Eric Honecker, the son of a miner, was born in Neunkirchen, Germany, in 1912. He joined the German Communist Party and was active in the resistance movement against Adolf Hitler. Honecker was arrested in 1935 and remained in prison until the end of the Second World War.
Honecker joined the Socialist Unity Party and was elected to the parliament of German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in 1949. A member of politburo he oversaw the building of the Berlin Wall in August, 1961.
Walter Ulbricht retired in 1971 and Honecker replaced him as General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party and continued the policy of working closely with Willy Brandt and his policy of Ostpolitik (reconciliation between eastern and western Europe).
After the collapse of communism in 1989 Honecker was forced to resign from office. The following year he was arrested and charged with treason, corruption and abuse of power.
In 1993 the courts decided that Honecker was too ill to stand trial. He was allowed to retire to Chile where he died in 1994.