In The Man Who Built the Berlin Wall, Nathan Morley brings to life the story of the longtime leader of the German Democratic Republic. Drawing from a wealth of untapped archival sources – and firsthand interviews with Honecker’s lawyers, journalists, and contemporary witnesses – Morley paints a vivid portrait of how an uneducated miner’s son from the Saarland rose to the highest ranks of the German Communist Party.
Having survived a decade of brutality in Nazi prisons, Honecker emerged as an ambitious political player and became the shadowy mastermind behind the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, a crucial moment in twentieth-century history. Although frequently on the verge of being relegated to obscurity, he managed to overthrow strongman Walter Ulbricht at the height of the Cold War and reigned supreme over the GDR between 1971-1989. However, by 1980, the Honecker honeymoon was on the wane as a decade of economic and social difficulties blighted the GDR. Then, as tumultuous changes swept through the Soviet bloc, everything in and around him collapsed in 1989. His health, his certainties, his ideology, his apparatus of power, and his beloved SED party.
Terminally ill, he was literally kidnapped from Russia to answer for his crimes in a Berlin court. A controversial figure, Honecker’s notorious philandering, his difficult relationship with his wife Margot, penchant for porn, addiction to hunting, and gilded lifestyle at a forest settlement north of Berlin are all brought into sharp focus. Although haunted by the fall of the Berlin Wall, Erich Honecker died in 1994, still believing the GDR was the envy of the world.
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