive crowds gathered the same night at the Berlin Wall, forcing its opening after 28 years; soon after, the entire inner German border was opened.
The Socialist Unity Party of Germany, established in April 1946, was the governing Marxist–Leninist political party of the German Democratic Republic from the country's foundation in October 1949 until its dissolution after the Peaceful Revolution in 1989.
The Berlin Wall was a guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989. Constructed by the German Democratic Republic, starting on 13 August 1961, the Wall cut off West Berlin from virtually all of surrounding East Germany and East Berlin until government officials opened it in November 1989. Its demolition officially began on 13 June 1990 and finished in 1992. The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, accompanied by a wide area that contained anti-vehicle trenches, "fakir beds" and other defenses. The Eastern Bloc portrayed the Wall as protecting its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the "will of the people" in building a socialist state in East Germany.
The Inner German border was the border between the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany from 1949 to 1990. Not including the similar and physically separate Berlin Wall, the border was 1,393 kilometres (866 mi) long and ran from the Baltic Sea to Czechoslovakia.
Schabowski was born in Anklam, Pomerania (then in the Free State of Prussia, now part of the federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern). He studied journalism at the Karl Marx University, Leipzig, after which he became editor of the trade union magazine, Tribüne. In 1952, he became a member of the SED. From 1967 to 1968, he visited the party academy of the CPSU. In 1978, he became the chief editor of the newspaper Neues Deutschland ("New Germany"), which as the official organ of the SED was considered to be the leading newspaper in the GDR.In 1981, he became a member of the SED Central Committee. In 1985, after leaving Neues Deutschland, he became the First Secretary of the East Berlin chapter of the SED and a member of the SED Politbüro. He also served as member of the Volkskammer from 1981 to 1990. In 2009, writer Christa Wolf called Schabowski "one of the worst" East German politicians before the Wende , saying: "I remember a few appearances of him in front of the writer's guild. You were scared of him."
Anklam [German pronunciation: [ˈaŋklam](
Pomerania is a historical region on the southern shore of the Baltic Sea in Central Europe, split between Germany and Poland.
The Free State of Prussia was a state of Germany from 1918 to 1947.
In October 1989, Schabowski, along with several other members of the Politbüro, turned on longtime SED leader Erich Honecker and forced him to step down in favor of Egon Krenz. As part of the effort to change the regime's image, Schabowski was named the regime's unofficial spokesman, and he held several daily press conferences to announce changes.He had already been in charge of media affairs for the Politbüro before then. He was also reportedly named the number-two man in the SED, Krenz's old role. Schabowski had spent most of his career in Communist-style journalism, in which reporters were told what to write after events had already happened. He thus found it somewhat difficult to get used to Western-style media practice.
Erich Honecker was a German politician who was the General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED). As party leader he worked closely with Moscow. He controlled the government of the German Democratic Republic from 1971 until he was forced out in the weeks preceding the fall of the Berlin Wall in October 1989. From 1976 onward he was also the country's official head of state as Chairman of the State Council of the German Democratic Republic following Willi Stoph's relinquishment of the post.
Egon Rudi Ernst Krenz is a former East German politician who was the last communist leader of East Germany during the final months of 1989. He succeeded Erich Honecker as the General Secretary of the ruling Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), but was forced to resign only months later when the Berlin Wall fell.
On 9 November 1989, shortly before that day's press conference, Krenz handed Schabowski a textcontaining new, temporary travel regulations. The text stipulated that East German citizens could apply for permission to travel abroad without having to meet the previous requirements for those trips, and also allowed for permanent emigration between all border crossings—including those between East and West Berlin. The text was supposed to be embargoed until the next morning.
Schabowski had not been on hand when Krenz read the text earlier in the day to several Politbüro members during a cigarette break at that day's Central Committee plenum, nor had he been there when it was discussed before the full committee. However, he felt comfortable discussing it at the press conference; he later said that all one needed to do in order to conduct a press conference was be able to speak German and read a text without mistakes. : Das tritt nach meiner Kenntnis … ist das sofort … unverzüglich.) Accounts differ on who asked that question. Both Riccardo Ehrman, the Berlin correspondent of the ANSA news agency, and German Bild Zeitung (a tabloid) reporter Peter Brinkmann were sitting on the front row at the press conference, and claimed to have asked when the regulations would come into force.Accordingly, he read the note aloud at the end of the press conference. One of the reporters asked when the regulations would come into effect. Schabowski assumed it would be the same day based on the wording of the note, and replied after a few seconds' pause: "As far as I know — effective immediately, without delay." (German
German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.
Riccardo Ehrmann is a retired Italian journalist whose question at a government press conference in the former East Germany is said to have precipitated the end of the Berlin Wall.
The Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata is the leading wire service in Italy. ANSA is a not-for-profit cooperative, whose members and owners are 36 leading news organizations in Italy. Its mission is the distribution of fair and objective news reporting.
Later, when asked whether the new regulations also applied to travel between East and West Berlin, Schabowski looked at the text again and discovered that they did. When Daniel Johnson of The Daily Telegraph asked what that meant for the Berlin Wall, Schabowski sat frozen before giving a rambling statement about the Wall being tied to the larger disarmament question.
Daniel Benedict Johnson is a British journalist who was the founding editor of Standpoint magazine.
The Daily Telegraph, commonly referred to simply as The Telegraph, is a national British daily broadsheet newspaper published in London by Telegraph Media Group and distributed across the United Kingdom and internationally. It was founded by Arthur B. Sleigh in 1855 as Daily Telegraph & Courier.
After the press conference, Schabowski sat down for a live interview with NBC's Tom Brokaw. When Brokaw asked him if it was indeed true that East Germans could now travel without having to go through a third country, Schabowski replied in broken English that East Germans were "not further forced to leave GDR by transit through another country," and could now "go through the border." When Brokaw asked if this meant "freedom of travel," Schabowski replied, "Yes of course," and added that it was not "a question of tourism," but "a permission of leaving GDR."
The West German public national television channels showed parts of Schabowski's press conference in their main evening news reports at 7:17 PM on ZDF's heute and at 8 PM on ARD's Tagesschau ; this meant that the news was broadcast to nearly all of East Germany, where West German television was widely watched, as well. The news then spread like wildfire with news reports continuing to repeat the news throughout the night.[ citation needed ]
As the night progressed, thousands of East Berliners began proceeding to the six border crossings along the Berlin Wall. They demanded to be let through. Live TV reported on the gathering people which only increased the numbers of East Berliners coming to the gates. The crowds vastly outnumbered the border guards who initially tried to stall for time. However, no one was willing to order deadly force. Finally, at 11:30 pm, Stasi officer Harald Jäger decided to open the gates at the Bornholmer Straße border crossing and allow people into West Berlin.
The fall of the Berlin Wall was the key event leading to the end of the East German regime, a state that had been crumbling for many weeks as citizens had been fleeing through intermediate countries surrounding East Germany. Indeed, Victor Sebestyen later wrote that when the gates were opened, for all intents and purposes, East Germany "ceased to exist." He also wrote that many of Schabowski's colleagues suspected he was either an American or West German agent, and could not believe that he had made "a simple cock-up."In 2014, his wife claimed that Schabowski had been well aware of the possible consequences of what he said in the press conference.
In the following purges of the "party's old guard", Schabowski was quickly expelled from the Party of Democratic Socialism (successor to the SED), in an attempt to improve the party's image. Just months earlier, he had been awarded the country's prestigious Order of Karl Marx.
After German Reunification, Schabowski became highly critical of his own actions in the GDR and those of his fellow Politbüro members, as well as of Soviet-style socialism in general.He worked again as a journalist and, between 1992 and 1999, as editor for Heimat-Nachrichten, a weekly local paper that he co-founded with a West German journalist in Rotenburg an der Fulda.
His campaign help for the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) prompted some of his former comrades to call him a wryneck (German term: Wendehals; a bird that can turn its head almost 180 degrees; popular term used to mock Communists who have turned capitalist).
Together with other leading figures of the GDR regime, he was charged with the murders of East Germans attempting to flee the GDR. In January 1995, the Berlin prosecutors pressed charges against him.In August 1997, Schabowski was convicted along with Egon Krenz and Günther Kleiber. Because he accepted his moral guilt and denounced the GDR, he was sentenced to only three years in prison. In December 1999, he began serving his sentence in Hakenfelde Prison in Spandau. However, in September 2000, he was pardoned by Governing Mayor Eberhard Diepgen and released in December 2000, having served only a year. He was critical of the PDS/Left Party (i.e., successor of the Socialist Unity Party); in 2001, he collaborated with Bärbel Bohley as advisor of Frank Steffel (CDU).
According to his wife, Schabowski resided in a Berlin nursing home during the last years of his life, after a number of infections and strokes.He died in Berlin after a long illness on the morning of 1 November 2015, aged 86.
East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic, was a country that existed from 1949 to 1990, when the eastern portion of Germany was part of the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. It described itself as a socialist "workers' and peasants' state", and the territory was administered and occupied by Soviet forces at the end of World War II — the Soviet Occupation Zone of the Potsdam Agreement, bounded on the east by the Oder–Neisse line. The Soviet zone surrounded West Berlin but did not include it; as a result, West Berlin remained outside the jurisdiction of the GDR.
Articles related to East Germany include:
Willi Stoph was an East German politician. He served as Prime Minister of the German Democratic Republic from 1964 to 1973, and again from 1976 until 1989. He also served as chairman of the State Council from 1973 to 1976.
The Peaceful Revolution was the process of sociopolitical change that led to the end of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) in the German Democratic Republic and the transition to a parliamentary democracy which enabled the reunification of Germany. This turning point was wholly created through the violence-free initiatives, protests, and successful demonstrations, which decisively occurred between the local elections held in May 1989 and the GDR's first free parliamentary election in March 1990.
The German Democratic Republic (GDR), German: Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR), often known in English as East Germany, existed from 1949 to 1990. It covered the area of the present-day German states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg, Berlin, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt, and Thüringen.
Die Wende is a German term that has come to signify the complete process of change from the rule of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany and a centrally planned economy to the revival of parliamentary democracy and a market economy in the German Democratic Republic around 1989 and 1990. It encompasses several processes and events which later have become synonymous with the overall process. These processes and events are:
Heinz Kessler or Heinz Keßler was a German communist politician and military officer in East Germany.
The National Defense Council of the German Democratic Republic was created in 1960 as the supreme state body of the GDR in charge of national defense matters, including mobilization planning. The NVR held the supreme command of the GDR's armed forces, and the NVR's chairman was considered the GDR's commander-in-chief.
Günter Mittag was a German member of parliament, secretary of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), and a central figure in the East German planned economy.
Günther Kleiber was a former communist politician from the German Democratic Republic (GDR). He was a member of the politburo of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) from 1984 to 1989, and a member of the GDR government as minister for machinery, agricultural machinery and vehicle construction from 1973 to 1986. He was also a member of the SED central committee and the People's Chamber since 1967. He was Vice Chairman of the Council of Ministers from 1971 to 1989. From 1986 to 1989, he was the representative of the GDR to COMECON.
The fall of the inner German border came rapidly and unexpectedly in November 1989, along with the fall of the Berlin Wall. The event paved the way for the ultimate reunification of Germany just short of a year later.
The Alexanderplatz demonstration was a demonstration for political reforms and against the government of the German Democratic Republic on Alexanderplatz in East Berlin on 4 November 1989. With between half a million and a million protesters it was one of the largest demonstrations in East German history and a milestone of the peaceful revolution that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification. The demonstration was organized by actors and employees of theaters in East Berlin. It was the first demonstration in East German history that was organized by private individuals and was permitted to take place by the authorities. The speakers during the demonstration were members of the opposition, representatives of the regime and artists, and included the dissidents Marianne Birthler and Jens Reich, the writer Stefan Heym, the actor Ulrich Mühe, the former head of the East German foreign intelligence service Markus Wolf and Politburo member Günter Schabowski.
The Bornholmer Straße border crossing was one of the border crossings between East Berlin and West Berlin between 1961 and 1990. The crossing was named after the street on which it is located, Bornholmer Straße. Named after the Danish Baltic Sea island Bornholm. The actual border between East and West Berlin ran along railway lines which were crossed by the Bösebrücke.
Harald Jäger is a former East German Passport Control Unit (PKE), lieutenant colonel who was in charge of the passport control unit. He is best known for disobeying orders and opening the Bornholmer Straße border crossing of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989.
Ingeburg "Inge" Lange was an East German politician.
Horst Dohlus was a high ranking SED party functionary in the German Democratic Republic and a member of the country's National Legislative Assembly (Volkskammer).
The Modrow government refers to the final socialist government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), which was led by Socialist Unity Party (SED) official Hans Modrow from November 1989 until East Germany's first democratically elected government took power on 18 March 1990.