chapter  17
14 Pages

‘Keeping détente alive’: Inner-German relations under Helmut Schmidt and Erich Honecker, 1974–1982

ByHelmut Schmidt and Erich Honecker, 1974–1982 OLIVER BANGE

Key to the understanding of the peculiar relationship which developed between Helmut Schmidt and Erich Honecker in the years between 1974 to 1982 was the notion of ‘Verantwortung’ – or responsibility. In a way, it seems that Bonn’s Chancellor from Hamburg and East Berlin’s party-chairman from the Saarland shared a quintessential Prussian virtue. And it is perhaps telling that Schmidt in his various memoirs habitually refers to Kant’s ‘Verantwortungsethik’ – in an obvious comparison of his own approach with Willy Brandt’s apparent ‘Gesinnungsethik.’ What Honecker appealingly called the ‘Verantwortungsgemeinschaft’ (common bond of responsibility) and Schmidt rather less emotionally referred to as ‘gemeinsame Sicherheit’ (common security) in fact remained a highly complicated, multi-facetted and more than double-edged affair throughout.