• Germany's news in English

What the Stasi butler saw - terrible table manners

The Local · 9 Aug 2012, 09:37

Published: 09 Aug 2012 09:37 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Lothar Herzog was butler to the Honeckers for 12 years, seeing them at their most private, hidden away in their villa in Wandlitz, a lakeside village near Berlin that was full of top party functionaries.

Honecker would drink fresh lemon juice every morning, “to protect against flu,” said Herzog in his book “The Private Honecker” which has just been published.

A professional waiter, Herzog entered the personal protection section of the East German secret service, the Stasi, in 1962, and was moved to Honecker’s personal service ten years later.

The Politburo’s table manners “left room for improvement,” Herzog wrote, and described dinners with East Germany’s rulers as full of slurping, burping and talking with full mouths.

Honecker ate at great speed – ideally simple German food. “He was certainly no gourmet,” said Herzog.

Although he was with Honecker for 12 years, including 30 state visits and holidays, he never had a conversation with the socialist leader.

“I served and kept quiet,” said Herzog, adding that he had been told only to speak when spoken to. “And as he never asked me, there was never the opportunity for us to speak.”

Laying the table always included West German DAB beer in cans for Honecker and HB brand cigarettes for his wife Margot, who was also the country’s education minister. Apparently he would only drink East German Radeberger beer when he had visitors.

“EH never showed his feelings,” said Herzog, but describes how he was weak-willed when confronted by his grandson – one passage describes him giving in to the boy’s insistence that his dog be allowed to remain in the dining room.

The book describes many of the privileges the top ranks enjoyed, with dinner menus for the families at the weekend, and food deliveries made with official cars. When the East German-made Wartburg car became unpopular for such errands as it was considered too loud, a West German Volkswagen van was found and used instead.

Story continues below…

Herzog was suddenly withdrawn from the Honeckers’ service in 1984, without being told why. Only later did he discover that his daughter had been talking on the phone to a friend in West Berlin, and the Stasi had been listening and decided this was a security risk.

Honecker died in 1994 aged 81 in exile in Chile after a trial against him for the people killed at the Berlin Wall was dropped.

DPA/The Local/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

20:46 August 9, 2012 by neunElf
I guess some comrades were more equal than other comrades!
00:59 August 10, 2012 by Eric1
Typical greedy and vulgar communist and socialist.
16:27 August 10, 2012 by PierceArrow
Erich and Margot Honecker acted a lot like Barack and Michelle Obama, and Bill and Hillary Clinton. "Animal Farm" in real life!
17:23 August 10, 2012 by George Palmer
This illustrates the hypocrasy of socislism.
18:42 August 11, 2012 by Lady Daphne
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
23:22 August 13, 2012 by grazhdanin
It's probably not an unusual behaviour for a head of state, be it communist, capitalist, or whatever.
19:46 August 15, 2012 by T Gonzaga
Death in exile was too good for Honnecker. He should have suffered the same fate as many of those 18 and 19 year olds killed, per his orders, while trying to escape West.
22:08 August 24, 2012 by BCSLAVE
More things change the more they stay the same. Before the commies did this nonsense which western society condemned but today in North America the far right leaders are doing the same. In Canada warrant less wiretaps, tracking, and stalking people are now all the rage! They now listen in on every communication and track everyone's movements unless your the leader, their family, or their friends. In fact, the government is trying to outlaw any opposition at every opportunity so that Canada is a functioning one party state. They say this is for economic stability and to fight terrorism.
Today's headlines
These are Germany's top ten universities
The new library of Freiburg University. Photo: Jörgens.mi / Wikimedia Commons

These are the best universities in all of Germany - at least according to one ranking.

Introducing Swabians - 'the Scots of Germany'
Photo: DPA

These Southern Germans have quite a reputation in the rest of the country.

Woman sues dentist over job rejection for headscarf
Photo: DPA

A dentist in Stuttgart is being taken to court by a woman whom he rejected for a job as his assistant on the basis that she wears a Muslim headscarf.

Isis suspect charged with scouting Berlin attack sites
Photo: DPA

German federal prosecutors said Thursday they had brought charges against a 19-year-old Syrian man accused of having scouted targets in Berlin for a potential attack by the Isis terror group.

Berlin Holocaust memorial could not be built now: creator
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

The architect of the Berlin Holocaust memorial has said that, if he tried to build the monument again today, it would not be possible due to rising xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Germany and the United States.

'Liberal' Germany stopping Europe's 'slide into barbarism'
Ian Kershaw. Photo: DPA

Europe is not slipping into the same dark tunnel of hate and nationalism that it did in the 1930s - mainly thanks to Germany - one of the continent's leading historians has said.

Eurowings strike to hit 40,000 passengers
Travelers impacted by the strike on Thursday wait at Cologne Bonn airport. Photo: DPA.

The day-long strike by a Eurowings cabin crew union is expected to impact some 40,000 passengers on Thursday as hundreds of flights have been cancelled.

Deutsche Bank reports surprise quarter billion profit
Photo: DPA

Troubled German lender Deutsche Bank reported Thursday a surprise €256-million profit in the third quarter, compared with a loss of more than six billion in the same period last year.

US 'warned Merkel' against Chinese takeover of tech firm
Aixtron HQ. Photo: DPA

The German government withdrew its approval for a Chinese firm to purchase Aixtron, which makes semiconductor equipment, after the US secret services raised security concerns, a German media report said Wednesday.

Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd