Walter Ulbricht, who has ruled East Germany for two decades, resigned today (Monday) as First Secretary of the East German Communist Party.
Walter Ulbricht, who has ruled East Germany for two decades, resigned today (Monday) as First Secretary of the East German Communist Party. The 77-year-old leader told a meeting of the Central Committee that he had decided to hand over the Communist Party leadership to a younger man. The man already named his successor by the Central Committee is Erich Honecker 58, who has been Ulbricht's right hand man for many years. Ulbricht will stay on though as Head of State and Honourary Chairman of the country's ruling Socialist Unity Party.
There has been constant speculation over the last few years that Ulbricht would retire, based primarily on his advancing years and reported failing health. But no doubt has been cast on his ability to govern. Walter Ulbricht, since he returned to Berlin from Moscow in 1945 to begin the "sovietisation" of defeated Germany, has been one of the strictist leaders in Eastern Europe. He was responsible for the decision in 1961 to erect the Berlin Wall, and he played a large role in the Warsaw Pact intervention in Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968, which crushed the reform movement of Alexander Dubeck.
But for all his life-long dedication to Marxism-Leninism, Walter Ulbricht remained a German. He had a genuine desire to reunite Germany, albeit under a social government. The question that arises from Honecker's succession is whether the current faltering steps towards a rapprochement with the West will continue. The first reaction of the West German government spokesman, Konrad Ahlers, was that Ulbricht's departure would bring no essential changes.
This production, from library film, illustrates Walter Ulbricht's position as the undisputed leader of East Germany. From the foundation of the German Democratic Republic in 1949 until 1960, he was Deputy Premier and dominant member of the ruling triumvirate. In 1960 he became Chairman of the Council of State, which replaced the presidency and First Secretary of the Communist Party.