67. Germany: Two responses to DK

First diplomatic contacts between the Kingdom of Cambodia and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) were established in the late 1950s, In October 1962 East Germany opened a Consulate General in Phnom Penh, May 8th, 1969, when full diplomatic relations between GDR and Cambodia were established

1973_Royal Embassy of Cambodia in the GDR Report on Cambodia,

Figure 1 1973 Information bulletin distributed from DDR

After the GDR officially acknowledged the Royal Government of National Union of Kampuchea (GRUNK) and its allied National United Front of Kampuchea (FUNK) as the legitimate government of Cambodia, the pre-Lon Nol accredited Cambodian ambassador to Berlin, Sisowath Methavi, returned to the GDR on January 22nd, 1974, now as a representative of the GRUNK/FUNK.

( For greater detail see Christian OESTERHELD (2014) East German Socialism and the Khmer Rouge Revolution: Insights from the GDR’S diplomatic archives)

In October 1974, Prince Sihanouk was received in the GDR embassy in Beijing in his function as GRUNK/FUNK head of state for a two hours long exchange on the current situation in Cambodia. The East German ambassador to China reassured Sihanouk of his country’s continued support at the United Nations for acknowledgement

In the first couple of years of the new regime, the DK embassy in Berlin was actively involved in the production and dissemination of propaganda materials to bolster international support for the Cambodian revolution. A number of bulletins and booklets were produced, praising the “heroic revolution” in Cambodia. March 1977, Democratic Kampuchea, a workers’ and peasants’ state in South-East Asia, an English language magazine was issued from German Democratic Republic, the Berlin embassy of Democratic Kampuchea.

 Khmer edition distributed from DDR (1977)

democratic Kampuchea magazine This was followed by Democratic Kampuchea is Moving Forward 1977 a more professionally printed photo-propaganda magazine.
https://archive.org/details/DemocraticKampucheaIsMovingForwardlin inactive link

Additionally, six propaganda films were produced by the East German DEFA-Studio, now stored at the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) in Phnom Penh.

1975 Kampuchea

GDR officials were baffled when GRUNK/FUNK forces entered Phnom Penh on April 17th, 1975, and forced East German ambassadorial personnel together with about six hundred other foreigners to take refuge in the French embassy. The GDR administrative attaché, Erich Stange, had just returned from Kuala Lumpur two days earlier and had been looking forward to the liberation of Phnom Penh, instead

“the East Germans were forced out of their embassy at gunpoint by the Khmer Rouge, sent to the French Embassy and they were very upset at the conditions. […] They were very, very bitter. […] I remember how angry the East Germans were because they flew in specifically for the victory, [but] they were not invited”.

[An eyewitness, the American photojournalist Al Rockoff testifying On January 28th, 2013 at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).]

By late 1975, diplomatic relations between Democratic Kampuchea and the GDR were “practically frozen”. The activities of the “Royal Embassy in Berlin are basically constrained to look after the interests of the ca. 40 Cambodian citizens in the GDR (students and graduates), as well as to the dissemination of official bulletins”.

Democratic Kampuchea’s Embassy in East Berlin, remained active until May 1977, and conversations continued between the East German and the DK diplomatic corps in Hanoi, Vientiane and Beijing.

East German policy towards Cambodia officially changed at the end of 1978 with publicly pronounce support for the Vietnam-backed Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation.


From West Germany in December 1978, Hans-Gerhart Schmierer led a KBW delegation to a solidarity visit to Cambodia, meeting with Cambodia leaders including Pol Pot. Schmierer had been a member of the Federal Executive Board of the SDS in 1968 and in 1973 co-founder and leader of the Maoist Communist League of West Germany / Kommunistischer Bund Westdeutschland; KBW, until its dissolution in February 1985.

In January 1979 the KWB quickly issued a pamphlet calling for “unconditional support of the Democratic Kampuchea in its just war against the Soviet-Vietnamese invasion”. Entitled “Immediate Withdrawal of the Soviet-Vietnamese Invasion Force from the Democratic Kampuchea! -Why and how did Vietnam become a social-imperialist aggression centre?”, the KBW printed 40,000 copies for its solidarity activities.

This was quickly followed by the KBW’s monthly theoretical journal “Communism and Class struggle” [Kommunismus und Klassenkampf], dated January 22, 1979 printed the text of three speeches by Pol Pot without accompanying commentary: his statement of January 5, 1979, the 18th Anniversary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea from September 1978 and the previous year’s speech at the 17th anniversary celebration that saw the public announcement of the existence of the Communist Party Kampuchea. The pamphlet was an edition 4,000 and published in late January 1979. KBW_19790924_Kampuchea013KBW_19790122_Kampuchea001









The Communist League of West Germany  (KBW) reiterate its opposition to the Vietnamese occupation in September 1979 with its editorial analysis from its ‘Communist People’s Daily’ “The Kampuchean Communist Party has led the Kampuchean people to victory over US imperialism, and will lead the people to victory in the war of resistance against Soviet-Vietnamese aggression.” The pamphlet of the same name had an article that looked at the historical experience of FUNK and argued that “Soviet-Vietnamese aggression makes new alliances necessary and possible”. The article reassuringly entitled “The Communist Party of Kampuchea unfolds at each stage of the struggle an effective policy of the united front”. It also included a “Call for an international solidarity conference with the struggle of the Kampuchean people for national independence against Vietnamese aggression”.

The Kampuchea Conference, held in Stockholm November 17-18th 1979, was an attempt to build an international solidarity movement in support of Kampuchea’s national independence struggle against Vietnam. (Contributions were published in: International Secretariat, (1980) Kampuchea Conference Documents, Stockholm 1979 ISBN 9172603976   Mrs Ieng Thirth, Head of Stockholm delegation and Minister for Social Affairs speech here: https://cambodiatokampuchea.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/1979_11_thirth_stockholm0001.pdf)


In April 1980 the solidarity call to “Support Democratic Kampuchea” was reiterated in Greetings address to Pol Pot, printed in KBW biweekly paper Kommunistische Volkszeitung (No. 17, April 21st 1980 p3)

”Through its long-standing struggle for liberation against US imperialism , who was crowned by the victory of April 17 , by the success of the reconstruction of the country and the building of socialism in Kampuchea , the Kampuchean people have already made ​​great contributions to the cause of the international working class and the peoples of the world . By its present War of Resistance, the people of Kampuchea make again a decisive contribution to the cause of the international working class and the peoples of the world. By this fight, it defends its national existence, his country and its independence. This battle thwarted the further advance of the Soviet Union in Southeast Asia and thus also defends the independence of the peoples of Southeast Asia and the world.”

KBW stance went beyond the position that focused on the issue of self-determination and the withdrawal of Vietnamese troops and retained an uncritical stance on the experience of what happened inside Democratic Kampuchea. Others were less reluctant to delve into the past: the Kampuchea-Initiative Kiel, one of the several Kampuchea support groups in West Germany published its Theses on the Kampuchean Revolution, 1975-78 (republished in the BKSC’s Kampuchea Bulletin, Nos 9-10 : 3-11 Sep/Dec1981) https://cambodiatokampuchea.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/kb-10-11-1981-theses.pdf

A KBW pamphlet “Support Democratic Kampuchea” included the text “‘There is only one force that effectively leads the fight: The Government of Democratic Kampuchea!’ anInterview mit Norodom Narindrapong, einem Sohn Norodom Sihanouks”. Interview with Norodom Narindrapong, son of Norodom Sihanouk “, and a Speech by Ieng Thirth, Minister of Social Affairs of Democratic Kampuchea on the new strategic political line that echoed the united front line of the early 1970s.The KBW , called for a fund-raising that raised 80,000 Deutschmarks during its May Day celebration.

That September – at the time of the regular struggle over UN credentials for the Democratic Kampuchea representation – the KBW issue a photo brochure entitled, “The War of Resistance of the Democratic Kampuchea against the Soviet-Vietnamese Aggression” that editorialised Democratic Kampuchea is at the forefront of the struggle against the worldwide advance of social imperialism”.

In Germany, as elsewhere amongst pro-China anti-revisionists Marxist-Leninists, the diplomatic arguments mirrored that coming from China, hence the analysis in the 1979 pamphlet published by the regional committee of Hesse of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD, formerly KPD-AO) : “For an Independent Kampuchea: Withdrawal of All Foreign Forces”.

The events in Cambodia (where “Vietnam’s Chauvinism and Expansionism Threatens Southeast Asia”) were firmly seen through a wider strategic view that  it was the Third World, which would bear “the main burden in the fight against hegemonism, imperialism and racism”. The number one troublemaker identified as the USSR, who “intervenes everywhere and forces states that have emerged in the liberation struggle to deliver cannon fodder for their world domination plans.”

Regional Committee Hesse of the KPD: For an Independent Kampuchea.  Withdrawal of all foreign troops, Frankfurt / M. (1979).

Scanned German language originals of these documents can be found at “Materials for the Analysis of Opposition” (MAO) prepared by Dietmar Kesten and Jürgen Schröder (with the collaboration of Dieter Osterloh).




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