SH: I think they showed it in what you might call a negative way. They refused to sign the resolutions and to make the demonstrations that the government wanted to have done in support of the invasion. There was what you might call an icy silence.
INT: One of the things we haven't quite touched at all with the Bierman situation and all the developments, how important was the Helsinki meeting and the kind of the human rights developments in Helsinki? How much did that have an effect on how you acted in the mid-seventies?
SH: Well, that had in so far an effect, because the GDR government in Helsinki was forced to change its attitude on a number of things and therefore by implication, people in the GDR got a few more freedoms to act and in the church and in other bodies there was actually a possibility to speak up and to show its attitude. Also, in the question of peace, people spoke up and demonstrated for peace and against the threat of war, the threat of atomic war anyhow.
INT: So would you actually say that that kind of talking about human rights helped you?
SH: Yes, of course.
INT: Could you...
SH: (Interrupts) Human rights became an issue.
INT: Just to move on into the kind of the last years of the kind of GDR, we talked about already a bit about Gorbachev's approach and one of the things that was felt in the GDR at that time to actually encourage others to come into place instead of Honecker, because he was totally stubborn and he didn't kind of change his policy...
SH: Well, I don't think Gorbachev intended to replace Honecker, that is he planned no interference in the internal affairs of the GDR, because he was against it. I wish he would have done it, I wish he would have replaced Honecker with someone else who was more lively in his mind than Honecker was, he was already a cancer fighter, I would say. But this wasn't done and nobody within the set-up, within the leading set-up in the GDR was powerful enough or had enough initiative to make the necessary changes on his own. For a while, we had hoped that Mischa Wolf would be the person to do it, but he didn't. He resigned completely from activities and showed his face only at this demonstration on Alexanderplatz on November fourth, to my surprise.
INT: You, as a kind of democratic socialist, what were your personal hopes at that period and around the fourth of November?
SH: Well, it was strange. A Western writer whom I knew and who'd been at this demonstration, came up to see me and said, how come that nobody at this demonstration spoke of German unity? And I told him, because it isn't on the agenda and it wasn't on the agenda on that day. On that day, people were interested in having another, better GDR, another, better socialism. That's what they demonstrated for. And I think that is what led to an action in the West and to an immediate drive for unification, because they were worried. Imagine if we had had time and the occasion to develop a new socialism in the GDR, socialism with a human face, socialism with democracy, then this might have been an example also to West Germany and the development would have run the other way. But by this rapid and much too abrupt unification, within four days all the slogans changed. You know on November fourth, they were calling, we are the people. On November eighth, they were calling, we aone people. Entirely different thing. And that, of course, was organised. That was organised from the West, that was a real good job that they did of psychowarfare and as I told you, I was in psychological warfare in World War Two, so I know psychological warfare when I see it. But our hope on November fourth was a new kind of GDR, a better kind of GDR, with all that meant and implied for the future. And I'm terribly sorry that Gorbachev then, I must say, sold out the GDR for more than thirty pieces of silver, much more.
INT: Could I just ask you, you gave a very kind of important speech on November the fourth, could you just highlight the very important things you said there and what it was like to be in front of these million people on Alexanderplatz?
SH: Well, that was one of the most moving experiences of my life. And I began by saying that I felt as if the windows had been pushed open and suddenly fresh air was coming in and then I said a few things that I felt all along, which I have already told you. And I had to say them very briefly and very succinctly. And I called for that new socialism, the democratic socialism and I remember the tremendous applause I got and of course I also knew that a lot of secret police were standing around that truck from which we were speaking and at the time I was speaking, I was asking myself... I ended the speech by saying that democracy was a Greek word and it meant ruled by the people and I said, let's establish that rule by the people. But I thought, should I actually take action at that moment and call and let's go and march on the government building, which was only two blocks away, the office of the Prime Minister was only a few blocks away and get in there and get into the television tower there and occupy and in other words, actually conduct the revolution? But I wondered whether this could be done without bloodshed and whether the police that were standing around had orders to shoot in case that was done? I didn't know, and so I ended my speech, so to speak, on the theory what democracy meant and not by creating democracy.
INT: But you also mentioned in that speech that people should try (unintelligible German word).
SH: Yes. You see that was the symbol of things, that wasn't...
INT: Could I ask you to talk about that, say that?
SH: Ja. If you live in a system that is suppressive, you don't walk upright, you always go this way, with your head down and now was a chance to walk upright and to show your face and to show the power of the people. So I called for that. And I think it was a good image to use.
INT: You just spoke already about the fact of the danger.How dangerous did you think was that year '89?
SH: You didn't know. I took into consideration that the apparatus might defend itself by force of arms. I didn't know that they actually were too weak to do that and too undecided and there was no one who was taking the initiative one way or the other. How should we have known that? We were not on the inside of the apparatus or the inside of the machine. So, you had to run the thing by fingertips.
INT: What did you...
SH: (Interrupts) And then there was... don't forget, there was no group, no organised group to take over anything. There was no conspiracy to remove the government. This was only individuals who had gotten together to a certain extent and formed a forum or group or something, but not what you need in order to make a revolution. That wasn't there. And therefore the thing collapsed on its own and there was no one to take over, except the West. The West took over and that's the situation that we face today.
INT: Why did you oppose unification?
SH: I did not oppose unification, I knew unification would have to come, but not in the form in which it did come. You know, there were, even by law, even by Western law, there were two ways of doing it and they took it the radical way, they took it the forceful way. It wasn't that two states, two systems united, it was that one system took over. It was... I tell you in one interview in France once, I said, it was like the snake swallowing a little hedgehog. The hedgehog is gone, but of course the snake is having stomach trouble and we are faced with that stomach trouble today.