THE EAST GERMANS AND DETENTE
On 11 December 1970, a leading figure in the Politburo of the East German Communist Party (SED), Erich Honecker, prepared his countrymen for an imminent confrontation with their enemies. At this juncture in history, Honecker explained, the Western capitalist powers were banding together to launch a new offensive against the German Democratic Republic (GDR), by defaming the state's Party leadership, heating up their mass media in order to spread the hysteria of anti-communism, and taking advantage of every opportunity to disseminate imperialist ideology. The chief threat among these powers, it seemed, was the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), the capitalist half of the old German nation, which was prepared to use every means possible, including sweet-sounding slogans and seductive talk about detente and improved inter-German relations, in order to achieve its long-held goal of subordinating the GDR to its command and then finally liquidating the East German state. ‘Nevertheless,’ Honecker defiantly declared, bracing his population for the assault, ‘nothing has come of this in the past, and likewise, nothing will come of it in the future.’
Only a decade later, however, on 12 December 1981, the East German leader struck quite a different pose. Now General Secretary of the SED, Honecker exuberantly exchanged toasts with the visiting West German chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, in the GDR.