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The contribution of Honecker to the collapse of the GDR

Word Count: 276
The events in Germany were of a lot of significance to the development of the cold war. The event marked the war of ideologies between the east and the west. Germany was separated into East and the West with a wall behind them; the Berlin wall. The west supported West Germany while the East Germany with the support of Russia supported communism in East Germany. The collapse of the Berlin wall and the reunification of Germany marked the end of the cold war turmoil. The contribution to the collapse of East Germany was made by several people and forces. In this paper, I chose to explore the contribution of Honecker and Gorbachev to the collapse of East Germany.
The paper will explore the contributions of each of these actors in the collapse of East Germany. The paper was based on three major questions which guided the discussion. It will try to establish the person with the most significant contribution to the collapse of the Berlin wall and the Germany Democratic Republic. The paper relates the contributions of the actors in relation to other events that were taking place in Eastern Europe. The contribution of Gorbachev is likened to the contribution of Honecker in a critical manner. Each of the contribution identified will be linked to the action of the other actor to see whether it is generative a direct contribution.
Having assessed each weight of the contributions, the paper will try to depict a clear picture of each contributor as depicted by the supporting points. The conclusion will summarize and try to moderate the pointe noted in the discussion. The major contributor will be pointed out.

Paper Outline

Scope of the essay

The Berlin wall and its significance to GDR

Honecker administration and the collapse of the Berlin wall
Leading Events to the collapse of GDR
Gorbachev’s Influence

Mikhail Gorbachev – was he a real contributor to the collapse of the Germany Democratic Republic
Counter argument to Gorbachev Contribution

Other political Developments and their significance to the re-unification of Germany
Strong presence and contribution of Honecker to GBR Collapse

Works Cited

To what extent were Honecker and his belated reforms responsible for the downfall of the GDR or was Gorbachev the main catalyst?
The formation and collapse of the German Democratic Republic forms a very important chapter in the history of Western Europe and the world at large. German was the major aggressor in all the world wars and its unification and re-integration formed part of the major activities in the world wars. The integration of west and East Germany sparked off the Second World War therefore its separation by the Berlin wall marked a key step in cooling animosity and aggression in the region. Germany was split into different zones so as to weaken its powers which came by virtue of unification of East and West Germany (Childs, pp. 90).
The developments in the cold war era were marked by several developments by different actors. The activities and policies of Honecker and Gorbachev have been argued to have a significant contribution to the fall of the German Democratic Republic. Some people argue that the policies of Honecker had much significance to the collapse of the GDR. On the other hand, other people cite the policies of Gorbachev as the chief contributors (Thomas, pp. 382). Thus this extended essay will focus on the fall of the Germany Democratic Republic during the cold war period. It will discuss the contribution of Honecker as well as Mikhail Gorbachev in the collapse of GDR. The paper will try to establish the major forces between the policies of the two leaders and identify the force with significant contribution to GDR collapse (Opp, Voss, and Gern, pp. 29).
Scope of the essay
The essay will concentrate on the main factors that led to the collapse of GDR. The main questions that will be explored in the essay include: was the downfall of Germany Democratic Republic a foreseen gesture or did it come as a surprise. The other question is which exact events led to the collapse of GDR. The last question is whose policies and activities are resulted in the collapse of GDR.
The Berlin wall and its significance to GDR
The Berlin wall was built as a preventative measure to the conflicts that were prevailing in Europe at that particular time. It subdivided Germany into two countries, East German and West German. Each of these countries was to pursue policies basing on different philosophies. East Germany was to pursue the socialist policy or philosophy of governance. East Germany was influenced and supported by the Soviet Union in establishing a socialist government. The Western European forces on the other hand supported Western German in establishing socialist government. This happened immediately after the end of the cold war. These two Germany States denoted the opposing ideologies that marked the beginning and existence of the cold war. These opposing ideologies were capitalism which was being exercised in Western German and communism which was introduced by Russia in Eastern Germans. Western German was viewed as having more development achievements which were attributed to capitalism as a political ideology that was being exercised in the country. Therefore, people of Eastern German still look at their counterparts from Western German as more free and developed people (Kitchen and Kitchen, pp. 352).
Honecker administration and the collapse of the Berlin wall
The Berlin wall was thus constructed in the year 1961 so that it could bar people of Eastern German from escaping to Western German. The SED central committee appointed Erick Honecker in the year 1971 as the first secretary of the party. The regime of Honecker continued to commit itself to the socialism which was the soviet style of administration. The part under the administration of Honecker continued hiding to strict policies toward the “dissidents”. Eastern German continued to face tough economic times with the economic structure that were growing weaker day by day. The central government became incapacitated and thus could not efficiently discharge the duties that it was expected to. This was eminent in the year 1977 when the county faces what is reefed to as the ‘Coffee Crisis’. This together with a couple of many other political problems culminated into a revolt or opposition to the government by the citizenry (Baker, pp. 24).
Leading Events to the collapse of GDR
Toward the end of the 1980 decade, there were growing problems in the economy together with flaws together with a weakening Soviet System of governance. These factors were hindrances to the government of the Soviet Union as it appertained to the imposition of its will on the neighbors. In the year 1986, the then leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev devised two major reform movements. One of them was referred to as Glasnost meaning openness while the other one was referred to as Perestroika also known as restructure. The first multi-part election was held in the year 1989. Gorbachev urged Eastern European countries that were practicing communism to embrace the reform movements he had come up with. The Eastern European countries w ere called upon by Gorbachev to raise the standards of their economies through interactions. The call for change by Gorbachev was opposed by hard-lined communists in Eastern Europe (Fleron, Hoffmann and Laird, pp. 649).
The developments in Eastern Europe were having huge impacts on the economy of Eastern Germany. These events culminated into a financial crisis in Eastern Germany. This forced the government of East Germany to squeeze finances out of the population. This was done through the imposition of rationing and other austerity measurers to the citizens. The citizens were much angered by these measurers that were considered exploitative. They launched demonstrations across the country calling for reforms. Their chief demand was the call for the election of a democratic government which would guarantee the citizens the freedom to move. These demands were ignored by Honecker who wad heading the government of East Germany then. The government of East Germany continued to be insensitive to the demands from the citizens. Moreover, it increased its hostility towards the demands of the populace. The pressure continued to pile up on the government. The government was forced to heed to the mounting pressure on 9th of November, 1989. The refugees were allowed to exit East Germany via the crossing points that were on the Berlin wall. This resulted in the collapse of the wall (Plock, pp. 87).
Gorbachev’s Influence
Prior to the 1980 decade, the foreign policy of the Soviet Union was informed by the fear it had over Germany. The country feared that an independent Germany would dominate it. This is what informed the policies of leaders who came to power in the Soviet Union before Mikhail Gorbachev. The leaders stuck to the traditional concept that was held by Moscow. Gorbachev proposed changes which were aimed at untangling the country from the traditional concept of governance that was held by all his predecessors. The proposals for change made by Gorbachev resulted in the change of political climate in the East Bloc. The reform minded communists were receptive to the changes and reforms that were proposed by Gorbachev in the change policies which he had crafted (Kitson, pp. 8-10).
The proposed changes were also critical as they aided in unnerving of the rigid communists had strongly believed in the Moscow Concept. Among the supportive activities to the change policies of Gorbachev was the adoption of ‘Sinatra Doctrine’. Sinatra is an attitude of no interference to the internal affairs of the satellite states of Russia. The new reforms by Gorbachev reduced the interference of Russia in East Germany which was a satellite state of Russia. The citizens of East Germany began to get a room to pressure the government for reforms. Therefore, the signs for political changes began to be seen. If Gorbachev has chosen to go as per the former leaders of the Soviet Union, a room for political changes in East Germany would not have been easily crested. Russia would have continued to strengthen its policies and the monitoring of the Satellite states of which East Germany was one of the main satellite states (Hyde-Price, pp. 145).
Gorbachev allowed States forming the Soviet Bloc to pursue their own paths of socialism. He infect pushed for this against the will of the hard-liner socialists. He ended up declaring that the countries of the Soviet Union were free to disintegrate and pursue their own matters. This in itself was a big blow to the communists with hard lines for example Egon Honecker who was the then leader of East Germany. It became clear to such leaders that change was imminent in the Soviet Union bloc. The declaration accelerated the spread of news from West to East Germany. The East Germans got information about the well being of the people in West Berlin. Therefore most of them were motivated to mount pressure by making more attempts to cross the Berlin wall which was separating them from their counterparts in the West. The events taking place in Russia were tracked by television stations in West Germany. These events were leaked to the East Germans through the guards who were manning the Berlin wall. A bigger percentage of the population in West Germany – about 80 percent managed to track the developments taking place in the Soviet Union (Gert-Joachim, pp. 35).
Therefore most people see the actions and polices of Gorbachev as the main motivating factors for the demise of East Germany. However, the true motives, intensions and implications of the policies of Gorbachev are still subject to debates. A number of scholars have tried to link the policies of Gorbachev to the decision by the Soviet Union to disintegrate from the politics of ideology that marked the cold war. They try to justify that the policy was not in any way related to the participation of Russia in the politics of Western Europe and the world at large. The collapse of East German could have come as a result of the indirect effects of the policies that were proposed by Gorbachev. Others argue that the Policies of Gorbachev just came at the right time for the political situation in East Germany. Germany has a very rigid eco-political atmosphere which required an invigorating factor which could spark up efforts or demand for change. However, it was not expected that the actions of Gorbachev could spark such a strong mass movement leading to the collapse of the Berlin wall. The collapse of the Berlin wall marked the end of East Germany and led to the unification of the two states to form one Germany (Engel, pp. 71-80).
Mikhail Gorbachev – was he a real contributor to the collapse of the Germany Democratic Republic
The collapse of the Germany Democratic Republic is often termed as an unanticipated event in the history of Western Europe. It generated a lot of questions, one of them being the reason as to why the republic was formed in the first place. This question is what could lead to the understanding of the basis on which the republic existed and forces behind its collapse. It is presumed by some historians that the collapse of the GDR was a very massive event which could not be likened to actions of a single person. For one to establish with certainty the main reasons for the collapse of East Germany, he must be critical in assessing the events that happened prior to the collapse. Of course, the question of Gorbachev participation or role in the event cannot be wished away. The collapse of East Germany marked the collapse of the communistic rule in East Germany. It was also a leading force behind the collapse of communism in the entire Europe. It was a pointer to the ending of communism (Nuechterlein, pp. 215-220).
One must also assess the genesis of the internal wrangled in GRD which were boosted by other external factors leading to the massive action thence the collapse of GDR. The problems in the GDR emanated from economic forces and governance which were putting a lot of burden on the citizens of the republic. External developments like the political developments in the USSR only impacted on the forces or wrangles which were prevailing in East Germany (White, Batt, and Lewis, pp. 29). But how could the events taking place in USSR fail to be of significance to Eastern Germany? This is the question that many people point to by arguing that political developments in THE Soviet Union would have a direct effect on the existence of GDR. This is because USSR was in the first place the major force behind the formation of the Germany Democratic Republic. Therefore, any political developments taking place in the Soviet Union would either positively or negatively impact on the existence of GDR.
It is unrealistic for any person to try to draw away the fact that the ascendance of Gorbachev to power signified a change of political events in the East. The most significant contribution of Gorbachev to the collapse of East Germany came from the policies which he invented. The policies had revolutionary forces embedded on it. Glasnost and Perestroika policies released these forces to the political climate of Eastern Europe. These Philosophies negated most of the principles of communism which has held up USSR and influence on the states which it controlled. The internal order which had been established through the practice of communism in the East was shaken due to the pressures that resulted from the policies of Gorbachev. Glasnost encouraged people to think over issues which resulted in the desire for changes as well as the exercising of human Rights. All these acted as triggering factors for a political discourse in GDR (Gedmin, pp. 56-60).The citizens of the Germany Democratic Republic had gotten used to obeying the Soviet in an unequivocal manner. Therefore, with the change brought about by the Gorbachev policies, they too began demanding for similar changes in East Germany. They demanded more for reforms which would lead to freedom.
The Soviet Union conducted its first ever election on 26th of March the year 1989. It was evident that other countries in the East were going to follow similar steps by demanding for elections. The political reforms of Gorbachev in the Soviet Union resulted in the doubt by the East Germany citizens. They doubted the level of commitment of the Soviet Union to guaranteeing the existence of GDR. USSR thus became a source of hope for the people of Eats Germany with Mikhail Gorbachev becoming their icon of change (Glaessner, pp. 136).
The presence of Gorbachev led to the decline of support for Honecker who was the leader of East Germany. The decline of support for the East Germany leader weakened his regime. Protest had been earlier witnessed in the East Europe region. However, the collapse of GDR can be strongly likened to the position and policies of Gorbachev which transformed the whole of East Europe. The policies of Gorbachev brought about a reform spirit which was devoid in many other external events that were taking place in East Europe. The external events included opposition movements which failed in fostering the real spirit of change in the citizenry (Glaessner, pp. 140).
Counter argument to Gorbachev Contribution
On the other hand some people argue that the spirit of change in Gorbachev policies was extrapolated as it was not the main intention of Gorbachev. It is argued that Gorbachev aimed at healing communism and not doing away with communism as was interpreted by many people. There were many problems which were facing internal pressures in the communistic regime of the Soviet Union. Therefore, Gorbachev was seeking to devise solutions through the formulation of the policies which would help improving communistic administration. These changes led to the opening up of the communists but reformers did not get satisfaction thereby pushing for a further course that resulted in the collapse of GDR. At this level, it was not easy to continue hiding to communism and if so, it meant that the only option could have been the use of coercion. Gorbachev could not resort to this as it could have watered down all the reforms that had been achieved via his change policies (Lisiak, pp. 57).
The economic policies of the Soviet Union can also be blamed for the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union has a weakling economy at that point in time. The weakling economy could not support the maintenance of its satellite states and the cold war in general. There were serious cutbacks in the major expenditures; military and defense which wee critical in maintaining the political power and the control of the satellite states. The expenditure in the major departments became were unsustainable. This left Gorbachev with no other option but the releasing of the financial burden. This is what informed the change policies. These were followed by the collapse of communism and the activation of the ‘Sinatra Doctrine’. This called for the withdrawal of the Soviet Union in controlling Eastern Europe. This is how GRD lost its military might. Political support became deficient leading and the government would no longer hold up the control of citizens. From these developments it can be noted that Gorbachev found himself in a situation and had no option but to do what he did. He did not develop policies for the aim of creating a strong base of reforms which would free the Germany Democratic Republic. GDR had been enjoying the support of the Soviet Union which had killed the possibility of opposition (Manghani, pp. 138 – 141).
There was strong support from the government. But Gorbachev made a decision of moving away from supporting East Germany which paved way to the flourishing of economic and legitimacy problems. Therefore opposition rose beyond the level at which it could be contained by the Government of East Germany. The Soviet leaders further made pronouncements of totally pulling out their support leading to the collapse of the Satellite states. Therefore, the massive opposition received boost from the actions of Gorbachev (Gorbachev, pp. 250).
Other political Developments and their significance to the re-unification of Germany
As the influence of Gorbachev on the collapse of GDR is analyzed, it is important to look into the relative importance of the external factors. These factors are deemed to have integrated with the influence of Gorbachev to compound problems to East Germany. Such factors include the improvement of the relations between the East and the west and the West. The west played a part in the collapse of East Germany. There were allegations of spread of propaganda by allies from Western Europe. Also the development of Western Europe was an enticing factor to the movement in the East. The West provided credit to the East which ended up worsening the economic situation in the East. The West helped in improving relations between GDR and GFR. Hostile relations which had maintained the separation of the two republics diminished thereby paving a good way through which the countries would reunify. However, the West did not apply so much pressure on the East as some political analysts put it (Ruth, pp. 1-10).
The issue of reunification of Germany was well documented in the political priorities of West Germany. Therefore, it was just a matter of time in waiting before the East could be fully compelled to join the West. The culminating events in Europe also pointed to the fact that the cold war was approaching an end. This would not happen with a division still existing between Germany. The essence of having a unified Europe was becoming a major priority for European countries. The only thing that was holding a divided Europe was the divided ideologies between the United States and the Soviet Union which put them at loggerheads. Therefore, the moves of Gorbachev only propelled what had been identified by the people of Europe as the factor for change. It is the people o GRD who translated the views to action through pulling some activities. The changes in Poland and Hungary send a warning to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union became aware that such a change could not be easily tamed using force. Therefore, unit could not easily control the anti-communist revolution that was propping up (Cross, pp. 3).
The citizens of East German had found a path of getting into West Germany to learn of the developments there. They went through Hungary to Austria. From Australia, they got transportation services to West Germany and other Western Europe Countries. These people were escaping from the oppressive socialist regime in East Germany. Thousands managed were successful in escaping using the route. Many other people managed to escape the country via Czechoslovakia. The remaining population was very active in demonstration against the regime. The Government of East Germany has to act with speed to curtail the situation or risk loosing its control and popularity over the population. The government of East Germany had to resort to a desperate action; opening up the travelling to West Germany. The announcement of the authorization of travel to West Germany resulted in the urge of a huge population to travel to West Germany (Cross, pp. 5).
Thousands of East Germans flocked the wall as they sought to cross to West Germany. The guards who were manning the Berlin wall could not contain or control the masses. They had to bow down and allow the people to cross. The population from the West met the population from the East as they exchanged the pleasantries. It was evident that the Germans were happy to be re-united once again. It is important to highlight this development as it was the major culminating event that resulted in the abolition of the breakage of the Berlin wall. The population was re-unified leading to the re-unification of the two countries. This event sealed the fate of the dual existence of Germany (Ruth, pp. 1-10).
When the GBR is completely immersed into changes that were taking place in Eastern Europe, it can be clearly noted that communism had lost significant. It was no longer attractive to even the people who were behind it in the first place. Gorbachev policies were supported by West Germany. If West Germany would not have collaborated with East Germany, then the effect of the policies could not have gone to that extend. Therefore it can be said that it was not Gorbachev who caused the collapse of the Soviet Union. His policies set a track for the collapse. It was the backing of the policies by external forces which made them significant to the collapse of GDR. Gorbachev was not exclusively responsible for the collapse of GDR. He is a collective participant in the development of this event (Manghani, pp. 138-140).
Strong presence and contribution of Honecker to GBR Collapse
The failure of the government of West Germany under Honecker paved way for major developments of the revolution. IF Honecker had responded well to the crisis by stiffening his governance then maybe the events would not have turned the way it did. Honecker need to respond positively to the demands of the population. However, this leadership was stubborn. It chose to stick to the socialistic tendencies which were attributed to dictatorship. This fuelled the population in their quest for changes or reforms. The actions of SED were more provoking to the population as it led to reduction of their tolerance levels. On May Seventh the year 1989, the election results were nullified by SED. This increased anger amongst the population thereby driving them to raise the pace at which they were resenting to the actions of the government. This resulted in the increase in the number and magnitude of demonstrations leading to the weakening and collapse of the Government. Therefore, when compared to the contributions of Gorbachev, SED had as much impact to the collapse of the Berlin wall. Moreover, the contribution of SED as more direct as compared to the policies of Gorbachev which had an indirect effect on the course of activities in East Europe. Therefore SED was the most direct contributor to the reuniting of the two sided of Germany (Pond, pp. 35-66).
Basing on the discussion and analysis done in this paper, one cannot point to once factor and proclaim it to be major cause of the collapse of GDR. The collapse of Germany Democratic Republic can be linked to many events that preceded it. Both Mikhail Gorbachev and Honecker made contributions to the collapse of GDR. Honecker had direct contributions to the collapse of the East Germany. As a leader of the SED party and by effect the leader of East Germany, he made a number of decisions which fueled the opposition and demonstration against the government. Honecker was non responsive to the demands of the citizenry. He also strengthened the socialist policies in the country and against the will of the citizens. Furthermore, Honecker refused to embrace the changes that were proposed by Gorbachev which filled the citizens with anger and agitation to push for changes. His actions like nullifying the elections resulted in a series of demonstrations which eventually ended up in the removal of end of the Berlin wall.
On the other hand, the reform movement of Gorbachev is argued to have been a force in the reunification of Germany. There two major change policies that were proposed by Gorbachev had a big impact on the survival of the development of communism in East Europe. They sparked many other developments including the revolt against Honecker. Gorbachev and his policies had chief effects to the collapse of GDR.

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