History Mystery: Ernst Degner
by dean adams
Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Controversial '60s rider Ernst Degner and his eldest son, Olaf, were on the cover of Neu Berliner Illustrierte in September of 1961.
image: thanks to the Socialist party for this image. Please don't kill us.
I've always found the story of 1960s racer Ernst Degner and his defection from Communist East Germany fascinating. In doing so Degner changed GP racing for Suzuki and the Japanese factories more in one afternoon than anyone ever had before or since.

I recently bought an East German magazine with Degner on the cover. The print date of the magazine is September of 1961, which would put its production date (usually months prior to the cover date) right about the time that Degner defected leaving MZ and their race boss, Walter Kaaden, in hot water.

Interestingly, while Degner and his eldest son, Olaf, are on the cover of the magazine holding a laurel after a GP win, it contains no story on them at all. There is a brief mention on the contents page of the cover duo but then ... nothing. I also acquired several other copies of this magazine, and in those each cover subject is the editorial focus of a lengthy story.

Rumors have persisted for years that Degner feared for his life after he defected to the West and that his unfortunate suicide wasn't a suicide at all.

Translated to English, the text on the cover of this magazine reads "On all Racing courses he is known: Ernst Degner".


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