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Independent and Official Peace Policies on a Collision Course (April 16, 1982)

In this telex to the first secretaries of the regional SED headquarters and the head of the main political administration of the National People’s Army, Erich Honecker criticizes the churches’ role in supporting the independent peace movement in the GDR. Honecker makes clear that the SED’s talks with church representatives had to emphasize that its peace policies formed part of a broader class struggle.

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Telex by Erich Honecker to the First Secretaries of the SED District and County Leaderships and to Heinz Keßler, Chief of the Main Political Administration of the National People’s Army, Berlin

Dear Comrades,

As you know, some forces within the circles of the Protestant churches in the GDR* recently have been trying to burden the relationship between state and church through provocative behavior. As a pretext, they often cite the prohibition on the wearing of unauthorized buttons, especially by young people who have been greatly influenced by the church. In connection with this, the initiators of these destructive incidents are trying to disrupt the relationship between the Protestant churches and the government, which up to the years 1978-80 has been generally good.

On April 7, 1982, the undersecretary for church matters, comrade Klaus Gysi, had an extensive discussion with leading representatives of the Protestant churches in the GDR. In this conversation, he explained that the actions of certain church representatives stood in contradiction to earlier declarations by leading persons in the Protestant church. According to those declarations, the churches represented by those individuals would not let themselves be forced into the role of the “Trojan horse,” but would instead view themselves as the “Church in Socialism.” Leading representatives of the Protestant churches in the GDR stated that their church would continue to support the results of the meeting of March 6, 1978, between the chairman of the state council of the GDR and the executive committee of the Conference of Protestant Church Leaderships in the GDR. Regarding the issue of peace, however, their opinions, which had to reflect a Christian standpoint, would have to go beyond the framework of the GDR’s peace policy. The Protestant churches, they argued, were “not simply amplifiers of the state’s foreign policy,” as stated by the executive committee of the Conference of Protestant Church Leaderships in the GDR.

It is obvious that certain church forces, under the pretext of an “autonomous,” “independent” peace movement, are striving in the interest of imperialistic circles to organize oppositional forces against the authority of workers and farmers. This finds expression not only in the provocative behavior of various church leaders, but also in the flank protection offered by the western mass media. This was most fittingly expressed in an editorial in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (April 13, 1982) – that is, in an organ of the West German upper bourgeoisie – where it was audaciously stated that the representatives of the Protestant churches in the GDR should demand participatory rights. The initiators of such behavior are of course well aware that there has been a separation of church and state in the German Democratic Republic since it was founded. This also corresponds to the biblical instructions to give God what belongs to God and the State what belongs to the State.

* The plural refers to the eight regional Protestant churches in the territory of the GDR [Landeskirchen] – trans.

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