East Central Europe and the World: Developments in the Post-Stalin Era

By Stephen D. Kertesz; Karlis Kalnins et al. | Go to book overview

4: EAST GERMANY*

Karl C. Thalheim

In the part of Germany occupied by the Soviet Union all power clearly rests with the German Socialist Unity Party (SED). It was formed in 1946 by uniting the Social Democratic and Communist parties, though from the beginning communist influence was dominant. Power was and is exercised primarily by a group of German communists, headed by Walter Ulbricht, who during the National Socialist period had emigrated to the Soviet Union. The men belonging to this group are unquestioning adherents of the Soviet Union and of the Soviet system. For this reason they were leaders in the sovietization of the political, cultural, economic, and social life of the Soviet zone of Germany, in the assimilation of all aspects of life there to those in the Soviet Union.1


THE UPRISING OF JUNE 17, 1953, AND THE 'NEW COURSE'

The policy of sovietization pursued by leading communists in the so-called German Democratic Republic (GDR) in no way bespeaks the will of the people of this region. This truth was demonstrated with clarity by the popular uprising on June 16-17, 1953, which would have led to a total collapse of the communist system in East Germany if the revolt had not been put down by Soviet troops.

The revolt in the GDR was the first of the shocks which the commmunist bloc experienced after the death of Stalin. It was preceded by a declaration of the Politburo of the SED on June 9, 1953, announcing a "new course," which was put into practice in most of the other satellite states and also in the Soviet Union following the address of Premier Georgi M. Malenkov before the Supreme Soviet

____________________
*
This chapter was translated by Mr. Frederick Haupt, III, with the exception of the final section, which was translated by Professor George A. von Ihering.
1
See the chapter on "Eastern Germany" in Stephen Kertesz, ed., The Fate of East Central Europe (Notre Dame, 1956).

-64-

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