Dealing with the Devil: East Germany, Detente, and Ostpolitik, 1969-1973

By M. E. Sarotte | Go to book overview

five
Achieving Initial Aims in 1971–1972:
The Quadripartite Agreement, the
Transit Accord, and the Traffc Treaty

Erich Honecker received oficial conirmation of his tenure as top man at the SED's eighth party congress in June 1971. His ouster of Ulbricht could have been an extremely disruptive event, because it represented the irst change ever in East German leadership. To minimize the sense of upheaval, Honecker tried to portray an image of a friendly handover. Rather than one large picture of the new leader, the party newspaper Neues Deutschland had carried equal-size photos of Ulbricht and Honecker when Ulbricht announced his “resignation.” 1 Ulbricht was also spared the fate of becoming an unperson. Instead, he received the honoriic title of “Chairman of the SED.” The party under Honecker's new leadership took pains to project the image of a smooth transition and conceal the contentious events that had transpired to oust Ulbricht. As it turned out, the images of continuity were borne out by the reality of Honecker's rule. Internally, he ran the party in much the same fashion as his dictatorial predecessor. 2 Externally, he continued the contacts with the West that Ulbricht had begun.

Honecker did make some changes, however—including a deadly decision kept secret from the FRG at the time. The SED under his leadership decided to

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