The newspaper that ignored the fall of the Berlin Wall


Wolfgang Hubner, director of the German newspaper Neues Deutschland, the newspaper known to have been the body of the German communist party in East Germany, showed at Financial Times the edition of Friday 10 November 1989. The day before, during a generic press conference held by the communist regime, journalists were informed that from that moment on the citizens of East Germany could enter freely and without restrictions in the territory of West Germany. On November 9, 1989 he then went down in history as the day of the fall of the Berlin Wall, yet the next morning Neues Deutschland it didn't even contain a word about what happened.

The first pages of Neues Deutschland dated 10 and 11 November 1989.

The day after that, on 11 November 1989, was a Saturday: Neues Deutschland it contained only a photo in the lower part of the first page in which it was generally spoken of intense "traffic" at the border. Inside a short article described the scene at a Berlin checkpoint, where, according to the newspaper, crowds of people had gathered to show their support for Egon Krenz, the president of the German Democratic Republic's State Council resigned shortly thereafter, December 6, 1989. Surprisingly, comments on Financial Times, "No one had thought it necessary to send a journalist to tell the dramatic scenes that could be seen on the border just a few kilometers away".

Hubner at the time was an editor, and had spent those historic November nights correcting the full pages of transcripts of party speeches. In the years following the fall of the Wall, the newspaper went into crisis: the copies in circulation became less and less (before the reunification it had a circulation of a million copies), there were heavy financial losses and large job cuts, but the daily survived and still exists today. Although the socialist state of which he was the voice is no longer there, under the ND headline there is still the word "socialist newspaper". "ND is unsinkable," said Hubner.

He currently has about 25,000 readers, mostly elderly and living in eastern Germany. And he maintained a sort of continuity with the past: "Our readers expect us to look back (to the fall of the Wall, ed) in a way that does justice to their experience and their memories of the GDR. They don't want a return to DDR (…) but they think there were some basic ideas that should be on the agenda again. People say: the German Democratic Republic (DDR in German) has never taken part in a war. There was no homelessness. There was no unemployment ». Hubner admits that there is a strong one ostalgie – nostalgia for East Germany, Ostdeutschland in German – which animates its readers.

Since its foundation in 1946, ND became the central organ of the Socialist Unity Party (SED). It was one of the main propaganda tools and all the journalists who worked there had to be party members. It was also read outside of East Germany and was often used as a channel to send messages: "Sometimes we had incomprehensible pieces for normal readers. They were essentially addressed to certain individuals or contained a response to Western media reports ". Today ND sees himself as a committed voice of socialism in a capitalist society. He continues to be financially supported by Die Linke, the German extreme left party, but his readers are constantly being reduced: he loses between 1,000 and 1,500 each year, said Hubner.

His office contains tributes and memories of the GDR. Among these is also the official portrait of Erich Honecker, the general secretary of the Socialist Party's Central Committee until 1989 and the main organizer of the construction of the wall. After decades of exposure to the sun, the photo has become almost invisible: "My thesis is this: when the portrait has faded to such an extent that the face can no longer be recognized, that will be the moment when the GDR has disappeared and l unification will be complete ".

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