Erich Honecker

East German Communist Party Leader
Born: 25 August, 1912, in. Joined the German Communist Party in 1929. When the National Socialist (Nazi) Party came to power went underground but was arrested in 1935. In 1946 he became a member of the German Socialist Unity Party (the party that was set up by Soviet Occupation troops by a forced unification of the Communist Party and the local branches of the Social Democratic Party to form the communist government in its zone) and rose through its ranks to replace the retiring former Party Boss, Walther Ulbricht in 1971. He became General Secretary in 1976. In that year he also became Chairman of the Ruling Council of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). During this period he used to regularly vacation in the USSR. He lost power when under Gorbachev the Soviet Union withdrew active support. He was replaced as leader by the party in 18 October, 1989 in a series of changes in East Germany that led to the demolition of the Berlin Wall and ultimately the reunification of Germany. He fled to Moscow but was extradited to face criminal charges for murder by the new unified German Government however the trial was stopped due to his ill health and he then went into exile in Chile, where he died on 29 May, 1994.