Sahra Wagenknecht

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Sahra Wagenknecht
Maischberger - 2019-11-13-9491-2.jpg
Wagenknecht in 2019
Leader of the Opposition
In office
12 October 2015 – 24 October 2017
Serving with Dietmar Bartsch
Preceded byGregor Gysi
Succeeded byAlice Weidel
Alexander Gauland
Leader of The Left in the Bundestag
In office
12 October 2015 – 12 November 2019
Serving with Dietmar Bartsch
Chief WhipJan Korte
DeputySevim Dağdelen
Caren Lay
Preceded byGregor Gysi
Succeeded byAmira Mohamed Ali
Member of the Bundestag
for North Rhine-Westphalia
Assumed office
27 October 2009
Preceded bymulti-member district
ConstituencyThe Left List
Member of the European Parliament
for Germany
In office
20 July 2004 – 14 July 2009
Preceded bymulti-member district
Succeeded bymulti-member district
ConstituencyParty of Democratic Socialism List
Personal details
Sarah Wagenknecht

(1969-07-16) 16 July 1969 (age 53)
Jena, East Germany (now Germany)
Political partyThe Left (2007–)
Other political
Party of Democratic Socialism (1989–2007)
Socialist Unity Party (1989)
  • Ralph-Thomas Niemeyer
    (m. 1997; div. 2013)
  • (m. 2014)
EducationUniversity of Groningen
TU Chemnitz
  • Politician
  • Secretary
  • Philosopher
  • Author
WebsiteOfficial website

Sahra Wagenknecht (born Sarah Wagenknecht; German pronunciation: [ˌzaːʁa ˈvaːɡŋ̍ˌknɛçt]; 16 July 1969) is a German politician, economist, author and publicist. Since 2009, she has been a member of the Bundestag for The Left. From 2015 to 2019 she served as parliamentary co-chair of her party.

Wagenknecht became a prominent member of the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) from the early 1990s. After the foundation of The Left, she became a leading member of the party's most radical wing as leader of the Communist Platform. She has been a controversial figure throughout her career due to her hardline and populist stances, statements about East Germany, immigration and refugees, and her political movement Aufstehen.[1][2][3]

Early life[edit]

Wagenknecht was born on 16 July 1969 in the East German city of Jena.[4] Her father is Iranian and her mother, who worked for a state-run art distributor, is German. Her father disappeared in Iran when she was a child. She was cared for primarily by her grandparents until 1976, when she and her mother moved to East Berlin. While in Berlin, she became a member of the Free German Youth (FDJ). She completed her Abitur exams in 1988 and joined the (then ruling) Socialist Unity Party (SED) in early 1989.[5][6]

From 1990, Wagenknecht studied philosophy and New German Literature as an undergraduate in Jena and Berlin, completing mandatory coursework, but did not write a thesis as she "could not find support for her research aims at the East Berlin Humboldt University". She then enrolled as a philosophy student at the University of Groningen, completing her studies and earning an MA in 1996 for a thesis on the young Karl Marx's interpretation of Hegel, supervised by Hans Heinz Holz and published as a book in 1997.[5][6] From 2005 until 2012 she completed a PhD dissertation at the chair of Microeconomics at TU Chemnitz, on "The Limits of Choice: Saving Decisions and Basic Needs in Developed Countries", awarded with the grade magna cum laude in the German system[7] and subsequently published by the Campus Verlag.[8]

Political career[edit]

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the transformation of the SED into the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), Wagenknecht was elected to the new party's National Committee in 1991. She also joined the PDS's Communist Platform, a Marxist-Leninist faction.[6]

In the 1998 German federal election, Wagenknecht ran as the PDS candidate in a district of Dortmund, garnering 3.25% of the vote. Following the 2004 European elections, she was elected as a PDS representative to the European Parliament. Among her duties in the parliament is serving on the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Delegation, as well as the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly.[6][9]

Following the merger of the PDS and the WASG that formed the Left Party (Die Linke), Wagenknecht considered campaigning for the position of party vice-chair. However, party leaders such as Lothar Bisky and Gregor Gysi objected to the idea primarily because of her perceived sympathies for the former German Democratic Republic (GDR or East Germany). Following the controversy, she announced that she would not run for the post. Wagenknecht successfully contested a seat in the 2009 federal election in North Rhine-Westphalia.[10] She became the Left Party's spokesperson for economic politics in the Bundestag. On 15 May 2010, she was at last elected vice-president of the Left Party with 75.3% of the vote.

Early in 2012, the German press reported that Wagenknecht was one of 27 Left Party Bundestag members whose writings and speeches were being collected and analyzed by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.[11]

She has been one of the main driving forces in the formation of Aufstehen, a left-wing political movement established in 2018, which exists outside of traditional political party structures and has been compared to the French movement La France Insoumise.[12] In March 2019, Wagenknecht announced her withdrawal from her leadership role within Aufstehen, citing personal workload pressures and insisting that after a successful start-up phase, for which political experience was necessary, the time had come for the movement's own grass roots to resume control. She complained that the involvement of political parties at its heart had "walled in" ("sich eingemauert") the movement. She would nonetheless continue to make public appearances on its behalf.[13][14]

Wagenknecht was elected co-leader of the Left's Bundestag group in 2015 alongside Dietmar Bartsch succeeding long-time leader Gregor Gysi. Wagenknecht won 78.4% of votes cast.[15] As the Left was at the time the largest opposition party in the Bundestag, she became a prominent leader of the opposition for the remainder of the parliamentary term. Bartsch and Wagenknecht were the Left's lead candidates for the 2017 federal election.[16]

In November 2019, she announced her resignation as parliamentary leader, citing burnout.[17]

Wagenknecht was again nominated as the lead candidate on the party's North Rhine-Westphalia list in the 2021 federal election. She was re-elected, but described the results as a "bitter defeat" for her party.[18]

Political views[edit]

Economic policy[edit]

Wagenknecht has argued that the Left Party must pursue radical and anti-capitalist goals, thereby remaining distinct from the more moderate Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Green Party. She has criticized the Left Party's participation in coalition governments, especially the Berlin state government, which has made cuts to social spending and privatized some services.[19]

On 14 February 2014, the German business and economics newspaper Handelsblatt put her on the cover of its weekend edition, wondering whether the left really was better at understanding economics: "Sind die Linken die besseren Wirtschaftsversteher?" The ambiguous headline made it unclear whether the question referred to left-wingers in general or Wagenknecht's party The Left in particular when it interviewed her about her ideas about liberalism and socialism.[20]

Foreign policy[edit]

Wagenknecht has called for the dissolution of NATO and for a new security agreement that links Germany and Russia.[21][22] Throughout her career, Wagenknecht has argued in favor of a closer relationship with Russia; in 1992, she penned an essay praising Stalinist Russia, a view she said in 2017 she no longer espoused.[23] In the lead-up to Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Wagenknecht was a prominent defender of Russia and its President Vladimir Putin, arguing on February 20, 2022 that while the United States was trying to "conjure up" an invasion of Ukraine, "“Russia has in fact no interest to march into Ukraine.”[24][25][26] After Russia launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Wagenknecht admitted that her judgment had been wrong.[27][28]

Wagenknecht has expressed strong support for the rise of left-wing leaders in Latin America, such as Hugo Chávez,[29] and for SYRIZA's 2015 electoral victory in Greece.[30] She serves as a spokesperson for the Venezuela Avanza solidarity network, and as an alternate on the European Parliament's delegation for relations with Mercosur.[9]

Wagenknecht accepts Israel's right to exist; she is a strong critic of Israeli's policies towards Palestinians.[31] She has sometimes been accused of antisemitism, and in 2010 received attention for failing to join a standing ovation when former Israeli Prime Minister and Nobel Laureate Shimon Peres gave a speech in the Bundestag on Holocaust Remembrance Day; she rejects the accusation of antisemitism.[32][33][34][35][36]

Russian invasion of Ukraine[edit]

Wagenknecht opposed sanctions against Russia over the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, contradicting her party's stances. In a speech in the Bundestag in September 2022, she called for an end to sanctions and attacked the Scholz government over its support for Ukraine, calling it the "stupidest government in Europe". Her speech was applauded by the faction of the far-right Alternative for Germany. Half of her party's deputies boycotted the session over the decision to allow her to speak, and the incident sparked a number of departures from the party and calls for her resignation.[37]

Refugee policy[edit]

In response to the 2015 Cologne sexual attacks, Wagenknecht stated "Whoever abuses his right to hospitality has forfeited his right to hospitality". This statement was almost unanimously criticized in her party and parliamentary group colleagues, but did receive praise from some in the AfD.[38]

On 28 May 2016, an activist from the anti-fascist group Torten für Menschenfeinde ("Cakes for Enemies of Humanity") pushed a chocolate cake in Wagenknecht's face at a Left Party meeting in Magdeburg in response to Wagenknecht's calls for limits on the number of refugees. Wagenknecht has criticised Angela Merkel's refugee policies, arguing that her government has not provided the levels of financial and infrastructural support required to avoid increasing pressure on local authorities and the labour market, thereby exacerbating tensions in society.[12] She has also claimed that Merkel's policies were partly to blame for the 2016 Berlin truck attack.[39]

Partly in response to these experiences, in 2021, she published the book "Die Selbstgerechten" ("The Self-Righteous") in which she criticises so-called "left-liberals" ("Linksliberale") for being neither left nor liberal but rather supporting the ruling classes' and, to some extent, their own interests. The book features, among several other topics, a discussion on immigration's alleged negative impacts on the domestic working class. It reached number one in the German non-fiction bestseller-list as published by Der Spiegel.[40]


Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Wagenknecht has opined that only the elderly and vulnerable groups need to be vaccinated against the disease, and agitated against the public health response. Her positions have been compared to those of the far-right Alternative for Germany. Party colleagues such as Maximilian Becker, Martina Renner, and Niema Movassat have suggested that Wagenknecht should quit the party.[41][42]

Personal life[edit]

Wagenknecht married businessman Ralph-Thomas Niemeyer in May 1997.[43] However, on 12 November 2011, politician Oskar Lafontaine stated publicly that he and Wagenknecht had become "close friends" (German: eng befreundet).[44] At the time, Wagenknecht and Lafontaine had already separated from their respective spouses.[45][46] Wagenknecht married Lafontaine, 26 years her senior, on 22 December 2014.[47] She is an atheist.[48]


  • Kapitalismus im Koma: Eine sozialistische Diagnose. ("Capitalism in a coma: A socialist diagnosis.") Edition Ost, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-360-01050-7.
  • Die Mythen der Modernisierer. ("The myths of the modernizers.") Dingsda, Querfurt 2001, ISBN 3-928498-84-3.
  • Kapital, Crash, Krise… Kein Ausweg in Sicht? Fragen an Sahra Wagenknecht. ("Capital, crash, crisis… No way out in sight? Questions to Sahra Wagenknecht.") Pahl-Rugenstein, Bonn 1998, ISBN 3-89144-250-5.
  • The Limits of Choice. Saving Decisions and Basic Needs in Developed Countries. Campus, Frankfurt am Main 2013, ISBN 978-3-593-39916-4. (Also doctoral dissertation at the Technische Universität Chemnitz in 2012.)
  • Kapitalismus, was tun? Schriften zur Krise. ("Capitalism, what to do? Writings about the crisis.") Das Neue Berlin, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-360-02159-5.
  • Freiheit statt Kapitalismus: Über vergessene Ideale, die Eurokrise und unsere Zukunft. ("Freedom instead of capitalism: About forgotten ideals, the Euro crisis, and our future.") 2., erweiterte Auflage, Campus, Frankfurt am Main 2012, ISBN 978-3-593-39731-3; ungekürzte Taschenbuchausgabe: dtv, München 2013, ISBN 978-3-423-34783-9.
  • Freiheit statt Kapitalismus: Wie wir zu mehr Arbeit, Innovation und Gerechtigkeit kommen. ("Freedom instead of capitalism: How we will achieve more work, innovation, and justice.") Eichborn, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-8218-6546-1.
  • Wahnsinn mit Methode: Finanzkrise und Weltwirtschaft. ("Methodical madness: Financial crisis and global economy.") Das Neue Berlin, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-360-01956-1.
  • Reichtum ohne Gier: Wie wir uns vor dem Kapitalismus retten. ("Wealth without Greed: how we save ourselves from capitalism.") Campus, Frankfurt am Main 2016, ISBN 978-3-5935-0516-9.
  • Die Selbstgerechten: Mein Gegenprogramm – für Gemeinsinn und Zusammenhalt. ("The self-righteous: my counter-scheme – for public spirit and social cohesion.") Campus, Frankfurt am Main 2021, ISBN 978-3-593-51390-4.


  1. ^ "Germany's political outliers who embarrass their parties". Deutsche Welle. 6 July 2021.
  2. ^ "Sahra Wagenknecht: the uncompromising face of the Left party". Deutsche Welle. 25 August 2017.
  3. ^ "German Left's Wagenknecht to stand down". Deutsche Welle. 11 March 2019.
  4. ^ "Search for a Member – MEPs – European Parliament".
  5. ^ a b "Günter Gaus im Gespräch mit Sahra Wagenknecht" from Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (rbb), 11 February 2004.
  6. ^ a b c d "Kurzbiographie Archived 9 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine" from (29 June 2007).
  7. ^ Nachwuchs, Prorektor für Forschung und wissenschaftlichen. "Promotionen – Publikationen – Forschung – TU Chemnitz".
  8. ^ Sahra Wagenknecht: The Limits of Choice: Saving Decisions and Basic Needs in Developed Countries. Campus Verlag, Oktober 2013, ISBN 978-3-593-39916-4.
  9. ^ a b Your MEPs : Introduction : Sahra WAGENKNECHT – European Parliament profile
  10. ^ DIE LINKE.NRW (Party website), ""DIE LINKE. NRW : Bundestagswahl". Archived from the original on 7 April 2009. Retrieved 20 April 2009.," (21 April 2009).
  11. ^ jok (22 January 2012). "Geheimdienst: Verfassungsschutz beobachtet 27 Linken-Abgeordnete: Von Sahra Wagenknecht bis Gesine Lötzsch: Mehr als ein Drittel der Linken-Abgeordneten wird nach SPIEGEL-Informationen vom Verfassungsschutz beobachtet, damit gibt es noch mehr Betroffene als bekannt. Die Bespitzelung kostet pro Jahr rund 400.000 Euro, Gregor Gysi nennt das Vorgehen "ballaballa"". Der Spiegel (online). Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  12. ^ a b Sunkara, Bhaskar; Baltner, Adam (11 October 2018). "Standing Up to Merkel". Jacobin. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  13. ^ "Wagenknecht zieht sich aus Spitze bei "Aufstehen" zurück". Vor knapp einem halben Jahr stellte Sahra Wagenknecht ihre "Aufstehen"-Bewegung vor. Zuletzt wurde es ruhig um das linke Projekt – für Schlagzeilen sorgt nun ausgerechnet die Initiatorin selbst. Der Spiegel (online). 9 March 2019. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  14. ^ "Sahra Wagenknecht verlässt die Führung von "Aufstehen"". Die linke Sammlungsbewegung verliert ihren prominenten Kopf: Sahra Wagenknecht will sich zurückziehen, fühlt sich aber weiter "Aufstehen" verbunden. Tagesspiegel, Berlin. 9 March 2019. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  15. ^ "The Left: Wagenknecht and Bartsch elected parliamentary group chairs". Die Zeit (in German). 13 October 2015.
  16. ^ "Germany's opposition Left party unveils 2017 candidates". Deutsche Welle. 5 December 2016.
  17. ^ "Sahra Wagenknecht über ihren Burnout: "Da ging nichts mehr"". (in German). Retrieved 3 October 2021.
  18. ^ Einschätzung zu den ersten #btw21 Wahlergebnissen, archived from the original on 13 December 2021, retrieved 3 October 2021
  19. ^ "Nicht mitkungeln, sondern kämpfen," statement co-signed by Wagenknecht (28 April 2007).
  20. ^ Handelsblatt 14 February 2014, pp. 50-59
  21. ^ Welle (, Deutsche. "German opposition leader calls for security union with Russia, dissolution of NATO | DW | 17.01.2017". DW.COM. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  22. ^ Chazan, Guy (24 February 2017). "German political shift favours hard-left icon Sahra Wagenknecht". Financial Times. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  23. ^ Chazan, Guy (24 February 2017). "German political shift favours hard-left icon Sahra Wagenknecht". Financial Times. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  24. ^ "How Germany helped blaze Putin's path into Ukraine". POLITICO. 24 February 2022. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  25. ^ "Germany's 'Putin-caressers' start coming to terms with their naivety". the Guardian. 28 February 2022. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  26. ^ Hoyer, Katja (22 February 2022). "Deluded Berlin has finally woken up to the truth about Vladimir Putin". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  27. ^ "Ukraine conflict: Putin's war prompts dramatic German U-turn". BBC News. 27 February 2022. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  28. ^ WELT (28 February 2022). "Ukraine-Invasion: Ist Putin ein Kriegsverbrecher, Frau Wagenknecht? – "Ja, wobei …"". DIE WELT (in German). Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  29. ^ "Kuba und Lateinamerika agieren selbstbewusster als früher" Linkszeitung (10 December 2005).
  30. ^ Sahra Wagenknecht (translated by Victor Grossman) (15 January 2015). "A Crack in Merkel's Power over Europe". Monthly Review.
  31. ^ "Wiesenthal Center accuses German Left of 'fulfilling tradition of hate'". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  32. ^ Fischer, Fabian (2018). Die konstruierte Gefahr Feindbilder im politischen Extremismus. Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft (1. Auflage ed.). Baden-Baden. p. 127. ISBN 978-3-8487-5149-5. OCLC 1045336096.
  33. ^ "Wiesenthal Center accuses German Left of 'fulfilling tradition of hate'". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  34. ^ Jasmin Kalarickal (9 April 2021). "Sie bekommt Zuspruch von rechts".
  35. ^ Michael Wuliger (6 August 2018). "Sahra Wagenknecht steht auf". Jüdische Allgemeine.
  36. ^ "German Left Party leader calls MP a 'sneaky Jew'". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  37. ^ "Germany's Die Linke on verge of split over sanctions on Russia". the Guardian. 19 September 2022. Retrieved 15 October 2022.
  38. ^ "Ärger um Sahra Wagenknecht". (in German). Retrieved 18 July 2021.
  39. ^ Wilde, Florian (26 January 2017). "In Defense of Die Linke". Jacobin. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  40. ^ Der Spiegel 26/2021, pp. 111
  41. ^ "Lauterbach criticizes Wagenknecht's vaccination statements as dangerous". Der Spiegel (in German). 3 November 2021.
  42. ^ "Left Party board member suggests Wagenknecht join the AfD". Der Spiegel (in German). 12 November 2021.
  43. ^ "Betrugsverdacht – Ermittlungen gegen Sahra Wagenknechts Ehemann," Der Spiegel (19 December 2001).
  44. ^ Wehner, Markus. "Linke Liebe: Lafontaine und Wagenknecht ein Paar".
  45. ^ Beziehung mit Wagenknecht: Lafo in Love Spiegel Online vom 12. November 2011
  46. ^ "Lafontaine stellt Wagenknecht als seine Freundin vor". Süddeutsche Zeitung. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  47. ^ Geheime Hochzeit: Oskar Lafontaine und Sahra Wagenknecht haben geheiratet (Secret wedding: Oskar Lafontaine and Sahra Wagenknecht got married, German article on, 22 March 2015)
  48. ^ Interviewer: "Gibt es bei Ihnen auch ab und an Zweifel am Atheismus? (Do you doubt your atheism from time to time?)" Sahra Wagenknecht: "Eigentlich nicht. (Not really.)"

External links[edit]