The Fall of the Wall
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Wednesday, 18. October 1989


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

In the afternoon comes sensational news: Erich Honecker has resigned. At his suggestion, Egon Krenz is elected as the new General secretary of the SED Central Committee. The announcement about the Central committee meeting continues with the news that Politburo members and Central Committee Secretaries Günter Mittag (economy) and Joachim Herrmann(media) have been removed from their posts. Thus the actual power center around Erich Honecker has 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.

Honecker's closest confidant, Günter Mittag, conducted and oversaw 22 economic ministries, 224 combines and 3,526 industrial enterprises. Joachim Herrmann presided over a similar empire: not only was he responsible for all SED and related media, he also, through a coordinating body - the Council of Ministers' press office -controlled the news agencies, radio, television and all other newspapers and magazines. Every evening, Herrmann called editors to tell them how the next day's newspapers were to look, how large Honecker's page-one photo had to be, and where an unavoidable unpleasant report should be hidden in the inside pages.

In the evening, East German television broadcasts 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, shows little understanding of public expectations. However, for the first time he admits 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 speaks nebulously of wanting to introduce a »turn« (Wende) in East Germany.