Erich Honecker

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Erich Honecker (German pronunciation: [ˈeːʁɪç ˈhɔnɛkɐ]; 25 August 1912 – 29 May 1994) was a German Communist politician who led the German Democratic Republic from 1971 until 1989.


Origins and early political career

Honecker was born on Max-Braun-Straße in Neunkirchen, now Saarland, as the son of Wilhelm Honecker, a coal miner and political activitist,[1] who in 1905 had married Caroline Catharina Weidenhof. There were six children born to the family: Katharina (Käthe), Wilhelm (Willi), Frieda, Erich, Gertrud (b. 1917; m. Hoppstädter), and Karl-Robert.

After World War I, the Territory of the Saar Basin was handed over to France. This change from the strict rule of Baron von Stumm to French military occupation provided the backdrop for what Wilhelm Honecker understood as proletarian exploitation, and introduced young Erich to communism.[1] In 1922 at 10 years old, he joined the Spartacus League, then the Young Communist League of Germany (KJVD), the youth section of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), in 1926.[1] 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, two years after the Nazis had come to power. In 1937, he was sentenced to ten years for Communist activities and remained a prisoner 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 (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands, SED), which was formed by the merger of the KPD and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the Soviet occupation zone of Germany.

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