Wednesday, May 29, 2024

30 years since the death of Erich Honecker

The 29 of May marks the 30th death anniversary of German communist leader, head of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) from 1971 to 1989, Erich Honecker. 

The son of a miner, Honecker was born in Neunkirchen, Germany, in 1912. He joined the German Communist Party and became active in the resistance movement against Adolf Hitler. He was arrested in 1935 and imprisoned until the end of the Second World War.

Following the triumph of the Red Army and the liberation of Germany, Honecker joined the Socialist Unity Party and was elected to the parliament of German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in 1949. As a member of the Politburo he had an instrumental role in the building of the Berlin Wall in August 1961.

"Without the wall through Berlin there could have been a nuclear war with thousands or millions of dead", he said during his trial in 1992.

Erich Honecker replaced Walter Ulbricht, who retired in 1971, as General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party. During his leadership he remained firm in his Marxist-Leninist principles but, at the same time, he continued working with his West German counterpart Willy Brandt towards the so-called Ostpolitik (reconciliation between East and West).

Following the counterrevolutionary events in 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall, Honecker was forced to resign from office. The following year he was arrested by counterrevolutionary forces and charged with treason, corruption and abuse of power.

In 1993 the courts decided that Honecker, who was suffering from liver cancer, was too ill to stand trial. He was allowed to retire to Chile where he died in 1994. His wife, Margot, defended his legacy until her own death in 2016.