Overview of Chapter U: Few prominent individuals in communist countries lived long enough to experience the most important events of the twentieth century, but the often-discounted leader of the German Democratic Republic most certainly did. This chapter surveys World War I, Hitler’s rise to power, World War II, Stalinism, the Comintern, the Cold War, and the erection of the Berlin Wall through Ulbricht’s calculating eyes. It addresses East German economic policies and the growth of the Stasi.
1. Walls separate people. Compare the Berlin Wall to another important wall in history. What parallels and differences to you see?
2. Was Ulbricht's decision to erect the Berlin Wall justified?
3. What would your ideal society be like? What steps would you take to maximize its realization?
1. Create a map of Berlin with the Wall as a 3-D addition.
2. Design a poster for a German political party in 1930 or an East German government poster in 1964.
3. Listen or watch speeches relating to the Berlin Wall's construction, existence or demise.
• By comparing the experience of Vietnamese immigrants to West Germany and East Germany, this study offers an interesting window into the policies and everyday realities of the two nations; see: Frrank Bösch and Phi Hong Sul, “Competing Contexts of Reception in Refugee and Immigrant Incorporation: Vietnamese in West and East Germany,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, (2020), DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2020.1724418
This video shows Ulbricht specifically denying that the East German government wants to build a wall in Berlin. It was recorded on June 15, 1961, just 59 days before the Wall went up.
This propaganda video shows images of the construction of Stalinallee.
Map for Chapter U: This map by the author is in the print edition of the book and shows the places that were important to Ulbricht and his era.
Map for Chapter U: This map by the author is in the print edition of the book and shows the key places in East Germany (GDR) during the Ulbricht era.
"Soviet Poster Dedicated to the 5th Anniversary of the October Revolution and IV Congress of the Communist International," poster by Ivan Vasilyevich Simakov, 1922, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. This was an important conference for Ulbricht because it was the one time he met Lenin. Ulbricht used this to increase this credibility as an authority on socialist revolution.
Construction of defense barricades at "Am Knie" square, shortly before the end of the war in 1945, Berlin, April 1945, from Familienarchiv Laudon/Kibelka, by Werner Laudon, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Soviet soldiers in the Reich ministry in 1945 having captured Berlin. Photograph by the author at on outdoor exhibition, Topography of Terror, April 2008.
Photo courtesy of War History Online website, https://www.warhistoryonline.com/. According to the author of the article, Jack Knight (2016), this photo captures, "The view towards Leipziger Street: Around Potsdamer Platz and Leipziger Platz immediately after the war, only skeletal facades remain of the once magnificent residential and commercial buildings."