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A Liberal Western Journalist Praises the Progress of the GDR (1986)

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Life in the GDR – that means life in the crumple zone. It also means: life under Erich Honecker. The citizens of the other German state show him what almost amounts to a quiet admiration; it always comes across in conversations. He carefully avoids any cult of personality. It is never: "Since Erich Honecker took office"; it always: "Since the Eighth Party Congress." Yet it amounts to the same thing. Most reforms go back to the year 1971, when Honecker succeeded Walter Ulbricht. Realism instead of utopia, confidence in the power of the factual; better meeting of material needs; less anxiety, more choice; strengthening of production; boosting of the service sector; environmental protection; more latitude for art and artists; even the introduction of centers offering counseling in sexual matters – Honecker gets credit for everything. Nobody calls him "Honi," which is a Western term and is considered embarrassing. He's called "the boss," "Number One," or simply Erich. "Erich lasts longest," is the title of a song in the latest show of the Berlin cabaret "Distel." The title reveals something about the secret affection of those under his rule.

[ . . . ]

Source: Theo Sommer, ed., Reise ins andere Deutschland [Travels in Another Germany]. Reinbek, 1986, p. 19 ff., p. 35 ff; reprinted in Christoph Kleßmann and Georg Wagner, eds., Das gespaltene Land. Leben in Deutschland 1945-1990 [The Divided Country. Life in Germany 1945-1990]. Munich, 1993, pp. 41-42.

Translation: Jeremiah Riemer

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