• Germany's news in English
Margot Honecker, former East German leader's widow, dies
Honecker kept a low profile in Chile, where she lived with her grandson. Photo: DPA

Margot Honecker, former East German leader's widow, dies

AFP · 7 May 2016, 10:30

Published: 07 May 2016 10:30 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Honecker, who had lived in Chile since 1992, died of cancer at home in the capital Santiago, media reports said.

She was a prominent member of the East German communist party and served as education minister under her husband, who ruled the country with an iron fist from 1971 until the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.

Nicknamed "The Purple Witch" for her brightly dyed hair -- which she allowed to go a more natural white later in life -- Honecker was a feared hardliner who overhauled the high school curriculum to include communist doctrine and military training.

The Honeckers took refuge at the Chilean embassy in Moscow after the fall of the communist regime to escape trial on charges of human rights violations and ordering the killing of fugitives fleeing to the West.

After lengthy negotiations, they were allowed to travel to Santiago because of Erich Honecker's poor health.

He died in Chile in 1994 of liver cancer.

Honecker defended her husband's rule to the end, writing on the 10th anniversary of German reunification: "In the East, we never knew social incertitude, need and misery. Now, monster money has taken the place of human relations.

"Xenophobia and neo-fascism are developing in the East. All that is explained by the recent past. The roots of this evil are inherent in the capitalist social order," she added in a book published in 2000, "The Other Germany."

Honecker kept a low profile in Chile, where she lived with her grandson and socialized with a small circle of Chilean leftists who had fled into exile in East Germany during the brutal military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990).

One of her last public appearances was in 2009 for commemorations to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of East Germany, organized by a small group of former exiles.

Story continues below…

"There is an enormous campaign against the socialist GDR (German Democratic Republic) today in Germany," she said in a speech at the event.

"There's no television show, no film, no news program where they don't sling mud at the GDR, but to no avail... Today, many young people reflect and say, 'We must build a different society, like it was back then.'"

Honecker is survived by her daughter Sonja, who lives in Chile.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German town, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
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
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd