Leadership of East GermanyFrom the throne to jail: Erich Honecker was hunted, homeless, exiled and jailed in his last years of life. The former East German strongman fell with his state. He was arrested on July 29, Erich Honecker became a communist at 10 former east german leaders old.
Bunker of former East German leaders open to public | Reuters
From the throne to jail: Erich Honecker was hunted, homeless, exiled and jailed in his last years of life. The former East German strongman fell with his state. He was arrested on July 29, Erich Honecker became a communist at 10 years old. At that tender age, and under the influence of his socialist father, he joined the communist youth organization "Young Spartacus League" in But the alias was not enough to protect him from the Gestapo, the secret police of the National Socialist government.
They arrested him on December 4, , and two years later a Nazi court sentenced him to 10 years in prison for the charge of preparing to commit treason. It was not to be the last time that Honecker would be jailed in the course of his tumultuous life. After the end of the Second World War Honecker enjoyed a long period of great power. He began his political career in the German Democratic Republic GDR , eventually rising through the ranks of its one-party hierarchy to become the general secretary of East Germany's Socialist Unity Party SED in , and eventually take leadership of the entire country by becoming the chairman of the State Council of the GDR in He held those powerful positions until the fall of the Berlin Wall in November of Yet, because he had failed to enact the East Bloc reform programs that began as Cold War tensions eased in the late s, his regime eroded.
Honecker was forced to resign in October , the wall fell on November 9 and one year later Germany was reunified. Sick - Honecker had kidney cancer - and with nowhere to stay, the ex-ruler and his wife Margot found refuge with a Protestant pastor and his family in Brandenburg. The area in between the western and eastern sides of the Berlin Wall was known as the death strip. It was a peculiar situation considering the degree to which churches were persecuted in the GDR and the fact that the children of pastors were not allowed to attend secondary school there.
In the secluded protection of the church, the Honeckers followed events in their former country on television, until German reunification was finally announced on October 3, With that, East Germany became a relic of history. Just a few weeks later, on November 30, , the Ministry of Justice issued an arrest warrant for Honecker's role in killings that had taken place under his watch at the inner-German border. To avoid trial, Honecker and his wife Margot secretly fled to a Soviet military airstrip from which they were flown to Moscow.
But the German government wanted to see him held accountable for his crimes. The government put pressure on Russia to extradite Honecker, so the couple then fled to the Chilean embassy in Moscow. The Chileans were in effect returning a favor, for the ambassador there, Clodomiro Almeyda, had himself enjoyed political exile in East Germany during the years of the Pinochet dictatorship.
But the government of newly-unified Germany still wouldn't let go, eventually securing Honecker's extradition, thus ensuring he would stand trial for his crimes. His wife Margot fled to Chile, where she was welcomed by the couple's daughter, Sonja.
Erich Honecker emerged from the Chilean embassy on July 29, with his fist raised in a communist salute. He was then flown to Berlin where he was immediately arrested upon arrival. He was jeered with chants of "Murderer! The first weeks of his captivity were consumed with lengthy discussions about his physical state.
In Russia, doctors had detected a kidney tumor while doing an ultrasound examination, then surprisingly, just three weeks later they said that he did not have cancer. That reassessment was what made Honecker's extradition possible. The former leader was then quickly labeled an "imaginary invalid" and a faker. In fact, his tumor had metastasized, as German doctors soon discovered.
Nevertheless, the trial of Eric Honecker and four codefendants began at the Berlin regional court on November 12, The men were charged with 68 counts of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter at the inner-German border, which Honecker had fashioned as an impassable armed and guarded "death strip.
As if the defendant still had a wall of his own in his head, one that divided East and West, good and bad, Honecker the defendant became Honecker the accuser. He leveled harsh criticism of the German justice system as he stood before the Berlin court: But hearings never began, as affidavits assessing the state of Honecker's health were repeatedly introduced.
A representative of one of the co-plaintiffs in the case put forth the theory that Honecker had not been suffering from cancer but rather a fox tapeworm. He went on to propose that the man at the dock was not even Erich Honecker but a body double. It was said that Honecker was too ill to stand trial and that to force him to do so would be a violation of his human rights. One of the most spectacular trials in German postwar history thus ended without a verdict.
The very next day, Honecker boarded a plane that took him to his family, who awaited him in Chile. There he spent that last year of his life with his wife Margot and their daughter Sonja's family. Honecker received a small pension from the Federal Republic as well as donations provided out of "international solidarity. She had lived in Santiago for the last 20 years. General Heinz Kessler was responsible for the former East German shoot-to-kill policy aimed at stopping people from escaping to the West.
A GDR devotee until the end, he has died aged 97 in Berlin. As an activist the Stasi spied on him. Today he manages public access to the files they kept on millions of their own people. People were once more afraid of God's watchful eye; now they fear the state.
Three parallel Berlin exhibitions on surveillance reveal its humorous side. But perhaps we laugh because we're terrified. For many people from the former GDR, the choice is anything but simple: Not everyone is keen to know who had dealings with the secret police.
But almost from the off, GDR officials could smell something rotten in Pyongyang. Their once-secret observations are now freely available. Germans who lived in the GDR have been able to view the files kept on them by East Germany's notorious Stasi secret police.
Now, East Germany's last prime minister is demanding to see what the West knew about him. What message was she trying to send? Change it here DW. COM has chosen English as your language setting.
COM in 30 languages. News Attacker in anti-Semitic video turns himself in to police Americas New leader in Cuba: What's in store after the Castros? Business Germans divided over impact of globalization: In power until the wall came down After the end of the Second World War Honecker enjoyed a long period of great power.
Honecker was jeered with chants of 'Murderer! Honecker met his wife Margot in Chile after his trial ended in Berlin. Heinz Kessler, East Germany's last defense minister, dies in Berlin hospital aged 97 General Heinz Kessler was responsible for the former East German shoot-to-kill policy aimed at stopping people from escaping to the West.
From God to the Stasi, how we respond to being watched People were once more afraid of God's watchful eye; now they fear the state. Who's still afraid of the secret police?
Send us your feedback. Print Print this page Permalink http: