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2 - Operation "Wall of China"

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  The men of the Wall

Walter Ulbricht (1893-1973):

Born into a family of social-democrats from Leipzig, during the First World War he joined the ranks of the Spartakists and in 1919 helped to found the Communist Party (KPD). He became a deputy in 1928, entering the Politburo the following year. When Hitler came to power, he emigrated first to Paris, then to Prague and Moscow, where he organized anti-Nazi propaganda. He returned to Berlin in April 1945 to rebuild the KPD. A loyal Stalinist with his familiar round spectacles and small beard, Ulbricht took over the party leadership in 1950. The failure of the revolt in June 1953 consolidated his position, further strengthened following the death in 1960 of Wilhelm Pieck, the first president of the GDR. As head of the National Defence Council set up in 1960, a position which gave him authority over the army, he was the main artisan of the building of the Wall. In 1968, he was among the most outspoken partisans of the intervention to quell the Prague Spring. After 1970, he was gradually stripped of his powers, as the USSR wanted to promote détente with the West. He died on 1st August 1973.

Erich Honecker (1912-1994):

This native of the Saar was a member of communist organizations from the age of ten. He was arrested by the Gestapo in 1935 and was held in prison until the end of the war. He reorganized the Free German Youth Movement (FDJ) and was its chairman until 1955. In 1958, he was responsible for security questions on the SED Central Committee and in that capacity oversaw the building of the Wall. In 1971 he succeeded Ulbricht as leader of the SED. In 1987, he made an official visit to West Germany, distancing himself however from Gorbachev’s reformist policy. In June 1989, he continued to defend the Wall, which he expected to last for another " 50 or 100 years ". On 7th October 1989, he took part in celebrations to mark the fortieth anniversary of East Germany but he was forced to withdraw on 18th October, bowing to pressure from demonstrators and reformist or opportunistic communists. He sought refuge in Moscow, but was arrested in 1992 and charged with giving orders to shoot at fugitives. But he was released on grounds of ill health, and emigrated to Chile, where he died.

Willy Brandt (1913-1992):

He was active in socialist circles from the age of 15. Exiled to Norway in 1933, he led a double life as a commmitted journalist and as an anti-Nazi resistant. In 1947, he returned to Berlin where he represented the SPD leadership. Close to the Mayor of Berlin, Ernst Reuter, he was elected a member of the first Bundestag. He was Mayor of West Berlin from 1957 to 1966. During the Wall crisis, he made a firm, statesmanlike stand, drawing the sympathy of the German people, whilst Chancellor Adenauer (1876-1967) carried on his election campaign, not visiting Berlin until 22nd August, an attitude sanctioned by West German voters in September 1961. From 1966 to 1969, Brandt was Foreign Minister in the grand coalition government. He later became Chancellor and in 1971 was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for his policy of détente. He resigned in 1974 following the Guillaume affair, but remained party chairman until 1987. From 1976 to 1992, he was head of the Socialist International. In December 1990 he opened the inaugural session of the first federal parliament of a united Germany, and the following year fought to reinstate Berlin as German capital. His funeral was marked by an important official ceremony.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963):

During an official visit to Germany, John F. Kennedy made a short stop in Berlin on 26th June 1963. After inspecting the Wall from on top of a platform at Checkpoint Charlie, outside Schöneberg City Hall, he made an electrifying speech to a huge crowd that had come out to see this guardian of freedom. He entranced them by saying: " All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin. And therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words: Ich bin ein Berliner (I am a Berliner) ". Every U.S. president after him dutifully visited Berlin, and in 1987, Ronald Reagan asked Gorbachev " to open the Brandenburg Gate ".

 

Walter Ulbricht
Walter Ulbricht

Erich Honecker
Erich Honecker

Willy Brandt
Willy Brandt

John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy

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