Walter Ulbricht
Overview
 
Walter Ulbricht was a German communist politician. As First Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party
Socialist Unity Party of Germany
The Socialist Unity Party of Germany was the governing party of the German Democratic Republic from its formation on 7 October 1949 until the elections of March 1990. The SED was a communist political party with a Marxist-Leninist ideology...

 from 1950 to 1971 (and then Honorary "Chairman" until his death), he played a leading role in the creation of the Weimar
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

-era Communist Party of Germany
Communist Party of Germany
The Communist Party of Germany was a major political party in Germany between 1918 and 1933, and a minor party in West Germany in the postwar period until it was banned in 1956...

 (KPD) and later (spending the years of Nazi rule in exile in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

) in the early development and establishment of the German Democratic Republic
German Democratic Republic
The German Democratic Republic , informally called East Germany by West Germany and other countries, was a socialist state established in 1949 in the Soviet zone of occupied Germany, including East Berlin of the Allied-occupied capital city...

 (East Germany). From President Wilhelm Pieck
Wilhelm Pieck
Friedrich Wilhelm Reinhold Pieck was a German politician and a Communist. In 1949, he became the first President of the German Democratic Republic, an office abolished upon his death. He was succeeded by Walter Ulbricht, who served as Chairman of the Council of States.-Biography:Pieck was born to...

's death in 1960 he was the East German head of state until his own death in 1973.
Ulbricht was born in Leipzig
Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

, Saxony
Saxony
The Free State of Saxony is a landlocked state of Germany, contingent with Brandenburg, Saxony Anhalt, Thuringia, Bavaria, the Czech Republic and Poland. It is the tenth-largest German state in area, with of Germany's sixteen states....

, where his father worked as a tailor.
Encyclopedia
Walter Ulbricht was a German communist politician. As First Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party
Socialist Unity Party of Germany
The Socialist Unity Party of Germany was the governing party of the German Democratic Republic from its formation on 7 October 1949 until the elections of March 1990. The SED was a communist political party with a Marxist-Leninist ideology...

 from 1950 to 1971 (and then Honorary "Chairman" until his death), he played a leading role in the creation of the Weimar
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

-era Communist Party of Germany
Communist Party of Germany
The Communist Party of Germany was a major political party in Germany between 1918 and 1933, and a minor party in West Germany in the postwar period until it was banned in 1956...

 (KPD) and later (spending the years of Nazi rule in exile in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

) in the early development and establishment of the German Democratic Republic
German Democratic Republic
The German Democratic Republic , informally called East Germany by West Germany and other countries, was a socialist state established in 1949 in the Soviet zone of occupied Germany, including East Berlin of the Allied-occupied capital city...

 (East Germany). From President Wilhelm Pieck
Wilhelm Pieck
Friedrich Wilhelm Reinhold Pieck was a German politician and a Communist. In 1949, he became the first President of the German Democratic Republic, an office abolished upon his death. He was succeeded by Walter Ulbricht, who served as Chairman of the Council of States.-Biography:Pieck was born to...

's death in 1960 he was the East German head of state until his own death in 1973.

Early years

Ulbricht was born in Leipzig
Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

, Saxony
Saxony
The Free State of Saxony is a landlocked state of Germany, contingent with Brandenburg, Saxony Anhalt, Thuringia, Bavaria, the Czech Republic and Poland. It is the tenth-largest German state in area, with of Germany's sixteen states....

, where his father worked as a tailor. He spent eight years in primary school (Volksschule). After leaving school, he trained to be a joiner
Joiner
A joiner differs from a carpenter in that joiners cut and fit joints in wood that do not use nails. Joiners usually work in a workshop since the formation of various joints generally requires non-portable machinery. A carpenter normally works on site...

. Both his parents worked actively for the Social Democratic Party
Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany...

 (SPD). Walter Ulbricht joined the party in 1912.

First World War and Weimar years

Ulbricht served in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 from 1915 to 1917 in Galicia on the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War I)
The Eastern Front was a theatre of war during World War I in Central and, primarily, Eastern Europe. The term is in contrast to the Western Front. Despite the geographical separation, the events in the two theatres strongly influenced each other...

, and in the Balkans
Balkans Campaign (World War I)
The Balkans Campaign of World War I was fought between Central Powers Bulgaria, Austria-Hungary, and Germany on one side and the Allies Serbia, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Montenegro on the other side.-Overview:The prime cause of World War I being the hostility between Serbia and...

. He deserted in 1917, as he had opposed the war from the beginning. Imprisoned in Charleroi
Charleroi
Charleroi is a city and a municipality of Wallonia, located in the province of Hainaut, Belgium. , the total population of Charleroi was 201,593. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of and had a total population of 522,522 as of 1 January 2008, ranking it as...

, in 1918 he was released during the German Revolution of 1918–1919.
In 1917 he became a member of the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD) after it split off from the Social Democratic Party (SPD) over support of Germany's participation in World War I. During the German Revolution he became a member of the soldier's soviet
Soviet (council)
Soviet was a name used for several Russian political organizations. Examples include the Czar's Council of Ministers, which was called the “Soviet of Ministers”; a workers' local council in late Imperial Russia; and the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union....

 of his army corps and later a member of the KPD in 1920, joining its Central Committee in 1923. Ulbricht attended the International Lenin School
International Lenin School
Situated in Moscow and shrouded in secrecy, the International Lenin School was founded in 1926 as an instrument for the "Bolshevisation" of the Communist International and its national sections, following the resolutions of the fifth Congress of the Comintern. Between 1926 and 1938 the school...

 of the Comintern
Comintern
The Communist International, abbreviated as Comintern, also known as the Third International, was an international communist organization initiated in Moscow during March 1919...

 in Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 in 1924/1925. The electors subsequently voted him into the regional parliament of Saxony
Saxony
The Free State of Saxony is a landlocked state of Germany, contingent with Brandenburg, Saxony Anhalt, Thuringia, Bavaria, the Czech Republic and Poland. It is the tenth-largest German state in area, with of Germany's sixteen states....

 (Sächsischer Landtag) in 1926. He became a Member of the Reichstag
Reichstag (Weimar Republic)
The Reichstag was the parliament of Weimar Republic .German constitution commentators consider only the Reichstag and now the Bundestag the German parliament. Another organ deals with legislation too: in 1867-1918 the Bundesrat, in 1919–1933 the Reichsrat and from 1949 on the Bundesrat...

for South Westphalia
Westphalia
Westphalia is a region in Germany, centred on the cities of Arnsberg, Bielefeld, Dortmund, Minden and Münster.Westphalia is roughly the region between the rivers Rhine and Weser, located north and south of the Ruhr River. No exact definition of borders can be given, because the name "Westphalia"...

 from 1928 to 1933 and served as KPD chairman in Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 from 1929.

In the years before the 1933 Nazi election to power, paramilitary forces of the left and the right caused frequent disturbances. Violence connected with demonstrations was common, with supporters of each side fighting each other and the police. In 1931 the Communists in Berlin decided on a policy of killing two police officers for every communist demonstrator killed by police, and as a result Ulbricht urged fellow communists Heinz Neumann and Hans Kippenberger to plan the assassination of two Berlin police officers, Paul Anlauf and Franz Lenck. Erich Mielke
Erich Mielke
Erich Fritz Emil Mielke was a German communist politician and Minister of State Security—and as such head of the Stasi —of the German Democratic Republic between 1957 and 1989. Mielke spent more than a decade as an operative of the NKVD during the rule of Joseph Stalin...

 (later to become Ulbricht's chief of national security) and Erich Ziemer carried out the killing. In 1932, the Comintern ordered the Communists to cooperate with the Nazis against the Social Democrats, so Ulbricht and Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels
Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism...

 (the Nazi Gauleiter
Gauleiter
A Gauleiter was the party leader of a regional branch of the NSDAP or the head of a Gau or of a Reichsgau.-Creation and Early Usage:...

for Berlin) both urged their respective constituents to support the Berlin transport workers' strike in November 1932. At an event arranged by the Nazi Party in January 1931, Ulbricht was allowed to deliver a speech. Subsequently, Goebbels delivered his own speech. The attempt at discussion became the opposite of friendly, and a struggle between Nazis and Communists began: police officers divided them. Both sides had tried to use this event for their election propaganda. The strike ended after five days.

Nazi and war years

The Nazi Party attained power in Germany in January 1933, and very quickly began a purge of Communist and Social Democrat leaders in Germany. Following the arrest of the KPD's leader, Ernst Thälmann
Ernst Thälmann
Ernst Thälmann was the leader of the Communist Party of Germany during much of the Weimar Republic. He was arrested by the Gestapo in 1933 and held in solitary confinement for eleven years, before being shot in Buchenwald on Adolf Hitler's orders in 1944...

, Ulbricht campaigned to be Thälmann's replacement as head of the Party. Many competitors for the leadership were killed in the Soviet Union thanks to Ulbricht.

Ulbricht lived in exile in Paris and Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

 from 1933 to 1937. The German Popular Front under the leadership of Heinrich Mann
Heinrich Mann
Luiz Heinrich Mann was a German novelist who wrote works with strong social themes. His attacks on the authoritarian and increasingly militaristic nature of pre-World War II German society led to his exile in 1933.-Life and work:Born in Lübeck as the oldest child of Thomas Johann Heinrich Mann...

 in Paris was dissolved after a campaign of behind-the-scenes jockeying by Ulbricht to place the organization under the control of the Comintern. Ulbricht tried to persuade the KPD founder Willi Münzenberg
Willi Münzenberg
Willi Münzenberg was a communist political activist. Münzenberg was the first head of the Young Communist International in 1919-20 and established the famine-relief and propaganda organization Workers International Relief in 1921...

 to go to the Soviet Union, allegedly so that Ulbricht could have "them take care of him". Münzenberg refused. He would have been in jeopardy of arrest and purge by the NKVD, a prospect in both Münzenberg's and Ulbricht's minds. Ulbricht spent some time in Spain during the Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

, as a Comintern representative, ensuring the liquidation of Germans serving on the Republican side who were regarded as not sufficiently loyal to Stalin; some were sent to Moscow for trial, others were executed on the spot. Ulbricht lived in the Soviet Union from 1937 to 1945, leaving from Hotel Lux
Hotel Lux
Hotel Lux was a hotel in Moscow that, during the early years of the Soviet Union, housed many leading exiled Communists. During the Nazi era, exiles from all over Europe went there, particularly from Germany. A number of them became leading figures in German politics in the postwar era...

 to return to Germany on April 30, 1945.

During the German-Soviet alliance 1939-1941, Ulbricht promoted in the Comintern
Comintern
The Communist International, abbreviated as Comintern, also known as the Third International, was an international communist organization initiated in Moscow during March 1919...

 journal 'Die Welt' the official line of co-operation with Nazi Germany. Thus, he opined that "the German government declared itself ready for friendly relations with the Soviet Union, whereas the English-French war bloc desires a war against the socialist Soviet Union. The Soviet people and the working people of Germany have an interest in preventing the English war plan.“

Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Ulbricht was active in a group of German communists under NKVD supervision (a group including, among others, the poet Erich Weinert
Erich Weinert
Erich Bernhard Gustav Weinert was a German Communist writer and a member of the Communist Party of Germany .-Biography:...

 and the writer Willi Bredel
Willi Bredel
Willi Bredel was a German writer and president of the Akademie der Künste. Born in Hamburg, he was a pioneer of socialist realist literature....

) which, among other things, translated propaganda material into German, prepared broadcasts directed at the invaders, and interrogated captured German officers. In February 1943, following the surrender of the German Sixth Army at the close of the Battle of Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

, Ulbricht, Weinert and Wilhelm Pieck
Wilhelm Pieck
Friedrich Wilhelm Reinhold Pieck was a German politician and a Communist. In 1949, he became the first President of the German Democratic Republic, an office abolished upon his death. He was succeeded by Walter Ulbricht, who served as Chairman of the Council of States.-Biography:Pieck was born to...

 conducted a Communist political rally in the center of Stalingrad which many German prisoners were forced to attend. The NKVD head Lavrenty Beria described Ulbricht as "the greatest idiot that he had ever seen."

Creation of the GDR

In April 1945, Ulbricht led a group of party functionaries ("Ulbricht Group
Ulbricht group
The Ulbricht Group, led by Walter Ulbricht, was a group of exiled German communists who flew from the Soviet Union back to Germany on April 30, 1945...

") into Germany to begin reconstruction of the German Communist party along orthodox Stalinist lines. Within the Soviet occupied zone of Germany, the Social Democrats were pressured into merging with the Communists, on Communist terms, to form the Socialist Unity Party of Germany
Socialist Unity Party of Germany
The Socialist Unity Party of Germany was the governing party of the German Democratic Republic from its formation on 7 October 1949 until the elections of March 1990. The SED was a communist political party with a Marxist-Leninist ideology...

 (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands or SED), and Ulbricht played a key role in this.

After the founding of the German Democratic Republic
German Democratic Republic
The German Democratic Republic , informally called East Germany by West Germany and other countries, was a socialist state established in 1949 in the Soviet zone of occupied Germany, including East Berlin of the Allied-occupied capital city...

 on 7 October 1949, Ulbricht became Deputy Chairman (Stellvertreter des Vorsitzenden) of the Council of Ministers (Ministerrat
Ministerrat
The Council of Ministers of the German Democratic Republic was the chief executive body of East Germany from November 1950 until the GDR was unified with the Federal Republic of Germany on 3 October 1990...

 der DDR)
under Chairman Otto Grotewohl
Otto Grotewohl
Otto Grotewohl was a German politician and prime minister of the German Democratic Republic from 1949 until his death. According to Roth , "He was a figurehead who led various economic commissions, lobbied the Soviets for increased aid, and conducted foreign policy tours in the attempt to break...

. In 1950, as the SED restructured itself into a more orthodox Soviet-style Communist party, he became General Secretary
General Secretary
The office of general secretary is staffed by the chief officer of:*The General Secretariat for Macedonia and Thrace, a government agency for the Greek regions of Macedonia and Thrace...

 of the SED Central Committee
Central Committee
Central Committee was the common designation of a standing administrative body of communist parties, analogous to a board of directors, whether ruling or non-ruling in the twentieth century and of the surviving, mostly Trotskyist, states in the early twenty first. In such party organizations the...

; this position was renamed First Secretary in 1953. After the death of Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 his position was in danger for some time, because of his reputation as an archetypal Stalinist. Ironically, he was saved by the Berlin Uprising of 17 June 1953, because the Soviet leadership feared that deposing Ulbricht might be construed as a sign of weakness.

At the third congress of the SED in 1950, Ulbricht announced a five-year plan concentrating on the doubling of industrial production. As Stalin was at that point keeping open the option of a re-unified Germany, it was not until 1952 that the party moved towards the construction of a socialist society in East Germany.

By 1952, 80 percent of industry had been nationalised. Blindly following an outmoded Stalinist model of industrialisation – concentration on the development of heavy industry regardless of the cost, availability of raw materials, and economic suitability – produced an economy that was short of consumer goods, and those that were produced were often of shoddy quality. Growth was also hampered by a deliberate exclusion from the higher educational system of children of 'bourgeois' families. One consequence was the flight of large numbers of citizens to the West: over 360,000 in 1952 and the early part of 1953.

In 1957, Ulbricht arranged a visit to an East German collective farm
Landwirtschaftliche Produktionsgenossenschaft
The German expression Landwirtschaftliche Produktionsgenossenschaft , or — more commonly — its acronym LPG was the official designation for large, collectivised farms in the former East Germany, corresponding to Soviet Kolkhoz.The collectivisation of private and state owned agricultural...

 at Trinwillershagen
Trinwillershagen
Trinwillershagen is a municipality in the north of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. It is situated in the Vorpommern-Rügen district. Trinwillershagen used to be part of the Amt Ahrenshagen, since 1 January 2005 it is part of Amt Barth.-Geography:...

 in order to demonstrate the GDR's modern agricultural industry to the visiting Soviet Politburo
Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Politburo , known as the Presidium from 1952 to 1966, functioned as the central policymaking and governing body of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.-Duties and responsibilities:The...

 member Anastas Mikoyan
Anastas Mikoyan
Anastas Ivanovich Mikoyan was an Armenian Old Bolshevik and Soviet statesman during the rules of Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, and Leonid Brezhnev....

. Following the death of Wilhelm Pieck
Wilhelm Pieck
Friedrich Wilhelm Reinhold Pieck was a German politician and a Communist. In 1949, he became the first President of the German Democratic Republic, an office abolished upon his death. He was succeeded by Walter Ulbricht, who served as Chairman of the Council of States.-Biography:Pieck was born to...

 in 1960, the SED abolished the function of President of the GDR and instead created a new institution, the Council of State. Ulbricht was named its chairman--thus becoming, in name as well as in fact, the supreme leader of the country.

He managed to achieve this position despite having a peculiarly squeaky falsetto voice resulting from a diphtheria infection when he was eighteen. At times, his speeches would be incomprehensible, owing to the combination of this very high register with his Saxon accent.

Although modest economic gains were being made, emigration still continued. By 1961, 1.65 million had fled to the west. Fearful of the possible consequences of this continued outflow of refugees, and aware of the dangers an East German collapse would present to the Soviet Union’s Communist satellite empire, Ulbricht pressured Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

 in early 1961 to stop the outflow and resolve the status of Berlin. During this time, the refugees’ mood was rarely expressed in words, though East German laborer Kurt Wismach did so effectively by shouting for free elections during one of Ulbricht’s
Walter Ulbricht
Walter Ulbricht was a German communist politician. As First Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party from 1950 to 1971 , he played a leading role in the creation of the Weimar-era Communist Party of Germany and later in the early development and...

 speeches. When Khrushchev approved the building of a wall as a means to resolve this situation, Ulbricht threw himself into the project with abandon. Delegating different tasks in the process while maintaining overall supervision and careful control of the project, Ulbricht managed to keep secret the purchase of vast amounts of building materials, including barbed wire, concrete pillars, timber, and mesh wire. On 13 August 1961, work began on what was to become the Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin...

, only two months after Ulbricht had emphatically denied that there were such plans ("Nobody has the intention of building a wall"). Ulbricht had sent out GDR soldiers and police to seal the border with West Berlin overnight. The mobilization included 8,200 members of the People’s Police, 3,700 members of the mobile police, 12,000 factory militia members, and 4,500 State Security officers. Ulbricht also dispersed 40,000 East German soldiers across the country to suppress any potential protests.

The 1968 invasion by Warsaw Pact troops of Czechoslovakia and the suppression of the Prague Spring
Prague Spring
The Prague Spring was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia during the era of its domination by the Soviet Union after World War II...

 were also applauded by Ulbricht – East German soldiers were among those massed on the border but did not cross over, probably due to Czech sensitivities about German troops on their soil – and earned him a reputation as a staunch Soviet ally in contrast to Romanian
Communist Romania
Communist Romania was the period in Romanian history when that country was a Soviet-aligned communist state in the Eastern Bloc, with the dominant role of Romanian Communist Party enshrined in its successive constitutions...

 leader Nicolae Ceauşescu
Nicolae Ceausescu
Nicolae Ceaușescu was a Romanian Communist politician. He was General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party from 1965 to 1989, and as such was the country's second and last Communist leader...

, who condemned the invasion.

The New Economic System

From 1963, Ulbricht and his economic adviser Wolfgang Berger attempted to create a more efficient economy through a New Economic System
New Economic System
The New Economic System was an economic policy that was implemented by the ruling Socialist Unity Party of the German Democratic Republic in 1963. Its purpose was to replace the system of Five Year Plans which had been used to run the GDR's economy from 1951 onwards...

 (Neues Ökonomisches System or NÖS). This meant that under the centrally coordinated economic plan, a greater degree of local decision-making would be possible. The reason was not only to stimulate greater responsibility on the part of companies, but also the realization that decisions were sometimes better taken locally. One of Ulbricht's principles was the 'scientific' execution of politics and economy – making use of sociology
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 and psychology
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

 but most of all the natural sciences. The effects of the NÖS, which corrected mistakes made in the past, were largely positive, with growing economic efficiency.

The New Economic System
New Economic System
The New Economic System was an economic policy that was implemented by the ruling Socialist Unity Party of the German Democratic Republic in 1963. Its purpose was to replace the system of Five Year Plans which had been used to run the GDR's economy from 1951 onwards...

 was not very popular within the party, however, and from 1965 onwards opposition grew, mainly under the direction of Erich Honecker
Erich Honecker
Erich Honecker was a German communist politician who led the German Democratic Republic as General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party from 1971 until 1989, serving as Head of State as well from Willi Stoph's relinquishment of that post in 1976....

 and with tacit support of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev
Leonid Brezhnev
Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev  – 10 November 1982) was the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union , presiding over the country from 1964 until his death in 1982. His eighteen-year term as General Secretary was second only to that of Joseph Stalin in...

. Ulbricht's preoccupation with science meant that more and more control of the economy was being relegated from the party to specialists. Also, Ulbricht's motivations were at odds with communist theory, which did not suit ideological hardliners within the Party.

Dismissal, death and legacy

Ulbricht's difficult relationship with Leonid Brezhnev, combined with his unwillingness to seek a rapprochement with West Germany, proved to be his eventual undoing. On 3 May 1971 Ulbricht was forced to resign from virtually all of his public functions 'due to reasons of poor health' and was replaced – with the consent of the Soviets – by Erich Honecker. He was allowed to remain head of state as Chairman of the Council of State. Additionally, the honorary position of Chairman of the SED was created especially for him. Ulbricht died at a government guesthouse in Groß Dölln near Templin
Templin
Templin is a small town in the Uckermark district of Brandenburg, Germany. Though it has a population of only 17,127 , it is with 377.01 km2 the second largest town in Brandenburg and the seventh largest town in Germany by area...

, north of East Berlin
East Berlin
East Berlin was the name given to the eastern part of Berlin between 1949 and 1990. It consisted of the Soviet sector of Berlin that was established in 1945. The American, British and French sectors became West Berlin, a part strongly associated with West Germany but a free city...

, on 1 August 1973, during the World Festival of Youth and Students
World Festival of Youth and Students
The World Festival of Youth and Students is an international event, organized by the World Federation of Democratic Youth , a left-wing youth organization, jointly with the International Union of Students since 1947....

, having suffered a stroke
Stroke
A stroke, previously known medically as a cerebrovascular accident , is the rapidly developing loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia caused by blockage , or a hemorrhage...

 two weeks earlier. He was honoured with a state funeral
State funeral
A state funeral is a public funeral ceremony, observing the strict rules of protocol, held to honor heads of state or other important people of national significance. State funerals usually include much pomp and ceremony as well as religious overtones and distinctive elements of military tradition...

 and buried among other communists in the Zentralfriedhof Friedrichsfelde
Zentralfriedhof Friedrichsfelde
The Friedrichsfelde Central Cemetery , also known as the Memorial to the Socialists , is a cemetery in the borough of Lichtenberg in Berlin. When the cemetery was founded in 1881 it was called the Freidrichsfelde Municipal Cemetery Berlin...

.

Ulbricht remained loyal to Leninist and Stalinist principles throughout his life, rarely able or willing to make compromises. Inflexible and unlikeable (Anthony Beevor described him as "widely loathed Stalinist bureaucrat well known for his tactics denouncing rivals".), he was an unlikely figure to attract much public affection or admiration. However, he also proved to be a shrewd and intelligent politician who knew how to get himself out of more than one difficult situation. Despite stabilising the GDR to some extent, he never succeeded in raising the standard of living in the country to a level comparable to that in the West.

In 1956, Ulbricht was awarded the Hans Beimler
Hans Beimler (Communist)
Hans Beimler was an active member of the German Communist Party and a deputy in the Reichstag.Beimler was born in Munich and served in the Kaiserliche Marine during the First World War...

 Medal, for veterans of the Spanish Civil War, which caused controversy among other recipients, who had actually served on the front line.

He was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union
Hero of the Soviet Union
The title Hero of the Soviet Union was the highest distinction in the Soviet Union, awarded personally or collectively for heroic feats in service to the Soviet state and society.-Overview:...

 on 29 June 1963. When Ulbricht visited Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 in 1965, he was awarded by Nasser
Gamal Abdel Nasser
Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein was the second President of Egypt from 1956 until his death. A colonel in the Egyptian army, Nasser led the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 along with Muhammad Naguib, the first president, which overthrew the monarchy of Egypt and Sudan, and heralded a new period of...

 the Great Collar of the Order of the Nile
Order of the Nile
The Order of the Nile is Egypt's highest state honor. The award was instituted in 1915 by Sultan Hussein Kamel to be awarded by Egypt for exceptional services to the nation...

. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,839297,00.html

Ulbricht lived in Majakowskiring
Majakowskiring
The Majakowskiring is an ellipse-shaped street in the Pankow district of Berlin, Germany, in the Niederschönhausen locality...

, Pankow
Pankow
Pankow is the third borough of Berlin. In Berlin's 2001 administrative reform it was merged with the former boroughs of Prenzlauer Berg and Weißensee; the resulting borough retained the name Pankow.- Overview :...

, East Berlin
East Berlin
East Berlin was the name given to the eastern part of Berlin between 1949 and 1990. It consisted of the Soviet sector of Berlin that was established in 1945. The American, British and French sectors became West Berlin, a part strongly associated with West Germany but a free city...

. Ulbricht was married twice; in 1920 to Martha Schmellinsky and from 1953 until his death to Lotte Ulbricht
Lotte Ulbricht
Lotte Ulbricht was a Socialist Unity Party of Germany official and the second wife of the East German leader Walter Ulbricht....

 née Kühn (1903–2002). The couple adopted a daughter from the Soviet Union named Beate (1944–1991).

See also

  • New Economic System
    New Economic System
    The New Economic System was an economic policy that was implemented by the ruling Socialist Unity Party of the German Democratic Republic in 1963. Its purpose was to replace the system of Five Year Plans which had been used to run the GDR's economy from 1951 onwards...

  • Lotte Ulbricht
    Lotte Ulbricht
    Lotte Ulbricht was a Socialist Unity Party of Germany official and the second wife of the East German leader Walter Ulbricht....

  • Wilhelm Zaisser
    Wilhelm Zaisser
    Wilhelm Zaisser was a German communist politician and the first Minister for State Security of the German Democratic Republic .- Life :...

     - He tried to depose Ulbricht in 1953

Literature

  • Carola Stern, Ulbricht, A Political Biography. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1965. Pp. xi, 231
  • Gregory W. Sandford, From Hitler to Ulbricht. The Communist Reconstruction of East Germany 1945–46. Princeton, 1983
  • John Wendell Keller, Germany, the wall and Berlin;: Internal politics during an international crisis, Vantage Press; (1964)Sample Chapter


There are no biographies in English written after the fall of the GDR. Two have been published in German:
  • Norbert Podewin, Walter Ulbricht: Eine neue Biographie. (Berlin, 1995),
  • Mario Frank, Walter Ulbricht. Eine deutsche Biografie. 2000, Siedler-Verlag, ISBN 3-88680-720-7

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK