Germany History: The Ulbricht Era (1960-1971)

By | October 30, 2021

On 09.12.1960 took over W. Ulbricht  - in addition to the leadership of the SED – the chair of the State Council, this replaced as “collective head of state” after the death Pieck the Office of the President; (7.9.) With his formation on February 10, 1960, Ulbricht had also become chairman of the “National Defense Council of the GDR”. On July 4th, 1962 W. Stoph (SED) became the acting Prime Minister on behalf of the sick Grotewohl, after his death Prime Minister (September 24th, 1964). Learn more about Germany and Europe, please click

When the ongoing refugee movement from the GDR and Berlin (East) threatened the existence of the economic plans, the party and state leadership had the border to Berlin (West) closed and the Berlin Wall built on August 13, 1961 (Head of the Task Force: E. Honecker, 1958 accepted into the Politburo of the Central Committee of the SED).

On August 16, 1961, residents of the GDR and East Berlin were banned from leaving the Federal Republic of Germany; At the same time, citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany and Berlin (West) were no longer allowed to enter the GDR and Berlin (East) (first option for citizens of Berlin [West] with the pass agreement of December 17, 1963, noticeably improved only with the 1972 transport contract; intra-German relationships). The SED leadership saw the prevention of emigration and direct influence from the Federal Republic of Germany as an opportunity to stabilize their rule.

After the construction of the wall and the establishment of a special border regime on the inner-German border (ordinances of June 21, 1963 and March 16, 1964), Ulbricht looked for system-compliant solution concepts for the problems in the state, society and v. a. in business. He modified his concept of rule, in which priority was no longer given to open repression, but to promises of prosperity. The transition to more flexible rulership practices also led to the expansion of the legal basis for further safeguarding SED rule (“Law for the Defense of the GDR”, September 20, 1961; establishment of the “Workers and Peasants Inspection of the GDR” [ ABI ], May 14, 1963). The National People’s Army (NVA) became one of the main pillars of the state, also internally (“Law on General Compulsory Military Service”, January 24, 1962).

With the concept of the “New Economic System of Planning and Management” (NÖSPL, also NÖS; announced on June 24/25, 1963) the SED wanted to emerge in the following years also new forces (inter alia K. HagerG. MittagHermann Axen [* 1916, † 1992]), promote economic development; She tried to include the sciences and the overarching systematics (cybernetics) as a productive element in economic management. Above all Erich Apel (* 1917, † [suicide] 1965), since January 1963 chairman of the “State Planning Commission”, and Ulbricht’s economic advisor Wolfgang Berger (* 1921, † 1994) were advocates of Lower Austria. With the creation of a “uniform socialist education system” (1963), the increased involvement of women in the “comprehensive construction of socialism”, further with the adoption of a family code (December 20, 1965) and the entry into force of a new penal code (January 12, 1968) the Integration of the population in the “socialist state” must be promoted. The 11th plenum of the Central Committee of the SED (December 15-18, 1965), which resulted in a sharp reckoning with critical intellectuals (including a ban on appearing for W. Biermann ) and their social exclusion destroyed hopes for a democratization of society. In view of the increased self-confidence of the state, the GDR, which in the 1960s had developed into the second largest industrial power in the Eastern Bloc after the USSR, saw itself as an “outpost of socialism”. In comparison to reform communist efforts in Czechoslovakia from the spring of 1968 (” Prague Spring “), the party and state leadership of the GDR firmly adhered to the dictatorial-bureaucratic system of rule.

From late 1956 / mid-1957 to around 1966, in agreement with the Soviet leadership, the SED had made proposals on Germany policy to the Federal Republic of Germany with great propaganda efforts (offers of a “confederation”), since then it has pursued the goal of consolidating the GDR’s international position, and demanded v. a. from the Federal Republic of Germany the recognition of the GDR as an independent state. For example, on February 20, 1967 a law on “citizenship of the GDR” was enacted and a new constitution was adopted on April 6, 1968 following a “referendum” (in force from April 8); in it the GDR was defined as the “socialist state of the German nation”.

Your foreign policy (Foreign Minister: 1949–53 Georg Dertinger [* 1902, † 1968], CDUD; 1953–65 Lothar Bolz [* 1903, † 1986], NDPD; 1965–75 O. Winzer, SED) led the GDR closely following the USSR, with which it concluded a “treaty on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance” on June 12, 1964; Similar treaties with the other Eastern Bloc countries followed. Within the communist world of states it achieved an increasingly important position. In striving for international recognition, it was only able to achieve limited success outside the Eastern Bloc in the 1960s with the establishment of trade missions or consulates, as the Federal Republic of Germany prevented full diplomatic recognition of the GDR, particularly with the “Hallsteindoctrine”.

Germany History - The Ulbricht Era (1960-1971)