Exile in Chile: Former East German Leader's Wife Is Homesick

She may be "tough" and "sporty," but the exiled widow of East Germany's former leader still misses home. Margot Honecker longs for the forests and wild mushrooms of Germany, the author of a new book about her husband says.

Margot Honecker, photographed in Santiago, Chile in the summer of 2010. Zoom
DPA

Margot Honecker, photographed in Santiago, Chile in the summer of 2010.

For some 20 years, Margot Honecker, the widow of hardline former East German leader Erich Honecker, has lived in exile. Her home in Santiago, Chile is far removed from her birthplace Germany, a place she reportedly still longs for.

The 84-year-old met with Berlin author Frank Schuhmann in Chile, and he reports that the former Minister of Education for the communist country is homesick. "She lives with her mind in Germany," he told daily Berliner Kurier on Monday.

Forests and mushrooms are among the things she misses most, Schuhmann said, describing the elderly woman as "very self-assured," "tough," "sporty" and "fully awake intellectually." In fact, Margot Honecker continues to inform herself about current events in Germany via the Internet, which she surfs between five and six hours a day, he told the paper. Last year an interview with her grandson revealed that she also reads SPIEGEL ONLINE each morning.

In the autumn of 2011, she handed Schuhmann the 400-page diary her husband kept while imprisoned on remand in Berlin's Moabit prison beginning in July 1992. The author turned the diary into a book, entitled "Letzte Aufzeichnungen -- Für Margot," or "Final Notes -- For Margot," which is set for release in German on Feb. 16.

Schuhmann has already published a 250-page book in 1994 called "Moabiter Notizen," or "Moabit Notes," which included Honecker's commentary on political developments during his time behind bars. But his latest book will reportedly include more personal observations by the former communist leader.

The 'Purple Witch'

The German Democratic Republic (GDR) was dissolved in 1990, and in 1992 Honecker was put on trial for manslaughter and other charges surrounding his order for East German troops to shoot those trying to flee the country. After 169 days, he was released due to poor health. He fled with his wife to Chile, where the 81-year-old died of liver cancer in May 1994. This August Honecker, who led the GDR from 1971 until 1989, would have been 100.

In early January, SPIEGEL cited information from Germany's Federal Intelligence Service (BND), the country's foreign intelligence agency, which revealed that the Honecker marriage had been fraught with conflict, and remained intact for political reasons alone.

Reviled in Germany as the "purple witch" because of her harsh leadership style and blue-tinted hairstyle, Margot Honecker served as education minister in the GDR from 1963 to the autumn of 1989. She was thought to be dogmatic, and some observers have even suggested that she may have been secretly ruling the communist country. She was also allegedly responsible for the forced adoption of children belonging to political dissidents.

kla -- with wires

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