Walter Ulbricht

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Walter Ulbricht (30 June 1893 – 1 August 1973) was a German communist politician. As General 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).


Early years

Ulbricht was born in Leipzig, Saxony, where his father worked as a tailor. He spent eight years in primary school (Volksschule). After leaving school he trained to be a joiner. Both his parents worked actively for the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Walter Ulbricht joined the party in 1912.

First World War and Weimar years

Ulbricht served in World War I from 1915 to 1917 in Galicia on the Eastern Front, and in the Balkans.[1] He deserted in 1917, as he had opposed 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 Revolution of 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 School of the Comintern in Moscow in 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 Westphalia from 1928 to 1933 and served as KPD chairman in Berlin from 1929.

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