sent by the party to the Soviet Union where he studied at the Lenin Academy for party apparatchiki in Moscow. He joined the COMINTERN as a representative of German communists and was a member of this organization between 1926 and 1927.
In the elections held in Germany in 1926, Ulbricht was elected to membership in the Landtag (Regional Assembly) for Saxony, and two years later he became a deputy in the national parliament, the Reichstag. From 1929 until Adolf Hitler's coming to power, Ulbricht directed the Communist party organization in the Berlin- Brandenburg-Grenzmark region. In 1933, he escaped from Germany and fled to France where he remained for five years. Then he went to the Soviet Union and spent the war years in Moscow.
In 1945, Joseph Stalin sent Ulbricht back to Germany, to the Soviet zone of occupation. He was entrusted with setting up a new German administration in East Berlin. He was elected deputy chairman of the newly established Socialist Unity party in 1946 and became a member of its secretariat and of the Politburo. In 1950, he was named secretary general of the Socialist Unity party. Between 1949 and 1960, he was also first deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers of East Germany. In July 1953, he became chairman of the Socialist Unity party and remained in that position until his death.
In the meantime, he was also chairman of the Council of State and of the National Defense Council. Toward the end of the 1960s, Ulbricht began to develop signs of megalomania. He lectured not only Western statesmen about proper international behavior, but also his Soviet mentors about Marxist-Leninist ideology. Furthermore, he began openly sabotaging Soviet efforts to establish a less tense atmosphere in Europe. He was especially obnoxious in trying to obstruct Soviet efforts to establish normal relations with West Germany. Ulbricht eventually went too far. He was quietly removed from authority in the government and the Socialist Unity party in 1971 and was replaced by Erich Honecker (see Honecker, Erich), a gray eminence who remained the leader of the Socialist Unity party until the collapse of communism in 1989.
Abusch Alexander, ed. Walter Ulbricht ( Berlin, 1963) (in German); Becher Johannes R., Walter Ulbricht: A German Worker's Son ( Berlin, 1964) (in German); Croan Melvin, "Germany and Eastern Europe" in Joseph Held, ed. The Columbia History of Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century ( New York, 1992); Grote Manfred, "The Socialist Unity Party of Germany," in Stephen Fischer-Galati, ed. The Communist Parties of Eastern Europe ( New York, 1979).