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PROJECTS | 2016 | HONECKER'S HUNTING GROUNDS

HONECKER'S HUNTING GROUNDS

The Schorfheide

rbb-series: "Mysterious Places"

Author & Director:
Daniel Ast | Juergen Ast

Commissioning Editors:
Jens Stubenrauch

Duration:
45'

Coproduction:
astfilm productions | RBB

As early as in the fifties, Erich Honecker, at that time leader of the Free German Youth (FDJ), discovered the Schorfheide as a perfect hunting place for himself. The beginnings were moderate, but with the construction of the Wall, he was to become the number two in the German Democratic Republic, the GDR. As kind of a reward, Honecker received his own, exclusive hunting ground. An area of over fifty acres, was declared to an off-limits military zone. His confidantes Guenter Mittag, in charge of economics, and Erich Mielke, the head of the Ministry of State Security, each one claimed a piece of the cake for himself. The new "lords" of the Schorfheide, the old-established hunting grounds of the powerful, now officials with green coats.

The very close relation to his hunting-buddy, the Kremlin chief Leonid Breshnev, shows how important the Schorfheide was for Honecker’s political carrier. From their first hunt in the Schorfheide in 1964, they were the "two brothers deer-stalking". Ulbricht didn’t share that love for hunting. With the blessings from Moscow, Honecker took over the power from Ulbricht in 1971. The new first man in the GDR used the Schorfheide and the hunting more and more for spectacular German-German encounters. Helmut Schmidt, Franz-Josef Strauß, Oskar Lafontaine, they all had conversations in the forest. Also, the chairman of the Krupp concern, Berthold Beitz, was often a personal guest of the SED leader, most of the time hunting on Honecker’s hunting grounds.

Honecker’s hunting grounds and his hunting lodge "Wildfang" were easily reached from Berlin. Especially during the rutting season of the deer, Honecker had to find refuge here, away from the party machine and state business. Enormous amounts of material as well as money was necessary for the support of the Schorfheide, millions of GDR-Mark from the treasury were necessary each year. Hunting at any costs. As well as the Kaiser or Goering before, the powerful in the GDR, they too "branded" the Schorfheide.

As late as in November 1989, Honecker’s power had already been taken away from him by his former hunting companions, Honecker went out for hunting. At the end of the afternoon he shot six deer. Honecker’s final shot echoed at around 4 pm through the woods of the Schorfheide. The next day, during the early evening, the Berlin Wall falls. Soon after, by order, the secret special hunting grounds in the Schorfheide were disbanded.

The film tells how politics and the private life of Erich Honecker often got all mixed up, in a way that no one of the population in the GDR even imagined. A unique story full of privileges, arrogance, and the constant struggle for power.