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East Germany (Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR; in English: German Democratic Republic or GDR) was a satellite state of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 East Germany became genuinely democratic and a year later, at the end of the Cold War, the East German people voted to reunite with West Germany.
Its longest serving, and most famous, leader was Erich Honecker. It was widely said to be the most prosperous and nicest of the Eastern Bloc states, but that is a bit like saying Molluscum contagiosum is the best STD. Nevertheless, Herr Honecker had a falling out with the Russians and openly disobeyed Moscow, especially when that dubious Mikhail Gorbachev guy started to speak about a less authoritarian style of leadership. However, Honecker still failed to bring any major improvements to East Germany, and he was finally ousted just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. After falling from power, Honecker escaped to Chile and became the butt of numerous German jokes (yes, such things exist). The fact that Honecker was from the West German Saar area (bordering France) but still sounded like a stereotypical Easterner in his hour-long incredibly bland speeches certainly helped.
Like most communist countries, East Germany had a secret police, the Stasi. Their stated aim being "to know everything about everyone", it has been estimated that 1 in 63 East German citizens collaborated with the Stasi (in a country of 16M people). Other subsequent estimates indicate that the Stasi maintained a greater degree of surveillance over the East German population than any other domestic intelligence force in history. Off the back of this, the Stasi is considered to have been one of the world's most effective secret police forces; they even helped set up "state security" organizations for other countries. Other activities included supporting West German anti-Semitic groups and running a brothel to entrap homosexuals. They also used female prostitutes to extract information from Western visitors during the trade-fair in Leipzig, as well as a "project Romeo" where Stasi agents were to cultivate relationships with people who had access to classified information (so they knew occasionally in the biblical sense in order to know in the literal sense).
- ↑ Talk of too little, too late.
- ↑ (West) Germany sought his extradition to be prosecuted for his crimes as head of the DDR, but dropped these proceedings as Honecker was already dying from cancer of the liver (he died in Chile in 1994).
- ↑ A colloquial abbreviation of "Ministerium für Staatssicherheit" or "MfS", meaning "Ministry for State Security"
- ↑ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6692895.stm
- ↑ Like Ethiopia.
- ↑ E. Germany Ran Antisemitic Campaign in West in ’60s by Marc Fisher, Washington Post, February 28, 1993. From the website of Paul Bogdanor.