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  • Print publication year: 2016
  • Online publication date: June 2016

2 - East Germany and the Six-Day War of June 1967


On June 15, 1967, in Leipzig, Walter Ulbricht, the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party and leader of the East German regime since 1949, delivered a speech that became one of the canonical texts of East German antagonism to Israel. The summary and the whole text were published in the government's official paper, Neues Deutschland (New Germany) (See Ulbricht in Figure 2.1). When he spoke, the hopes for victory over the state of Israel by the Soviet bloc and the Arab states it supported had been dashed. Faced with one of the most devastating setbacks of Soviet policy in the Cold War, Ulbricht laid the entire blame for the war on the Israelis, who were part of what he called a conspiracy organized by the United States, Britain, and West Germany. At the outbreak of the war, the East German Politburo had declared its support for the Arab states and denounced Israeli “aggression.” Ulbricht's speech in Leipzig restated what close observers had known for years but came as news to a stunned international public, namely, that the Communist regime in East Germany was an emphatic supporter of the Arab states’ efforts to make war on the Jewish state.

Those outside East Germany who were surprised that a self-described anti-fascist regime had taken up sides against the Jewish state may have recalled the Soviet Union's support for the United Nations partition plan in 1947. On May 14, 1947, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko made the following statement in the United Nations General Assembly. He took the Western powers to task for failing to ensure “the defence of the elementary rights of the Jewish people, and to safeguard it against the violence of the fascist executioners.” That explained “the aspirations of the Jews to establish their own state. It would be unjust not to take this into consideration and to deny the right of the Jewish people to realize this aspiration.”

Gromyko preferred the establishment of “a single Arab-Jewish state with equal rights for Arabs and Jews.” However if that was not possible because of conflict between them, then the Soviet Union would support a partition plan for a Jewish and an Arab state.