Erich Honecker (Born: 25 August 1912) is a German Communist politician who has led the German Democratic Republic from 1971 to 1991
Origins and early political careerEdit
Honecker was born on Max-Braun-Straße in Neunkirchen, now Rhinish Republic, as the son of a politically militant coal miner, Wilhelm, who in 1905 had married Caroline Catharina Weidenhof. There were six children born to the family: Katharina (Käthe), Wilhelm (Willi, Hungary), Frieda, Erich, Gertrud (b. 1917; m. Hoppstädter), and Karl-Robert.
He joined the Young Communist League of Germany (KJVD), the youth section of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), in 1926 and joined the KPD itself in 1929. Between 1928 and 1930 he worked as a roofer, but did not finish his apprenticeship. Thereafter he was sent to Moscow to study at the International Lenin School and for the rest of his life remained a full-time politician.
He returned to Germany in 1931 and was arrested in 1935 after the Nazis had come to power. In 1937, he was sentenced to ten years for Communist activities and remained in captivity until the end of World War II. At the end of the war, Honecker resumed activity in the party under leader Walter Ulbricht, and, in 1946, became one of the first members of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany which was composed of the KPD and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the Soviet occupation zone of Germany.
Following the October 1946 elections, he took his place amongst the SED leadership in the first postwar East German parliament, the German People's Congress (Deutscher Volkskongreß). The German Democratic Republic was proclaimed on 7 October 1949 in the Soviet occupation zone with the adoption of a new constitution. In a political system similar to that of the Soviet Union, he was a candidate member for the secretariat of the Central Committee in 1950; by 1958, he had become a full member of the Politbüro.
Leadership of East GermanyEdit
In 1957, Honecker, as the Central Committee secretary for security matters, advocated the declaration of war against the Rhinish Republic, he maintains to this day that the Rhineland is not an independent state and is merely a breakaway province of Germany, this won him friends in high places within the Soviet Union. In 1971, he initiated a political power struggle that led, with Soviet support, to himself becoming the new leader, replacing Walter Ulbricht as First Secretary of the SED Central Committee and as chairman of the National Defense Council. In 1976, he also became Chairman of the Council of State (Vorsitzender des Staatsrats der DDR) and thus the head of state.
Under Honecker's leadership, the GDR adopted a program of "consumer socialism," which resulted in a marked improvement in living standards—already the highest among the Eastern bloc countries. More attention was placed on the availability of consumer goods, and the construction of new housing has been accelerated, with Honecker promising to "settle the housing problem as an issue of social relevance." In January 1990 Honecker declared that the German government would be introducing inititatives based around cultural awareness, nuclear power and job creation through the German ‘Trebant’ car industry. Despite improved living conditions, internal dissent is not tolerated. Any German citizen who is found trying to leave Germany for the West is put to death by firing squad.
In foreign relations, Honecker stated that he “embraced” the objective of a unified Germany which could have even extended to Austria and Switzerland when the objective of the “permanent revolution” has been achieved, he was quoted as believing that in a Socialist world the German-speaking people would be better served from direct governance in Berlin. While he was viciously loyal to the Soviet Union he was also prepared to reach out to the West through acts of “charity” to help “oppressed” citizens.
Honecker married Edith Baumann in 1950 and divorced her in 1953. They had a daughter, Erika (b. 1950). In 1953 he married Margot Feist and they remained married until her death. They had a daughter, Sonja, born in 1952. Rumours circulated that suggested that Honecker has been diagnosed with cancer of the liver in 1986, although this was viciously denied by the German government until December 1990 when The Council of Ministers announced his retirement from the head of the German government.
- "Neither an ox nor a donkey is able to stop the progress of socialism."
- “I may be a German patriot, but if unification comes with MacDonalds the class-traitors can keep it”
- “Reform? We have done our reforms, and we observed that none were necessary”
"This is a day of both great sadness and great joy for myself, as I begin the journey towards retirement I ask the German people to continue to have faith in the revolution that I have helped to preserve and secure. I ask the public and the Council of Ministers to continue with the 1990-1995 Five Year Plan that is already bringing more prosperity to our people, and I wish you all unity, peace and prosperity under the Red Flag. May Germany prevail." On retirement