Martin Sabrow

Die Lebensgeschichte des SED-Chefs Erich Honecker (1912–1994) gilt gemeinhin als reizlos. Näheres biographisches Interesse hat bislang vor allem die Frage erweckt, weshalb ein so „mittelmäßiger“ Parteifunktionär sich über 18 Jahre lang in der DDR an der Macht halten konnte. Der Beitrag versucht zu zeigen, dass ein klassischer individualbiographischer Zugang dem Phänomen des „blassen Diktators“ Honecker nicht gerecht wird. Erst in einer milieu- und generationsgeschichtlichen Perspektive wird die biographische Bindungskraft des Herrschaftsstils fassbar, den Honecker als Repräsentant der jüngsten Kohorte der ostdeutschen Gründergeneration entwickelte. Die für ihn charakteristische Verbindung von Starrheit und Elastizität trieb zunächst den Übergang der kommunistischen Herrschaft in ihre auf bloße Machtsicherung bedachte Veralltäglichungsphase voran; später beschleunigte sie den Untergang dieses Systems.
 ∗       ∗       ∗
The biography of Erich Honecker (1912–1994) is generally regarded as bland. One question that has aroused interest in the past, however, is how such a seemingly ‘mediocre’ GDR party functionary had been able to stay in power for more than eighteen years. This contribution attempts to show that a classical biographical approach that focuses on the individual does not do justice to the phenomenon of the ‘pale dictator’ Erich Honecker. Only a perspective that also takes into account aspects such as milieu and generation makes the biographical imprint of this style of rule tangible, which Honecker developed as a member of the youngest cohort of East German founders. The combination of rigidity and elasticity that he embodied initially facilitated the transition of communist rule into its ‘normalization’ phase, in which the regime was almost exclusively concerned with cementing its power. Eventually, however, this very aspect was to accelerate the system’s decline.


Copyright © Clio-online – Historisches Fachinformationssystem e.V. and the author, all rights reserved. This work may be copied and redistributed for non-commercial purposes. However, republication can only be granted with prior written consent of the above-named rights holders. For permission to republish this work (including translations) please contact: <kirsch@zzf-potsdam.de>.

For the use of photographs, audio and video material included in the articles note the stated terms of licence and the rights holders.