Cold War Files: All Units: Events: Erich Honecker Resigns

October 18, 1989
Erich Honecker Resigns

In the morning, Manfred von Ardenne, a well-known Dresden scientist, said he had the impression that the SED leadership had not yet grasped the seriousness of the situation and complained that there have been no »significant deeds and changes.« He was articulating the feeling of the majority of the population.

In the afternoon came sensational news: Erich Honecker had resigned. At his suggestion, Egon Krenz was elected as the new General secretary of the SED Central Committee. The announcement about the Central committee meeting continued with the news that Politburo members and Central Committee Secretaries Günter Mittag (economy) and Joachim Herrmann(media) had been removed from their posts. Thus the actual power center around Erich Honecker had been destroyed, bringing an epoch in East German history to an end. Over the years, these three men amassed a degree of power bordering on classical absolutism.

In the evening, East German television broadcast Egon Krenz's first public pronouncement in his new capacity. Krenz, former head of the Free German Youth (FDJ), the central youth organization, and most recently responsible for security and cadre issues in the SED Central Committee, showed little understanding of public expectations. However, for the first time he admitted errors on the part of the political leadership: "It is clear that in recent months we did not judge the nature of developments in our country realistically enough and failed to draw the right conclusions in time." He spoke nebulously of wanting to introduce a "turn" (Wende) in East Germany.

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