Chile and Germany: Between Solidarity and Dependence

Max Roder­mund

11 Septem­ber 2023

14 March 1973: A GDR dele­ga­tion visits Presi­dent Salva­dor Allende (from right to left: Ambassa­dor Harry Spind­ler, inter­pre­ter Dr. Apel, Deputy Finance Minis­ter Ernst Höfner, Presi­dent Salva­dor Allende, Prof. Gerhard Scholl, Plan­ning Commis­sion, Dr Emil Jarosch, Econo­mic Coun­cil Erfurt, and Jürgen Macht, interpreter).


Although fifty years have passed since the coup d’état in Chile, the event conti­nues to make head­lines today. It was only at the end of August 2023 that seven mili­tary offi­cers were convic­ted of the torture and murder of Víctor Jara. Chile’s current presi­dent and justice minis­ter also recently announ­ced a “Natio­nal Plan for the Search for Truth and Justice” to inves­ti­gate the still unre­sol­ved where­a­bouts of tens of thou­sands who disap­peared during the coup. Right-wing forces in Chile aggres­si­vely main­tain their outspo­ken support for the coup to this day. Events and demons­tra­ti­ons comme­mo­ra­ting the anni­ver­sary in Chile were met with repres­sion, even under Presi­dent Gabriel Borić.

The 50th anni­ver­sary has been widely discus­sed in the German public sphere as well. Today, there is largely consen­sus in the rejec­tion of Augusto Pinochet’s mili­tary coup. Yet this was not always the case in the Fede­ral Repu­blic of Germany (FRG, commonly refer­red to as “West Germany”). The German Demo­cra­tic Repu­blic (GDR, “East Germany”), on the other hand, mobi­li­zed a remar­kable soli­da­rity campaign at the time, which was supported and sustained by broad sections of the popu­la­tion. The elec­tion victory of the Unidad Popu­lar in 1970 had been enthu­si­a­sti­cally cele­bra­ted in West German leftist move­ments too, and its brutal suppres­sion trig­ge­red a wave of soli­da­rity across West Germany. At the time, howe­ver, poli­ti­ci­ans from the conser­va­tive Chris­tian Demo­cra­tic Union of Germany (CDU/CSU) and busi­ness leaders made no secret of their support for the military’s violent take­over, inclu­ding the torture and murder of thou­sands of Chile­ans. To this day, the role of the FRG’s intel­li­gence service, the Bundes­nach­rich­ten­dienst (BND), has not been fully clari­fied. There is moun­ting evidence that the BND supported the mili­tary junta’s violent repres­sion of the Chilean popu­la­tion.1

Germany has an intense history of neo-colo­nial influence in South Ameri­can count­ries, espe­ci­ally Chile, which is often over­loo­ked due to the USA’s domi­nant role on the conti­nent. The follo­wing article traces out aspects of Germany’s long econo­mic rela­ti­onship with Chile to draw out the charac­ter of rela­ti­ons that the two German states main­tai­ned with Chile during Salva­dor Allende’s presi­dency (1970–1973). In direct contrast to the GDR, West Germany’s impe­ria­list policy in Chile, which conti­nues to this day, beco­mes all the more apparent.

Yet the events in Chile 50 years ago are topi­cal above all because the poli­ti­cal program of the Unidad Popu­lar (UP), which sought to combat impe­ria­list influence and the nation’s plun­der by leading capi­ta­list corpo­ra­ti­ons. The UP’s advo­cacy of sove­reign deve­lo­p­ment for the peop­les of Latin America and beyond remains as rele­vant as ever. In an intense phase of the inter­na­tio­nal class struggle, the UP govern­ment had radi­cally and offen­si­vely posed the ques­tion of “who owns what” in indus­try and agri­cul­ture, thus inspi­ring progres­sive and anti-impe­ria­list forces throug­hout the conti­nent and world­wide. The UP’s decla­ra­tion to break out of neo-colo­nial subju­ga­tion was answe­red by the impe­ria­list forces unequi­vo­cally and with extreme violence.

The expe­ri­en­ces of the Unidad Popu­lar, the coup 50 years ago, and the role of the FRG and GDR have a direct poli­ti­cal connec­tion to current strug­gles against impe­ria­lism. The follo­wing text is inten­ded to contri­bute to a better under­stan­ding of this rela­ti­onship and to enrich current deba­tes along these lines. In many instances, contem­po­rary scien­ti­fic lite­ra­ture from the DDR was refe­ren­ced, wher­eby the foun­da­tio­nal work Grund­fra­gen des anti­im­pe­ria­lis­ti­schen Kamp­fes der Völker Asiens, Afri­kas und Latein­ame­ri­kas in der Gegen­wart (Funda­men­tal Ques­ti­ons of the Anti-Impe­ria­list Struggle of the Peop­les of Asia, Africa and Latin America in the Present) from 1974 should be empha­si­zed, which compre­hen­si­vely inves­ti­ga­tes the gene­sis of capi­ta­lism and the balance of power in Latin America.

German capital anchors itself in Latin America

Between 1846 and 1914, some 11,000 Germans emigra­ted to Chile.2 Not an enorm­ous number and yet, through asso­cia­ti­ons and German schools, the German migrants built up a network that is still influ­en­tial today and that was to become the basis for inten­sive German econo­mic acti­vity in Chile.3

“By 1890, six German compa­nies were exploi­ting Chilean salt­petre, control­ling about 18% of total produc­tion. On the other hand, exports of manu­fac­tu­red goods from Germany, mostly rela­ted to the salt­petre indus­try, increased expo­nen­ti­ally until just prior to the First World War.“4

By 1900, Germany had become the main custo­mer for Chilean salt­petre, which was mainly used to produce ferti­li­zer and explo­si­ves until a synthe­tic substi­tute was intro­du­ced during the First World War. With the presence of the indus­try, German banks also came to Chile to handle the salt­petre busi­ness. By 1914, the German Empire had risen to become the largest supplier of indus­trial goods to Chile, which were needed, among other things, to extract the chemicals.

Workers in the Oficina “Chile” clea­ring exhaus­ted cali­che from a caul­dron, photo: Curt Fran­cke, 1925.

The charac­te­ristic divi­sion of roles between deve­lo­ped capi­ta­list count­ries and (former) colo­nies or “deve­lo­ping count­ries” that we are still fami­liar with today is discer­ni­ble: an economy is orien­ted towards the export of raw mate­ri­als and is depen­dent on the import of indus­trial goods. Typi­cal of the deve­lo­p­ment of Latin Ameri­can count­ries was the alli­ance of a landow­ning olig­ar­chy with foreign capi­tal, which led to a speci­fic deve­lo­p­ment of capi­ta­lism in which pre-capi­ta­list, feudal property rela­ti­ons were mixed with capi­ta­list produc­tion that remained prima­rily focu­sed on a few agri­cul­tu­ral products and natu­ral resource extraction.

While in the 19th century it was prima­rily English capi­tal that bene­fi­ted from this trade imba­lance, U.S. impe­ria­lism gradu­ally came to domi­nate Latin America. With the Pan-Ameri­can Union, foun­ded as early as 1889 at the first Pan-Ameri­can Confe­rence, an incre­asingly complex system of domi­na­tion over the conti­nent was deve­lo­ped. The Mili­tary Pact of Rio de Janeiro (1947) and the crea­tion of the Orga­niza­tion of Ameri­can States (1948) contin­ued this trend in a compre­hen­sive way after the Second World War:

“With the deve­lo­p­ment of dome­stic capi­ta­lism, a diffe­ren­tia­tion of the dome­stic bour­geoi­sie took place since the end of the Second World War; a part of this class deve­lo­ped into the indus­trial upper bour­geoi­sie. […] The native bour­geoi­sie got deeper and deeper into the dilemma “either support a radi­cal solu­tion of the country’s problems, which can easily esca­late to a revo­lu­tio­nary uphe­aval, or to capi­tu­late before impe­ria­lism and its dome­stic allies.” […] The native bour­geoi­sie ther­e­fore tended to asso­ciate itself more closely with U.S. impe­ria­lism, the pro-impe­ria­list upper bour­geoi­sie and the wealthy landow­ners, despite the exis­tence of econo­mic and poli­ti­cal contra­dic­tions with them, and incre­asingly began to support the suppres­sion of the mass move­ment on which it had previously relied.“5

Along­side the contra­dic­tion between the deve­lo­p­ment of the produc­tive forces and the elements of pre-capi­ta­list rela­ti­ons of produc­tion and the contra­dic­tion between the peop­les of Latin America and the impe­ria­lism that exploits them, the struggle between the bour­geoi­sie and the prole­ta­riat, which runs within the count­ries, incre­asingly came to the fore in Chile.

In 1929, the first regio­nal consul­ta­tion of 15 commu­nist parties of the count­ries of Latin America took place in Buenos Aires. The parties agreed that the coming revo­lu­tion on the conti­nent would be bour­geois-demo­cra­tic, agra­rian, anti-impe­ria­list in charac­ter. The struggle for libe­ra­tion from impe­ria­list shack­les contai­ned an anti-capi­ta­list tendency. In 1934, a regio­nal consul­ta­tion was held again in Monte­vi­deo, where the commu­nist parties set them­sel­ves the task of crea­ting broad anti-impe­ria­list fronts, with the popu­lar front govern­ment of the Frente Popu­lar in Chile in 1938 repre­sen­ting a culmi­na­tion of this stra­tegy.6

The victory of the Cuban Revo­lu­tion in 1959 was a serious setback for impe­ria­lism in the region. The U.S. govern­ment under Kennedy reac­ted in 1961 with the “Alli­ance for Progress”, a deve­lo­p­ment program that was inten­ded both to chan­nel the pres­sure of progres­sive move­ments into chan­nels that were harm­less to impe­ria­lism and to deepen subor­di­na­tion to the domi­nance of U.S. finance capi­tal. U.S. Presi­dent Lyndon B. John­son proclai­med unequi­vo­cally in 1965:

“Ameri­can count­ries cannot and must not allow another commu­nist govern­ment to be consti­tu­ted in the Western Hemi­sphere.“7

During the 1960s, and as part of this inte­gra­ting tactic, certain chan­ges deve­lo­ped in the inter­na­tio­nal divi­sion of labour. Labour-inten­sive bran­ches of the manu­fac­tu­ring indus­try, espe­ci­ally in the produc­tion of food and simple consu­mer goods were incre­asingly relo­ca­ted to Latin Ameri­can count­ries as well.

In 1969, a minis­ter of the Fede­ral Repu­blic of Germany (FRG) stated,

“[…] that struc­tu­ral chan­ges must also be made in [Latin America’s] own econo­mic sectors in the long term. In their our own inte­rest and in the inte­rest of the deve­lo­ping states, the indus­tria­li­zed nati­ons must trans­fer part of their less compli­ca­ted indus­trial manu­fac­tu­ring to the deve­lo­ping states and invest more in deve­lo­ping count­ries. This means at the same time the dismant­ling of certain indus­tries which are less profi­ta­ble for the tech­no­lo­gi­cal level of the indus­tria­li­zed states.“8

As early as the mid-1950s, the FRG moved toward increased capi­tal exports to Latin America, with a parti­cu­lar focus on Brazil, Argen­tina, Mexico, and Chile. In terms of econo­mic acti­vi­ties, German impe­ria­lism took on a leading role in Latin America during the 1960s, secon­dary only to the United States. In 1961, the Fede­ral Minis­try for Econo­mic Coope­ra­tion (BMZ) was crea­ted, whose first minis­ter, Walter Scheel (FDP), said in 1963:

“There needs to be a reor­de­ring of rela­ti­ons between the rich indus­tria­li­zed states and the deve­lo­ping states, many of which were recently colo­nies“9

The Fede­ral Republic’s “deve­lo­p­ment policy” formed a crucial instru­ment for deepe­ning the influence of German busi­ness world­wide, and indeed in Latin America. In 1963, the then State Secre­tary of the Fede­ral Govern­ment, Fried­rich Karl Vialon, stated that “deve­lo­p­ment aid is a second line in our [natio­nal] defense”.10 Social move­ments and the intellec­tual-cultu­ral sphere were to be swayed in order to shore up these econo­mic rela­ti­ons. “Deve­lo­p­ment aid” and capi­tal export were to tie the econo­mic proces­ses of the target count­ries more closely and firmly to the inte­rests of their own mono­po­lies. Moreo­ver, the “econo­mic aid” gran­ted to Latin Ameri­can count­ries was for a long time linked to a “good conduct clause” in the corre­spon­ding govern­ment agree­ments, which was inten­ded to prevent the Latin Ameri­can count­ries from norma­li­zing their rela­ti­ons with the GDR.11

Above all, the most aggres­sive German mono­po­lies, which had previously been invol­ved in the prepa­ra­ti­ons for the Second World War (e.g. IG Farben, Krupp, Deut­sche Bank), expan­ded their posi­ti­ons in Latin America.12 The then head of VW do Brasil, Werner Paul Schmidt, commen­ted on the mili­tary dicta­tor­ship in Brazil in Febru­ary 1972:

“Certainly, the mili­tary and the police torture prisoners in order to obtain important infor­ma­tion; certainly, poli­ti­cal subver­si­ves are often not tried at all, but shot at once. But an objec­tive report­ing would have to add every time that without harsh­ness, things would just not move forward. And things are indeed moving forwards.“13

Luis Corvalán, leader of the Chilean Commu­nist Party at the time of the Unidad Popu­lar govern­ment, framed the approach of the UP against this back­ground of inter­na­tio­nal class struggle. His party’s stra­te­gic orien­ta­tion, as it had been desi­gned by the Latin Ameri­can commu­nists in the early 20th century, contin­ued to main­tain that:

“The events in Chile are part of the world revo­lu­tio­nary process. Their content and charac­ter are deter­mi­ned by the urgent need for the libe­ra­tion of the coun­try from impe­ria­list domi­na­tion, the funda­men­tal contra­dic­tions that have matu­red in the bosom of our society, and the strength, the degree of unity and poli­ti­cal matu­rity achie­ved by the prole­ta­riat and the whole people. The current stage of the revo­lu­tio­nary process in Chile is charac­te­ri­zed by its anti-impe­ria­list, anti-lati­fun­dist [feudal landed estates], and anti-mono­po­list content.“14

The GDR, West Germany, and the UP government

For progres­sive forces world­wide, the victory of the UP govern­ment on 4 Septem­ber 1970, repre­sen­ted a decisive breakth­rough that ended the isola­tion of socia­list Cuba in Latin America. Henry Kissin­ger saw it in exactly the same way, stating as early as 15 September:

“The elec­tion of Allende is serious, serious for U.S. inte­rests in Chile.“15

In 1971, U.S. Presi­dent Richard Nixon imme­dia­tely issued an expli­cit threat:

“If [the UP] govern­ment does some­thing in Chile or outside Chile — in its foreign policy — that harms us, that will alre­ady be our concern, and we will act accor­din­gly.“16

The govern­ment program adopted by the Unidad Popu­lar party alli­ance17

in 1969 was also recei­ved very differ­ently by West and East Germany. It left no doubt about the UP’s radi­cal character:

“As a first measure, mine­ral resour­ces will be natio­na­li­zed, such as the large copper mines, ore and salt­petre mining, and others that are in the hands of foreign capi­tal and dome­stic mono­po­lies.“18

Día de la Digni­dad Nacio­nal: On 16 July 1971, the Chilean copper works were nationalised.

The natio­na­liza­tion of copper mines posed a major threat to the capi­tal inte­rests of foreign mono­po­lies. With an annual produc­tion of 685,000 tons of copper, Chile was the second largest copper exporter in 1970. Copper accoun­ted for 68% of Chile’s exports and brought in 80% of its foreign exch­ange. 20% of the world’s known copper depo­sits were in Chile. Accor­ding to a calcu­la­tion published in Neues Deutsch­land, U.S. corpo­ra­ti­ons robbed Chile of four billion dollars in the 50 years to 1970. The natio­na­liza­tion policy increased Chile’s annual foreign exch­ange earnings by at least $125 million.19 Also to be brought under state control were the country’s banking and finan­cial sectors, foreign trade, central infra­struc­ture compa­nies, energy, commu­ni­ca­ti­ons, the textile indus­try, and more. Agra­rian reform, which had alre­ady been initia­ted under the previous govern­ment of Eduardo Frei, was to be contin­ued and deepe­ned. All large estates over 80 hecta­res were to be expro­pria­ted. Compre­hen­sive social policy measu­res were part of the program, such as mini­mum wages and infla­tion compen­sa­tion, free health care, a state housing program, compre­hen­sive support for educa­tion and much more. The government’s foreign policy orien­ta­tion was a sharp chall­enge to U.S. imperialism:

“The posi­tion of active defence of Chile’s inde­pen­dence entails the condem­na­tion of the exis­ting “Orga­niza­tion of Ameri­can States” (OAS) as an instru­ment and agency of North Ameri­can impe­ria­lism and the struggle against any form of Pan-Ameri­ca­nism as unders­tood by this orga­niza­tion. The People’s Govern­ment is commit­ted to contri­bu­ting to the crea­tion of a body that truly repres­ents the count­ries of Latin America.“20

Every form of colo­nia­lism and neo-colo­nia­lism was condem­ned by the party alli­ance. At the same time, the UP declared soli­da­rity with the strug­gles for libe­ra­tion and for the estab­lish­ment of socia­lism, espe­ci­ally with the Cuban Revolution.

After being sworn in, Presi­dent Allende began to rapidly imple­ment the program. Chile became an important driving force for the demo­cra­tiza­tion of the prevai­ling econo­mic and finan­cial order, also as part of the Non-Aligned Move­ment.21

The GDR govern­ment had alre­ady poli­ti­cally supported the land reform under the previous govern­ment and commen­ded the UP’s measu­res. Compa­nies and owners from the FRG, on the other hand, were sever­ely affec­ted by Chile’s new econo­mic and socio-poli­ti­cal measu­res. Chile was the most important supplier of copper to West Germany (35% of copper imports were impor­ted from Chile). 20% of the expro­pria­ted land in Chile was taken from the hands of German natio­nals. Roughly 360 “German” estates were expro­pria­ted in the process.22 In addi­tion to the German paint factory Cere­sita (a subsi­diary of Preus­sag) and the Roden­stock facto­ries, 16 other compa­nies with German capi­tal were occu­p­ied or expro­pria­ted, partly on the spon­ta­neous initia­tive of Chilean workers. For exam­ple, the manage­ment of the Hoechst subsi­diary Fibro-Química Chilena Ltda. rejec­ted the workers’ demand for an 800 percent wage increase, and they subse­quently occu­p­ied the factory. 23

In addi­tion, German busi­ness execu­ti­ves were annoyed by profit-dimi­nis­hing social measu­res to increase wages and improve working condi­ti­ons. To coun­ter­act natio­na­liza­tion, the German-Chilean Cham­ber of Commerce (CAMCHAL) recom­men­ded emer­gency measu­res, such as adjus­ting wages for infla­tion and forming their own unions.24

Econo­mic and poli­ti­cal coope­ra­tion between the GDR and Chile expe­ri­en­ced a massive upswing. Salva­dor Allende had alre­ady visi­ted the GDR in 1966 and main­tai­ned close cont­act with the GDR’s trade repre­sen­ta­tion in Sant­iago.25 Frater­nal rela­ti­ons were of course main­tai­ned between the SED and the Chilean Commu­nist Party, which was part of the UP govern­ment. With the UP’s elec­tion victory, diplo­ma­tic reco­gni­tion of the GDR was now on the table. Since the foun­ding of both German states in 1949, the FRG had punis­hed all states that main­tai­ned offi­cial rela­ti­ons with the GDR by impo­sing compre­hen­sive sanc­tions on them. This massi­vely limi­ted the econo­mic and poli­ti­cal possi­bi­li­ties of socia­list Germany. Although the FRG govern­ment under Brandt and Scheel (from 1969) gradu­ally distanced itself from this so-called “Hall­stein Doctrine”, the FRG’s claim to be the sole repre­sen­ta­tive of Germany initi­ally remained. The FRG also exer­ted pres­sure on the Allende govern­ment not to reco­gnize the GDR. In fact, this delayed the offi­cial estab­lish­ment of diplo­ma­tic rela­ti­ons until the spring of 1971. In the joint commu­ni­qué between Chile and the GDR on the estab­lish­ment of diplo­ma­tic rela­ti­ons of April 6, 1971, the prin­ci­ples and goals of the sove­reign equa­lity of states, their mutual respect and non-inter­fe­rence in inter­nal or exter­nal affairs, were empha­si­zed — a stark contrast to the threat of then U.S. Presi­dent Nixon quoted above.

On this basis, trade agree­ments and trea­ties on scien­ti­fic and tech­no­lo­gi­cal coope­ra­tion were concluded in July 1971, and poli­ti­cal exch­an­ges were deepened.

For the GDR, it was of parti­cu­lar importance that the Chilean govern­ment campai­gned inter­na­tio­nally against the isola­tion of the GDR and, for exam­ple, advo­ca­ted its member­ship in the United Nati­ons World Health Orga­niza­tion. For Chile, a key goal was to diver­sify its trade rela­ti­ons in the first place. The GDR was to expand its imports from Chile, inclu­ding copper and semi-finis­hed and finis­hed copper products. The trade agree­ments also provi­ded for supplies of instal­la­ti­ons and machi­nery for the deve­lo­p­ment of the Chilean economy. Part of the agree­ment was the trans­fer of scien­ti­fic and tech­ni­cal expe­ri­ence and coope­ra­tion with regard to produc­tion proces­ses.26 This invol­ved the deploy­ment of GDR experts in copper mining and the agri­cul­tu­ral and food indus­tries and the trai­ning of Chilean specia­lists in the GDR.27 A joint commit­tee for econo­mic, tech­ni­cal, and scien­ti­fic coope­ra­tion, estab­lished at the end of 1971, was to compre­hen­si­vely coor­di­nate coope­ra­tion between the GDR and Chile for mutual bene­fit.28 A group of socia­list count­ries had also agreed with Chile to build over 20 facto­ries and indus­trial plants.29 The diverse and long-term agree­ments were under­mi­ned by the incre­asing acts of sabo­tage and disrup­tion of the Chilean economy, insti­ga­ted by reac­tion­ary forces within and outside the country. 

The govern­ment under Allende insis­ted on its measu­res to the disad­van­tage of foreign mono­po­lies. In an inter­view on U.S. tele­vi­sion, Allende said: Whoe­ver wanted to invest in Chile would have to accept the fact that the country’s mine­ral resour­ces and other riches belon­ged to the people. After all, the North Ameri­cans would not put up with foreig­ners beco­ming owners of the oil in Texas, for exam­ple. Chile, he said, has had bad expe­ri­en­ces with U.S. private invest­ment: “In the last twelve years, more than $250 million has been inves­ted in Chile, and in return, values of more than $1.05 billion have been moved out of Chile.” 30

The former private copper mining compa­nies in Chile tried to oppose expro­pria­tion by all means. The U.S. Kenne­cott Copper Corpo­ra­tion threa­tened world­wide buyers of Chilean copper:

“If they intend to buy copper that comes from Chile’s El Teni­ente mine, we will be forced to take action against them with all the means at our dispo­sal.“31

They carried out their threat, for exam­ple prohi­bi­ting the proces­sing of Nord­deut­sche Affi­ne­rie in Hamburg by tempo­rary injunc­tion and confis­ca­ting the 3,000 tons of copper worth eleven million deutschmarks.

In addi­tion to the inten­sive econo­mic coope­ra­tion, the GDR popu­la­tion sent broadly supported soli­da­rity ship­ments to Chile, espe­ci­ally after the supply situa­tion became more diffi­cult as a result of the massive disrup­tion of the economy set in motion by reac­tion­ary forces. In the course of 1973, four freigh­ters sailed from the GDR to Chile. Equip­ment for a complete poly­cli­nic, medi­ci­nes, vacci­nes, school supplies and tech­no­logy for fire and flood fight­ing were ship­ped. Trucks and mopeds were also in the soli­da­rity ship­ments. In total, the GDR deli­vered dona­ti­ons total­ling 42 million Deut­sche Mark (Valu­ta­mark).32 The last three freigh­ters arri­ved in Chilean ports at the end of August. The medi­ci­nes, 8,000 tons of flour, canned food, and indus­trial goods on board did not reach the Chilean popu­la­tion. The fascist coup led by Augusto Pino­chet preven­ted their distri­bu­tion.33

The coup, West Germany, and the GDR

Although Fidel Castro had encou­ra­ged the orga­niza­tion of an armed workers’ militia during his three-week visit to Chile in Novem­ber 1971, the UP govern­ment did not take any concrete steps in this direc­tion.34 Mean­while, the U.S. intel­li­gence agency contin­ued its insti­ga­ti­ons in colla­bo­ra­tion with reac­tion­ary groups in Chile.

While the U.S. govern­ment denied Chile any further loans after the UP’s elec­to­ral victory, it doubled its loans to the Chilean mili­tary to $10 billion in 1972. Chilean forces thus contin­ued to obtain mili­tary equip­ment from the U.S., Chilean warships contin­ued to parti­ci­pate (along with U.S. units) in the annual “Unitas” naval maneu­vers, and Chilean offi­cers contin­ued to attend mili­tary trai­ning events in the Panama Canal Zone as well as in the United States.35

“The CIA, in concert with the Brazi­lian mili­tary dicta­tor­ship, pushed the acti­vi­ties of reac­tion­ary, in part pro-fascist, forces to over­throw anti-impe­ria­list-orien­ted govern­ments and to suppress the growing influence of the labour move­ment on the poli­ti­cal deve­lo­p­ment of the count­ries of Latin America. This massive coun­ter­re­vo­lu­tio­nary push led to the over­throw of the progres­sive mili­tary govern­ment in Boli­via in 1971, the reac­tion­ary coup d’état in Uruguay in 1973, and the over­throw of the Popu­lar Unity govern­ment under Presi­dent Allende and the estab­lish­ment of a fascist mili­tary dicta­tor­ship in Chile in 1973.“36

From one day to the next, the lives of commu­nists, socia­lists and demo­crats in Chile were threa­tened. The fascist mili­tary perse­cu­ted, tortu­red, and killed members and support­ers of the UP govern­ment. Some of them tried to leave the coun­try, with the Pino­chet regime also trying to prevent them from leaving through embas­sies. Ten days after the coup, on Septem­ber 21, 1973, the GDR broke off diplo­ma­tic rela­ti­ons with Chile. The embassy of the FRG reac­ted very hesi­tantly at first. In the first days after the coup, nearly 100 people reques­ted asylum at the West German embassy but were refer­red to Latin Ameri­can missi­ons. As time went on, people were also allo­wed to leave the coun­try through the West German embassy, although, in the spirit of a conces­sion to the coup govern­ment, they were admit­ted only on a huma­ni­ta­rian basis and excluded those who had been poli­ti­cally persecuted.

“Once inside the embassy, the asylum seekers were ques­tio­ned by offi­cers of the Fede­ral Office for the Protec­tion of the Consti­tu­tion: the possi­ble entry of left-wing extre­mists was a topic of German debate. On Decem­ber 8, 1973, the first group of emigrants arri­ved in Frank­furt.“37

Poli­ti­cal and busi­ness repre­sen­ta­ti­ves in the FRG reac­ted posi­tively to the fascist coup:

“Invest in Chile now!” deman­ded the Frank­fur­ter Allge­meine Zeitung on Friday, 21 Septem­ber 1973. The Neue West­fä­li­sche Zeitung found: “Coup in Chile is posi­tive for banks. Invest­ments can be made again in South America.” Farb­werke Hoechst was “of the opinion that the actions of the mili­tary and the police could not have been plan­ned and coor­di­na­ted more intel­li­gently.” It was, they said, an action that had been prepared down to the last detail and execu­ted bril­li­antly. “The Allende govern­ment has met the end it deser­ved […]. Chile will be an incre­asingly inte­res­t­ing market for Hoechs­ter products in the future.” Der Spie­gel judged correctly on 8 Octo­ber 1973: “The Chilean gene­rals […] will not have to do without help from Bonn.“38

Member of parlia­ment Hein­rich Gewandt (Chris­tian Demo­cra­tic Union, CDU) was offi­ci­ally invi­ted by Pinochet’s govern­ment shortly after the coup. There he met Pino­chet and his Minis­ter of Economy and Finance. After his return to West Germany, Gewandt said in Bonn that “Chile was on its way to beco­ming credit­wor­thy”. (Picture: Opera­ción Silen­cio, ed. Heynow­ski & Scheu­mann, Verlag der Nation)

For the chair­man of the CDU/CSU parlia­men­tary group in the Bundes­tag, Karl Cars­tens, Allende’s death was a “tragic symbol” of the incom­pa­ti­bi­lity of socia­lism and demo­cracy. In Octo­ber 1973, the head of the Konrad Adenauer Foun­da­tion39 and CDU secre­tary gene­ral, Bruno Heck, expres­sed his hope that after the econo­mic chaos under Allende that had led to the coup, impro­ve­ment could now be expec­ted.40 The remarks of Franz Josef Strauß, then chair­man of the CSU, are also well-known:

“Given the chaos that has reig­ned in Chile, the word order suddenly takes on a sweet sound again for Chile­ans.“41

As an advi­sor to the mili­tary junta and signi­fi­cantly invol­ved in the draf­ting of the Pino­chet regime’s consti­tu­tion, Prof. Dieter Blumen­witz, a scho­lar of inter­na­tio­nal and consti­tu­tio­nal law as well as a leading repre­sen­ta­tive of “Eastern Studies” (Ostfor­schung), was a member of the Board of Trus­tees ‘Indi­vi­si­ble Germany’.42 German invol­vement in the torture and murder of the dicta­tor­ship, howe­ver, goes much deeper. After 1945, roughly 1,000 offi­cers of the SS, SA, and Gestapo went to Chile.43 Some of them got new jobs in the Chilean secret service, the “Dirección de Inte­li­gen­cia Nacio­nal”, or DINA, estab­lished in 1973, where they were known as ‘our German troops’. The DINA’s main task was to destroy the ‘inter­nal enemy’ and to eradi­cate commu­nism throug­hout Latin America as part of Opera­tion Condor. Walt­her Rauff was also invol­ved in a leading func­tion. During Hitler’s reign Rauff was, among other things, head of a task force in the North Afri­can campaign, and under Pino­chet he is said to have expli­citly helped to set up the DINA along the lines of the Gestapo. A publi­ca­tion by Wilfried Huis­mann comes to this conclusion:

“What has become incre­asingly clear during the rese­arch is that Walt­her Rauff, the deve­lo­per of the gas van for the murder of Jews, was also the archi­tect of the indus­trial exter­mi­na­tion of oppon­ents of the regime in Chile, toge­ther with Chris­toph Willeke and DINA head Manuel Contre­ras.“44

The rese­arch also follo­wed leads to the FRG’s foreign intel­li­gence service, the Bundes­nach­rich­ten­dienst (BND), which coun­ted Rauff as one of its employees until at least 1963.

“Rauff’s part­ner in the DINA leader­ship, Briga­dier Gene­ral Chris­toph Willeke, was respon­si­ble, among other things, for rela­ti­ons with the BND and travel­led seve­ral times to join his colle­agues in Pullach. There he recei­ved infor­ma­tion about Chilean “extre­mists” living in exile in Germany. On his way back, accor­ding to Vergara’s recoll­ec­tion, he also perso­nally brought labo­ra­tory equip­ment and ingre­di­ents of the poison gas sarin to Chile.“45

The list of high-level support from West Germany and Germans in exile for the Chilean putschists could be exten­ded, for exam­ple with the noto­rious “Colo­nia Digni­dad”, which served among other things as a torture faci­lity and DINA head­quar­ters.46 The soli­da­rity with the UP, which was also wide­spread amongst the West German popu­la­tion, exer­ted pres­sure on poli­tics and public debate. At least some SPD poli­ti­ci­ans publicly distanced them­sel­ves from the coup. 

In the GDR, the coup trig­ge­red a broad wave of soli­da­rity. Mass rallies were orga­ni­zed in Berlin and other large cities. Over the 15 years follo­wing the coup, roughly 5,000 Chile­ans found exile in the GDR. While the leader­ship of the Chilean Commu­nist Party ended up in the Soviet Union, the GDR became the main host coun­try for Chilean exiles in Eastern Europe, who had to find their way from Chile to the GDR in some­ti­mes adven­tur­ous ways. The GDR achie­ved an effec­tive success by smugg­ling out the Gene­ral Secre­tary of the Socia­list Party, Carlos Alta­mi­rano, in the trunk of a GDR intel­li­gence agent’s car.

Minis­try of State Secu­rity (“Stasi”) employee Rudolf Herz with the car he used to smuggle Carlos Alta­mi­rano out of Chile.

After their arri­val in the GDR, Chile­ans were first housed in homes where they lear­ned German, follo­wed by their sett­le­ment in 12 major cities across East Germany, where they were given new-build apart­ments and also provi­ded with an inte­rest-free loan. Most of them went on to take up work to earn their own living, while others began voca­tio­nal trai­ning or took up univer­sity studies. Chilean child­ren atten­ded GDR schools, with the subjects of Spanish, Latin Ameri­can history, and geogra­phy were taught by Chilean educa­tors. The costs were covered by the GDR’s Soli­da­rity Commit­tee. In Berlin, poli­ti­cal Chilean exiles foun­ded the “Chile Anti­fa­scista” office, a hub for the inte­gra­tion of Chile­ans and ongo­ing soli­da­rity work for Chile. In addi­tion, the foreign offices of the Unidad Popu­lar and the Socia­list Party of Chile opera­ted from the GDR. 47

The friendly rela­ti­onship between the GDR and the Chilean people also found a diverse cultu­ral expres­sion. Novels, films, and music by Chile­ans, cove­ring the deve­lo­p­ment of their coun­try, but also their life in exile were published in the GDR. To mark the 50th anni­ver­sary of the fascist coup, the two docu­men­ta­ries “The War of the Mummies” (1974) and “El Golpe Blanco. The White Coup” (1975) deserve special mention. Both films by Heynow­ski and Scheu­mann48  are based on footage taken before, during and after the coup in Chile.

A central lesson from the mili­tary coup in Chile was the need to coun­ter the violence of the reac­tion­ary forces. The GDR also supported this front. In the years follo­wing the Pino­chet dicta­tor­ship, 21 members of the Chilean Commu­nist Party recei­ved mili­tary trai­ning in the GDR’s Natio­nal People’s Army.49

Continuities and legacies

With the mili­tary dicta­tor­ship, the so-called Chicago Boys, a group of econo­mists who had studied the teachings of Milton Fried­man and Fried­rich August von Hayek at the Univer­sity of Chicago, came to Chile. Toge­ther they impo­sed an unpre­ce­den­ted program of econo­mic libe­ra­liza­tion on the coun­try. The state pension system was repla­ced by private pensi­ons. Elec­tri­city and water supply were priva­ti­zed along­side the educa­tion and health care systems. Workers’ rights were strip­ped away. On the basis of these poli­cies, which also earned Chile the title of “labo­ra­tory of neoli­be­ra­lism,” the Andean coun­try deve­lo­ped into the OECD state with the grea­test social inequa­lity. One percent of the popu­la­tion controls one third of the wealth.50

Looking at German-Chilean econo­mic rela­ti­ons, the conti­nuity of the rela­ti­onship, which has lasted over 150 years, is evident. The FRG Foreign Office writes:

“The EU is Chile’s third largest trading part­ner after China and the United States. Within the EU, Germany is Chile’s most important trading part­ner. Germany mainly purcha­ses raw mate­ri­als (copper) and food­s­tuffs from Chile. German exports to Chile tradi­tio­nally focus on indus­trial products.“51

Within the EU, Germany is Chile’s most important trading part­ner. A quar­ter of EU imports come from Germany. On the list of Chile’s most important import count­ries, Germany ranks 5th after China, USA, Brazil, and Argen­tina. In contrast to the 1970s, lithium is now mostly sought after by inter­na­tio­nal mono­po­lies. Chile has one of the world’s largest depo­sits of lithium, control­led and mined by the private compa­nies SQM and Alber­marle, which in turn have contracts with Tesla, LG Energy, and Merce­des-Benz, for exam­ple.52

A super­fi­cial judgment might conclude that the econo­mic rela­ti­ons between the GDR or the FRG and Chile are quite simi­lar after all. In both cases, copper was impor­ted and indus­trial goods are expor­ted. Yet such a conclu­sion over­looks the basic charac­ter of this exch­ange: Who owns the copper mines? Who appro­pria­tes the value earned within this sector? The reac­tion to the UP’s policy of natio­na­liza­tion was comple­tely diffe­rent in the FRG and the GDR. This neces­s­a­rily results in a comple­tely diffe­rent rela­ti­onship to the inde­pen­dence and deve­lo­p­ment of the Chilean people. Only through the control of the most important sectors of the economy along­side the command over finan­ces and invest­ments had a gradual shift of the histo­ri­cally grown roles within the inter­na­tio­nal divi­sion of labour become possi­ble. The GDR supported this path, while the FRG – some­ti­mes covertly, some­ti­mes openly – did ever­y­thing it could to end it.

At a time when dissent and revolt against a system and policy of impe­ria­list subju­ga­tion and plun­der are growing stron­ger, Chile’s UP govern­ment is a remar­kable exam­ple of the diffi­cul­ties and contra­dic­tions in the struggle for sove­reig­nty and social progress. The fascist coup 50 years ago dispels all illu­si­ons in the demo­cra­tic or peaceful charac­ter of impe­ria­lism and the leading finan­cial olig­ar­chy. When it comes to main­tai­ning or expan­ding their inte­rests and econo­mic­ally domi­nant role, all means are on the table.


  1. See, among others: Berg­mann; Fugmann: “Did the German Secret Service BND Support Pinochet’s Coup?” at: Or also: FAKT: “German Secret Service Agents and Diplo­mats in Chile” at:
  2. See Bernedo, Patri­cio; Bilot, Pauline: “La inmi­gra­ción alemana en Chile en el siglo XIX”. In: Dufner; Ferman­dois; Rinke: “Germany and Chile, 1850 to the present: a hand­book”. Akade­mi­scher Verlag Stutt­gart, 2022, p. 50.
  3. As of 2015, there were 27 German schools in Chile, the highest number of foreign schools in rela­tion to the population.
  4. Sanhueza, Carlos: “Chile y Alema­nia 1871–1914: un vínculo que se soli­di­fica”. In: Dufner; Ferman­dois; Rinke (2022), p. 57.
  5. Authors‘ coll­ec­tive headed by Rath­mann, Lothar: “Grund­fra­gen des anti­im­pe­ria­lis­ti­schen Kamp­fes der Gegen­wart Teil II”. Akade­mie-Verlag, Berlin, 1974, p. 1184.
  6. Ibid. p. 1182.
  7. Ibid. 1198.
  8. Indus­trie­ku­rier, 11.12.1969. Quoted from: Authors’ coll­ec­tive headed by Rath­mann, Lothar (1974), p. 1219.
  9. WDR: “June 24, 1963 — The German Deve­lo­p­ment Service (DED) is foun­ded”. At:
  10. Quoted from: Authors’ coll­ec­tive headed by Rath­mann, Lothar (1974), p. 1202.
  11. Cf. authors’ coll­ec­tive headed by Rath­mann, Lothar (1974), p. 1203.
  12. Cf. authors’ coll­ec­tive headed by Rath­mann, Lothar (1974), p. 1204.
  13. Süddeut­sche Zeitung, 16.2.1972, quoted from: Lloyd, Jürgen: “Expor­tier­ter Faschis­mus.” Junge­Welt, 20.07.2023.
  14. Quoted from Anti­im­pe­ria­list Infor­ma­tion Bulle­tin (AIB) No. 11/12, 1972, pp. 38–41. At:
  15. Quoted from Drechs­ler, Horst: “Die anti­im­pe­ria­lis­ti­sche Außen­po­li­tik der Volks­ein­heits­re­gie­rung in Chile”. Africa, Asia, Latin America 1/1974, p. 25.
  16. Quoted from ibid., p. 26.
  17. The Unidad Popu­lar initi­ally consis­ted of the follo­wing six parties: Socia­list Party of Chile, Commu­nist Party of Chile, Social Demo­cra­tic Party, Popu­lar Unitary Action Move­ment (MAPU), Popu­lar Inde­pen­dent Action and Radi­cal Party.
  18. Govern­ment program of the Unidad Popu­lar 1969. Quoted from: Anti-Impe­ria­list Infor­ma­tion Bulle­tin, No.11/12, 1973. At:
  19. Neues Deutsch­land, July 13, 1971, p. 7.
  20. Govern­ment Program of the Unidad Popu­lar 1969, quoted from: Anti-Impe­ria­list Infor­ma­tion Bulle­tin, No.11/12, 1973.
  21. The dossier “The coup against the third world: Chile, 1973” by Tricon­ti­nen­tal: Insti­tute for Social Rese­arch explo­res the role of the Popu­lar Front govern­ment for the anti-impe­ria­list forces of the time. In it, the authors conclude: “The coup against the Allende govern­ment was direc­ted not only against its policy of natio­na­li­zing copper, but also against the fact that Allende had offe­red leader­ship and set an exam­ple to other deve­lo­ping count­ries seeking to imple­ment the prin­ci­ples of a New World Econo­mic Order.” See at:
  22. Cf. Dufner, Georg: “Chile und die Bundes­re­pu­blik Deutsch­land im Kalten Krieg”. In: Dufner; Ferman­dois; Rinke (2022), p. 198.
  23. Ibid., p. 200.
  24. Ibid., p. 201.
  25. Went­ker, Hermann: “Außen­po­li­tik in engen Gren­zen”. R. Olden­bourg Verlag, Munich, 2007, p. 355.
  26. Neues Deutsch­land, June 13, 1971, p. 6.
  27. Dufner; Ferman­dois; Rinke (2022), p. 97.
  28. Drechs­ler (1974), p. 31.
  29. See Neues Deutsch­land, June 25, 1971, p. 7, refer­ring to the Soviet Union, the GDR, the CSSR, Bulga­ria, Poland, Hungary, Roma­nia, and Yugoslavia.
  30. Neues Deutsch­land, Novem­ber 3, 1971, p. 7.
  31. “Wie eine Zitrone,” Spie­gel 03/1973, Janu­ary 14, 1973. At:–0001-0000–000042713549
  32. Dufner; Ferman­dois; Rinke (2022), p. 293.
  33. Reichardt, Achim: “Nie verges­sen — Soli­da­ri­tät üben!”. Kai Homi­lius Verlag, Berlin, 2006, p. 85.
  34. Dufner; Ferman­dois; Rinke (2022), p. 241.
  35. Drechs­ler (1974), p. 27.
  36. Authors’ coll­ec­tive headed by Rath­mann, Lothar (1974), p. 1192.
  37. Dufner; Ferman­dois; Rinke (2022), p. 189.
  38. Herz, Rudolf: “Ich war OibE ‘Kern’ in Chile”. Verlag am Park, Berlin, 2023. p. 22f.
  39. The Konrad Adenauer Foun­da­tion had long main­tai­ned a well-staf­fed office in Sant­iago with five full-time employees, which sought to influence poli­ti­cal circles in Chile in the inte­rests of the Fede­ral Repu­blic. (Cf. Dufner; Ferman­dois; Rinke (2022), p. 190).
  40. Dufner; Ferman­dois; Rinke (2022), p. 114.
  41. Quoted from: Sont­hei­mer, Michael: “50 Jahre Sturz der Regie­rung Allende in Chile,” taz, 17.06.2023. At:!5938516/
  42. Grim­mer, Rein­hard; Irmler, Werner; Opitz, Willi; Schwa­nitz, Wolf­gang: “Die Sicher­heit. Zur Abwehr­ar­beit des MfS”. Volume 1, Berlin 2002, p. 244.
  43. Wilfried Huis­mann: “Pinochet’s German Godfa­ther.” Tages­schau, 03.09.2023. At:
  44. Wilfried Huis­mann: “50 Years Ago: Putsch in Chile — Pinochet’s German Godfa­thers,” ARD, 2023. At:‑5/94743246/
  45. Wilfried Huis­mann: “Pinochet’s German Godfa­ther.” Tages­schau, 03.09.2023. At:
  46. See also: Inter­view with Jan Stehle by Frede­ric Schnat­te­rer: “State within the State and Key Actor in Repres­sion,” junge­Welt supple­ment on the “Coup in Chile,” Septem­ber 6, 2023.
  47. Reichardt, Achim (2006), p. 86.
  48. More infor­ma­tion about the films from the DEFA Foun­da­tion at: and­me/­filme-suchen/el-golpe-blanco-der-weisse-putsch/
  49. Stork­mann, Klaus: “Geheime Soli­da­ri­tät”. Ch. Links Verlag, 2012, p. 367.
  50. See Bodden­berg, Sophie, “Chile: Revolt in the Labo­ra­tory of Neoli­be­ra­lism.” Decem­ber 2019. At:
  51. Fede­ral Foreign Office: “Germany and Chile: Bila­te­ral Rela­ti­ons”. Feb. 24, 2023. At:
  52. Mana­ger Maga­zin: “Chile’s presi­dent wants to put lithium mining under state control”. Apr. 21, 2023. At:–4d6e-9339-d15977e7a2b0#:~:text=Chile%20has%20one%20of,the%20batteries%20used%20for%20electric%20cars.