Hartmut Ernst Henke

Leinfelden-Echterdingen, Baden-Württemberg
* 1944

Plant a tree and find a friend!

Biografie auf Deutsch
  • Volksaufstand 17. Juni 1953
  • politische Haft
  • Freikauf
  • Wirtschaft/Landwirtschaft
  • Englisch
  • Französisch

Biographical information

9 October 1944 Born the son of farmer Karl Henke in Görlitz
1950-1958 Primary school in Ludwigsdorf
1958-1962 Extended secondary school in Reichenbach (Upper Lusatia)
1962-1968 Engineering studies at the Technical University of Dresden; degree as a qualified engineer for agricultural machine technology
1968 Design engineer for VEB (‘people’s owned enterprise’) Fortschritt Neustadt, Saxony, working at the combined harvester factory in Singwitz
21 August 1968 Protest against the invasion of the CSSR by member states of the Warsaw Pact
20 December 1968 Convicted and sentenced to 22 months in prison by the Dresden-East District Court
1969 Freedom purchased by and release to West Germany
1970-1971 Postgraduate studies in economics at RHTW Aachen University
1971-1973 Civil service as ‘Peace Corps Volunteer’ in India
1976-1991 Foreign assignments as international development aid worker: Cameroon, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Turkey
Since 1992 Technical advisor for agricultural engineering projects in developing countries
Henke lives in Leinfelden-Echterdingen near Stuttgart with his family.


As a child, Hartmut Henke used to sing the GDR’s national anthem, ‘Risen from ruins, and facing the future, let us serve you for the good, Germany, united fatherland’, quite enthusiastically. Living in Ludwigsdorf during the popular uprising on 17 June 1953, he saw the GDR’s true character unveiled when his friends’ fathers were arrested and sentenced. His Christian drive for freedom had awoken. Following Henke’s Christian confirmation and refusal to undergo the socialist-secular Jugendweihe, he was debarred from attending secondary school. Yet when his parents joined the agricultural producers’ cooperative (LPG) in the wake of forced collectivisation, their son was permitted to attend secondary school after all. After the Wall was built, Henke was able to take up studies in agricultural machinery engineering at the Technical University of Dresden even without prior military service. In the night of 21 August 1968, the Red Army’s tanks stationed in the district of Dresden embarked to Bohemia in the CSSR to put down the Prague Spring. ‘Brown German fascists in Prague in 1938 – red Soviet Communists in Prague in 1968’, was his comment at a meeting in the construction office of the combined harvester factory in Singwitz. He later tried to escape from the GDR to avoid being drafted into the NVA (National People’s Army), yet his escape failed and Henke was sentenced to prison in Cottbus, although the West German government purchased his freedom later on. Since then, he has been able to live up to his motto of ‘swords to ploughshares’ in many places around the world.


Hartmut Ernst Henke im Gespräch mit Schülerinnen und Schülern (Video):

Bei dem Projekt „Stimmen der Opposition“ führen Schülerinnen und Schüler Interviews mit einem Zeitzeugen. Es entsteht ein Bild der DDR-Bürgerrechtsbewegung, gesehen mit den Augen der heutigen Jugendlichen. Das Zeitzeugeninterview mit Hartmut Ernst Henke wurde veröffentlicht. Eine Kurzversion finden Sie hier.

Projekt der Deutschen Gesellschaft e. V., gefördert durch die Bundesstiftung Aufarbeitung.