- Walter Ulbricht
Infobox_President | name=Walter Ulbricht
order=First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany
Wilhelm Pieckand Otto Grotewohl
death_date=death date and age|1973|8|1|1893|6|30|mf=y
East Berlin, Germany
Socialist Unity Party of Germany
order2=Chairman of the Council of State of the German Democratic Republic
Wilhelm Pieck("as State President")
Walter Ulbricht (
June 30, 1893– August 1, 1973) was a German communistpolitician. As First Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party from 1950 to 1971, he played a leading role in the early development and establishment of the German Democratic Republic(East Germany).
Ulbricht was born in
Leipzigas the son of a tailor. He spent eight years in primary school ("Volksschule"), and learned the trade of a joiner. Both his parents worked actively for the Social Democratic Party (SPD), and Walter joined the party in 1912.
First World War and Weimar years
He served in
World War Ifrom 1915 to 1917 in Galicia on the Eastern Front, and in the Balkans. [Frank, Mario, "Walter Ulbricht. Eine Deutsche Biographie" (Berlin 2001) 52-53.] He deserted in 1917 as he had been opposed to the war from the beginning. Imprisoned in Charleroi, in 1918 he was released during the German revolution.
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 the
First World War. During the November Revolutionof 1918 he became a member of the soldier's soviet of his army corps and later a member of the Communist Party of Germany(KPD) in 1920, joining its Central Committee in 1923. Ulbricht attended the International Lenin Schoolof the Cominternin Moscowin 1924/1925. The electors subsequently voted him into the regional parliament of Saxony("Sächsischer Landtag") in 1926. He became a Member of the "Reichstag" for South Westphaliafrom 1928 to 1933 and was KPD chairman in Berlin from 1929.
In the years before the 1933
Naziseizure of power, there were frequent disturbances caused by the presence of paramilitary forces of left and right. 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 Walter Ulbricht urged fellow communists Heinz Neumannand Hans Kippenbergerto plan the murder of two Berlin police officers, Paul Anlauf and Franz Lenck. The killing was carried out by Erich Ziemer and Ulbricht's later chief of national security, Erich Mielke. In 1932, the Cominternordered the Communists to cooperate with the Nazis, so Ulbricht and Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda chief of the Nazi Party, both urged their respective constituents to support a planned strike. The strikers were appalled by the scene of Nazis and Communists marching together and the strike was halted after five days. [Frank, Mario, "Walter Ulbricht. Eine Deutsche Biographie" (Berlin 2001) 88-89.]
Nazi and war years
Nazi Partyattained 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, 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. [Frank, Mario, "Walter Ulbricht. Eine Deutsche Biographie" (Berlin 2001), 117-121. Frank only gives an example of Kippenberger. Other competitors were killed as well, but it is very likely the initiative of the NKVD, given the anti-German frenzy in the Soviet union at that time.]
Ulbricht lived in exile in
Parisand Praguefrom 1933 to 1937. The German Popular Front under the leadership of Heinrich Mannin 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 Münzenbergto 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. [Frank, Mario, "Walter Ulbricht. Eine Deutsche Biographie" (Berlin 2001), 124-139.] Ulbricht spent some time in Spain during the Civil War, 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. [Robert Solomon Wistrich, "Who's Who in Nazi Germany", Routledge, 2001; John Fuegi, "Brecht and Company: Sex, Politics and the Making of the Modern Drama", Grove Press, 2002, p.354; Noel Annan, "Changing Enemies: The Defeat and Regeneration of Germany", Cornell University Press, 1997, p.176] Ulbricht lived in the Soviet Union from 1937 to 1945.
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 Weinertand the writer Willi Bredel) 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, Ulbricht, Weinert and Wilhelm Pieckconducted a Communist political rally in the center of Stalingrad which many German prisoners were forced to attend. The political pragmatist Lavrenty Beriacommented that Ulbricht was "the greatest idiot that he had ever seen." [Frank, Mario, "Walter Ulbricht. Eine Deutsche Biographie" (Berlin 2001), 241.]
Creation of the GDR
In April 1945 Ulbricht lead a group of party functionaries ("
Ulbricht group") into Germany to begin reconstruction of the German Communist party along orthodox Stalinist lines. Within the Soviet occupied zone of Germany, the Social Democrats and Communists united to form the Stalinist dominated Socialist Unity Party of Germany("Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands" or "SED"), and Ulbricht played a key role in this.
After the founding of the
German Democratic Republicon 7 October 1949, Ulbricht became Deputy Chairman "(Stellvertreter des Vorsitzenden)" of the Council of Ministers "( Ministerratder DDR)" under Chairman Otto Grotewohl. In 1950, he became General Secretaryof the SED Central Committee; this position was renamed "First Secretary" in 1953. After the death of Joseph Stalinhis position was in danger for some time, because of his reputation as an archetypal Stalinist. Ironically, he was saved by the Berlin Uprising of June 17, 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 planconcentrating 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. [Martin Kitchen, "A History Of Modern Germany 1800-2000", Blackwell, 2006, p.328]
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. [Martin Kitchen, "A History Of Modern Germany 1800-2000", Blackwell, 2006, p.329]
In 1957, Ulbricht arranged a visit to a East German collective farm at
Trinwillershagenin order to demonstrate the GDR's modern agricultural industry to the visiting Soviet Politburo member Anastas Mikoyan. Following the death of Wilhelm Pieckin 1960, the SED abolished the function of President of the GDR and instead created a new institution, the " Staatsratder DDR" (Council of State of the GDR), of which Ulbricht, as leader of the party, became Chairman and therefore Head of State. From this point until the early seventies, Ulbricht was the unquestioned leader of the party and the country.
Although modest economic gains were being made, emigration still continued. By 1961, 1.65 million had fled to the west. [Steven Ozment, "A Mighty Fortress", Granta, London, 2005 p.294, quoting Lothar Kettenacker, "Germany Since 1945" (Oxford, 1997), pp 18-20 and 50-51, and Hagen Shulze, "Modern Germany", p. 316] On
August 13, 1961, work began on what was to become the Berlin Wall, only two months after Ulbricht had emphatically denied that there were such plans ("Nobody has the intention of building a wall"). [In an interview with Annamarie Doherr, Berlin correspondent of the Frankfurter Rundschau, 15 June 1961 [http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annamarie_Doherr] ]
The 1968 invasion by Warsaw Pact troops of Czechoslovakia and the suppression of the
Prague Springwere 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 hard-line Stalinist.
The New Economic System
From 1963, Ulbricht and his economic adviser
Wolfgang Bergerattempted to create a more efficient economy through a New Economic System("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 sociologyand psychologybut 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.
New Economic Systemwas not very popular within the party, however, and from 1965 onwards opposition grew, mainly under the direction of Erich Honeckerand with tacit support of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. 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 proved to be his eventual undoing. On
3 May 1971Ulbricht 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 retain only the ceremonial position of Chairman of the Council of State "(Vorsitzender des Staatsrats der DDR)". Additionally, the honorary position of 'Chairman of the SED' was created especially for him. Ulbricht died at a government guesthousein Döllnsee, north of East Berlin, on 1 August 1973, during the World Festival of Youth and Students, having suffered a stroketwo weeks earlier. He was honoured with a state funeraland buried among other communists in the Zentralfriedhof Friedrichsfelde.
Ulbricht remained loyal to
Leninistand Stalinistprinciples throughout his life, rarely able or willing to make compromises. Inflexible and unlikeable ( Anthony Beevordescribed him as "widely loathed Stalinist bureaucrat well known for his tactics denouncing rivals" . [Anthony Beevor, "The fall of Berlin 1945", Penguin Books, London, 2003 p.418] ), 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 Medal, for veterans of the Spanish Civil War, which caused controversy among other recipients, who had actually served on the front line. [Josie McLellan, "Anti-Fascism and Memory in East Germany: Remembering the International Brigades, 1945-1989", p.67]
He was awarded the title
Hero of the Soviet Unionon 29 June 1963. [ru icon [http://www.warheroes.ru/hero/hero.asp?Hero_id=2159 Biography] at the website on Heroes of the Soviet Union and Russia] . When Ulbricht visited Egyptin 1965, he was awarded by Nasser the Great Collar of the Order of the Nile. [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,839297,00.html]
Ulbricht lived in
Majakowskiring, Pankow, East Berlin. Ulbricht was married twice; in 1920 to Martha Schmellinsky and from 1953 until his death to Lotte Ulbricht(née Kühn) (1903-2002). The couple adopted a daughter from the Soviet Union named Beate (1944-1991).
* 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)
* [http://www.oup.co.uk/pdf/0-19-928412-1.pdf 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
New Economic System
* [http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/ulbricht.htm Extracts from "Walter Ulbricht — A Life for Germany", an illustrated 1968 book on Ulbricht]
* [http://www.osaarchivum.org/db/fa/300-3-1-1.htm RFE/RL East German Subject Files: Communist Party] Open Society Archives, Budapest
NAME= Ulbricht, Walter
SHORT DESCRIPTION= East German politician
DATE OF BIRTH=
June 30, 1893
PLACE OF BIRTH=
DATE OF DEATH=
August 1, 1973
PLACE OF DEATH=
East Berlin, Germany
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Walter Ulbricht — (1950) Walter Ernst Paul Ulbricht (* 30. Juni 1893 in Leipzig; † 1. August 1973 in Groß Dölln, DDR) war ein deutscher Po … Deutsch Wikipedia
Walter Ulbricht — Mandats 1er … Wikipédia en Français
Walter Ulbricht — 2º … Wikipedia Español
Walter Ulbricht — (Leipzig, 1893 Berlín, 1973) fue un político alemán, entre 1950 y 1971 el principal dirigente de la República Democrática Alemana (RDA). Obrero ebanista de profesión, se afilió al Partido Socialdemócrata de Alemania (SPD) en 1912 y combatió en la … Enciclopedia Universal
Walter Ulbricht Schallfolien — ist ein deutsches Plattenlabel, das 1980 von Uli Rehberg gegründet wurde. Mit Walter Ulbricht Schallfolien gab Rehberg innovativen und experimentellen Künstlern und Bands die Möglichkeit zu Veröffentlichungen in ihrer frühen Schaffensphase. Seit… … Deutsch Wikipedia
Walter-Ulbricht-Stadion — Stadion der Weltjugend Das Stadion zur Eröffnung der Weltfestspiele 1951 Daten Ort … Deutsch Wikipedia
Staatsratsvorsitzender Walter Ulbricht (Briefmarkenserie) — Beispiele für Bogenentwertungen, die für philatelistische Zwecke bei dieser Serie zwischen 1961 und 1973 angewendet wurden Staatsratsvorsitzender Walter Ulbricht war eine Dauermarkenserie der Deutschen Post in der Deutschen Demokratischen… … Deutsch Wikipedia
Staatsratsvorsitzender Walter Ulbricht — Staatsratsvorsitzender Walter Ulbricht: Für die Funktion des Staatsratsvorsitzenden siehe dort, für die Person siehe Walter Ulbricht, für die Briefmarkenserie der Deutschen Post der DDR siehe Staatsratsvorsitzender Walter Ulbricht… … Deutsch Wikipedia
Académie allemande de sciences politiques et juridiques Walter Ulbricht — L Académie allemande de sciences politiques et juridiques Walter Ulbricht (Deutsche Akademie für Staats und Rechtswissenschaft « Walter Ulbricht » puis Akademie für Rechts und Staatswissenschaft der DDR) était une institution scolaire… … Wikipédia en Français
Deutsche Akademie für Staats- und Rechtswissenschaft »Walter Ulbricht« — Deutsche Akademie für Staats und Rechtswissenschaft »Walter Ulbricht«, seit 1972 Akademie für Staats und Rechtswissenschaft der DDR, gegründet 1953 in Potsdam Babelsberg durch Zusammenlegung der Deutschen Verwaltungsakademie (gegründet 1947)… … Universal-Lexikon