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Erich Honecker

Erich Honecker (August 25, 1912 – May 29, 1994) was a German Communist politician who led the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) from 1971 until 1989.

In 1961, Honecker, as the Central Committee secretary for security matters, was in charge of the building of the Berlin Wall. In 1971, he initiated a political power struggle that led, with Soviet support, to his 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 de facto 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 was accelerated, with Honecker promising to "settle the housing problem as an issue of social relevance." Yet, despite improved living conditions, internal dissent was not tolerated. Around 125 East German citizens were killed during this period while trying to illegally cross the border into West Germany or West Berlin.

During a National People's Army exercise in southern East Germany: Ivan Yakubovsky, Otto Grotewohl, Erich Honecker, Heinz HoffmannIn foreign relations, Honecker renounced the objective of a unified Germany and adopted the "defensive" position of ideological Abgrenzung (demarcation). He combined loyalty to the USSR with flexibility toward détente, especially in relation to rapprochement with West Germany. In September 1987, he became the first East German head of state to visit West Germany.

In the late 1980s Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduced glasnost and perestroika, reforms to liberalise communism. Honecker and the East German government, however, refused to implement similar reforms in the GDR, with Honecker reportedly telling Gorbachev: "We have done our perestroika, we have nothing to restructure."

However, as the reform movement spread throughout Central and Eastern Europe, mass demonstrations against the East German government erupted, most prominently the 1989 East German Monday demonstrations in Leipzig. Faced with civil unrest, Honecker's Politbüro comrades colluded to replace him. The elderly and ill Honecker was forced to resign on 18 October 1989, and was replaced by Egon Krenz.

(Source: Wikipedia)

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[East] Germany
Location:  Central Europe
Capital:  [East] Berlin
Communist Rule:  1949-1990
Status:  03.10.90 - German reunification
Victims of Communism:
70 000