Purple witch decries fall of the Wall

AS THE rest of the Western world celebrated on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, an altogether different point of view is finding a growing following in some quarters of the former communist state.

For some Germans are nostalgic for the "good life" they had under communism. And to counter what she describes as a propaganda campaign to discredit the German Democratic Republic, the widow of ex-GDR leader Erich Honecker has released a video targeted specifically at those with a hankering after the old values of the communist left.

Margot Honecker, who has lived in Chile since 1992, is shown in the video celebrating the 60th anniversary of the creation of the now defunct East Germany with former exiles who sought asylum in the GDR after the 1973 coup by Augusto Pinochet.

The group sing a patriotic East German song before Honecker, standing in front of the hammer and compasses of the GDR flag, gives a short speech in German to her "comrades" sitting around a table.

"There is a huge amount of opposition in Germany right now to the GDR," she says. "There is no talk show, no film, no news programme that doesn't try to discredit the GDR."

"But it isn't working," she adds. "Fifty per cent of east Germans say they have a worse life under capitalism – that they had a good life in the GDR. People are thinking more and more about what they had in the German Democratic Republic."

Once reviled as a "purple witch" for her tinted hair and hardline political stance, Margot Honecker served alongside her dictator husband and was hated and feared by many East Germans. The video now circulating in her former homeland appears to have been recorded on 7 October, the 60th anniversary of the GDR's founding and roughly a month before Germany celebrates the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Honecker, 82, mentions the results of last month's German election, including the gains of the Left party, a new far-left grouping that includes former members of the East German Socialist Unity Party (SED).

"There are leftist powers (in Germany]. They are active and they are receiving more votes," she says.

Honecker warns that Chancellor Angela Merkel's new centre-right coalition of conservatives and Free Democrats (FDP) will hurt German workers, lead to rising unemployment and welfare cuts.

"People won't tolerate this. The signs are good. I am optimistic," she adds.

Since her exile, Margot Honecker has continued to lead an active political life, espousing the hardline political values of the regime she once ruled over with an iron fist. She has even been feted as a heroine of the revolution in Nicaragua.

Last year, the Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega, pinned an award to her chest both for her work on a 1980s literacy campaign and for her late husband's support for his regime. It was a ceremony that was also attended by Venezuela's left-wing firebrand president Hugo Chavez and Aleida March, widow of South American revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

The former East German education minister has lived in the Chilean capital of Santiago since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Her husband led the GDR from 1971 until 1989, and was accused of treason, corruption and abuse of power after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

He had been put on trial in Germany on manslaughter charges for ordering East German troops to shoot people trying to flee across the Berlin Wall.

But Honecker was released in 1993 because he was suffering from liver cancer.

He emigrated to Chile, where he died in 1994.