Klaus Steiniger: child of the GDR

By Pat Turnbull

On 9 April 2016 The Socialist Correspondent received the sad news that Klaus Steiniger, editor of German journal RotFuchs, had died.

Klaus described himself as ‘fully and completely a child of the German Democratic Republic’ (GDR).  In December 1948 at the age of 16 he joined the Socialist Unity Party, the unified party of the working class - communists and social-democrats - which would become the leading party of the GDR.  He was there as an observer at the 1949 meeting of the People’s Chamber where Wilhelm Pieck was elected President.

Klaus’s father, Peter Alfons Steiniger, was the son of a Jewish travelling salesman, all of whose relatives, without exception, were murdered in Auschwitz.  Peter Steiniger became an international lawyer and contributed to drawing up the text of the first constitution of the GDR.  Among other important roles he was for many years a member of the World Peace Council.

Klaus studied law, worked as a public prosecutor, a mayor, a TV journalist and in the Foreign Ministry of the GDR, before serving for almost 25 years on the editorial board and as foreign correspondent for GDR newspaper Neues Deutschland.

Klaus sat as reporter for Neues Deutschland and as a comrade of the accused Angela Davis in the courtroom of San Jose, California, from which, if Governor Ronald Reagan had had his way, she would have gone to the gas chamber.  The solidarity action of GDR children in sending a million cards with individually drawn roses to Angela Davis would have been unthinkable without Klaus.  US judge Richard E. Arnason declared at the time that the enormous number of cards and letters had not left him unaffected.

The five Portugal years of 1974 to 1979 were unforgettable for Klaus, resulting in a friendship which lasted decades with General Vasco Goncalves, one of the  military leaders of the April Revolution and for a time President.  As Klaus said: ‘The time in Portugal had a powerful political influence on me and strengthened me against reformists as well as pseudo-communists.’  He had enormous respect for the way the Portuguese communists were able to preserve their mass base even after the success of the counter-revolution.

Klaus wrote books about both the trial of Angela Davis and the Portuguese revolution, basing himself on what he had seen as a journalist.

After the counter revolution in the GDR, as Klaus said: ‘With the revenge of the German bourgeoisie, whom we had succeeded in thwarting for 40 years, my world view did not change at all.  Borrowing from Mayakovski’s poem on his Soviet passport, my declaration is: ‘For four decades I was a citizen of the best state which there has ever been on German soil.’   

In February 1998 Klaus and his wife Bruni brought into being RotFuchs, the monthly journal which has grown to a readership of tens of thousands in many countries, and has a large network of supporters’ groups in Germany which hold meetings to discuss features of the political situation.  The journal deals with important political issues, and has been able, among others, to call upon the expertise of well qualified people who worked in the GDR.  It also refuses to give in to the barrage of anti-GDR propaganda which fills the German media, giving opportunities for GDR citizens to tell the truth about their life in their socialist homeland, helping also to offer a picture of the real GDR to those who did not experience it.

For many years The Socialist Correspondent and RotFuchs have exchanged editions and published articles from each other’s journals.

The editorial board of The Socialist Correspondent wishes Bruni, Klaus’s family, and all the RotFuchs collective heartfelt condolences.  We also wish everyone success in continuing Klaus’s important work.


Angela Davis and Klaus