East-West Homecoming for a Serious Boy

A divided Germany's two leaders prepare for a historic meeting

People around Neunkirchen, the Saarland coal-mining town where Erich Honecker was born 75 years ago, remember him as a serious-minded boy who passed out political newspapers after school at age ten and shunned religion class as a matter of working-class principle. "He didn't play with us in recess or go swimming in the summer," recalls Kurt Humbs, 76, a classmate in nearby Wiebelskirchen, where Honecker grew up. "Sometimes," he adds, "you had the impression you were looking into a mirror with no glass in it."

Humbs and his neighbors will have another chance to look into the mirror next week. Fifty-two...