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Ulbricht and the Intellectuals

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 September 2008

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Khrushchev's secret speech of February 1956 threw the moral and political world of East Central Europe's intellectuals into turmoil. One of the most secure belief systems ever devised was suddenly revealed to be the ideological justification for crimes of a massive scale. Several generations of Communists groped for orientation, and radical change seemed inevitable. East Germany's intellectuals were no exception in their expectations and desires for change. Students of the GDR have always understood 1956 as one of formidable intellectual challenge to the Ulbricht regime, and the opening of SED and Stasi archives has strengthened this view, revealing an unrest that pervaded the ranks of students, writers, teachers, and much of the Party cadre.

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Articles
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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1997

References

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6 Large majorities of writers of several generations thoughout East Central Europe warmly embraced Soviet-style socialism. See Miłeosz, Czeslaw, The Captive Mind (New York: Vintage, 1981)Google Scholar, Trznadel, Jacek, Hańba domowa. rozmowy z pisarzami (Lublin: Wydawnictwo Test, 1991)Google Scholar; Hruby, Peter, Fools and Heroes. The Changing Role of Communist Intellectuals in Czechoslovakia (Oxford: Pergamon, 1980)Google Scholar; Aczel, Tamas and Meray, Tibor, The Revolt of the Mind (New York: Praeger, 1959).Google Scholar This view contrasts with that offered by Olschowsky, Heinrich, ‘Das Jahr 1956 in der literarischen Szene der DDR’, in Henning Hahn, Hans and Olschowsky, Heinrich, (eds.), Das Jahr 1956 in Ostmitteleuropa (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1996), 133.Google Scholar

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12 This approximates Ernst Richert's conception of a three-fold division of the East German intellectual community: students, writers and social scientists. ‘Sozialistische Universität’. Die Hochschulpolitik der SED (Berlin: Colloquium, 1967), 142.Google Scholar

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16 Bundesarchiv, Abteilungen Potsdam, (BAAP), R2/1060/21.

17 See, for example, the faculty listings in Jordan, František, (ed.), Dějiny University v Brně, (Brno: Universita J. E. Purkyně, 1969), 370–84.Google Scholar

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19 BAAP, R2/900/13–14.

20 The Soviet model for such courses, the rabfak, was used intensively only in the early post-revolutionary period and during the Great Break (1928–32). It was scaled down and then abandoned altogether in the 1930s. See Fitzpatrick, Sheila, Education and Social Mobility in the Soviet Union 1921–1934 (London: Cambridge University Press, 1979).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

21 The East German total represents an average figure from 1952/6. The Czech and Polish numbers are from peak periods in the early 1950s. Státní ústřední archiv, Prague (SÚA) ÚPV 2481 12/3.81.43/54; Archiwum Akt Nowych, Warsaw (AAN) MSW 17/91–2; KC PZPR 237/XVI/120/43; 121/103–5; Statistisches Jahrbuch der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik 1960/61 (Berlin: VEB Deutscher Zentralverlag, 1961), 132–3.Google Scholar

22 Müller, ‘… stürmt die Festung Wissenschaft’, 364–79. By 1956 that number had grown to 579. Report of Horst Böttcher, 28 Aug. 1956, SAPMO-BA IV2/9.04/667 (unnumbered).

23 Connelly, John, ‘East German Higher Education Policies and Student Resistance, 1945–1948’, Central European History, Vol. 28, no. 3 (1995).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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25 In June 1950 Ulbricht demanded that the intake for worker-peasant faculties that year be increased from 1,500 to 4,500. BAAP, C20/1019/82–5. For other records of Ulbricht's extraordinary activism see ibid., C20/16, C20/1011; R2/1892/76, 1154/1, 1125/115, 1478/252; R3/223/5; E1/17085/60–92, 17514/6; SAPMO-BA ZPA NL 182/933; IV2/9.04/465.

26 See, for example, the comments of Professor W. Hauser at ‘Vierte Tagung des zentralen Hochschulausschusses der SED am 7. und 8. Februar 1948’, SAPMO-BA, ZPA IV2/9.04/6 (unnumbered), 241.

27 Richert, Hochschulpolitik, 133.

28 These figures may be inflated because they include everyone employed in the agricultural sector. The percentages of workers only among the student body in 1946/7 and 1947/8 were 7.2 and 6.7, respectively. SÚA ÚPV 1110, C. 211894/48.

29 Stallmann, Herbert, Hochschulzugang in der SBZ/DDR (Sankt Augustin: Richarz, 1980), 305–7.Google Scholar

30 AAN MO/2869/47–50.

31 Statystyka szkolnictwa, Aug. 1966, 40.

32 SÚA – AÚV KSČ, f. 100/1 a.j. 1155/117.

33 AAN MSW 17/91–2.

34 SÚA – AÚV KSČ, f. 19/7, a.j. 280/96.

35 Statystyka szkolnictwa, Aug. 1966, 40.

36 SÚA ÚPV 2481.

37 Statistická ročenka Republiky Československé 1957 (Prague: Orbis, 1957), 238. The differences in Czech and Czechoslovak totals are explained by the influx of students of peasant background into the Slovak student body.

38 Statistická ročenka Československé Socialistické Republiky 1962 (Prague: Státní nakladatelství technické literatury, 1962), 419.

39 SÚA AÚV KSČ f. 19/7 a.j. 280/95.

40 Historická statistická ročenka ČSSR, (Prague: SNTL – Nakladatelství technické literatury, 1985), 595, 597.

41 Rocznik statystyczny 1960 (Warsaw, 1960), 357; Rocznik statystyczny 1970 (Warsaw, 1970), 423, 439.

42 Statistisches Jahrbuch der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik 1960/61 (Berlin, 1961), 133; Statistisches Jahrbuch der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik 1970 (Berlin, 1970), 386.

43 Kienitz, Werner, (ed.), Das Schulwesen sozialistischer Länder in Europa (Berlin: Volk und Wissen, 1962), 266–7, 352.Google Scholar

44 BAAP, R2/1060/46; Kasper, ‘Der Kampf’, 272.

45 Hübner, Piotr, Nauka polska po II wojnie światowej – idee i instytucje (Warsaw: Centralny Ośrodek Metodyczny Studiów Nauk Politycznych, 1987) 134, 173Google Scholar; Fijałekowska, Barbara, Polityka i twórcy (1948–1959), (Warsaw: PWN, 1985), 464.Google Scholar

46 Hübner, Nauka, 174. In 1958 the number of Polish professors and docents belonging to the Party was 11.4 per cent. Fijalkowska, Polityka, 464.

47 Jessen, Ralph, ‘Professoren im Sozialismus. Aspekte des Strukturwandels der Hochschullehrerschaft in der Ulbricht-Ära’, in Kaelble, Harmut, Kocka, Jürgen and Zwahr, Harmut (eds.), Sozialgeschichte der DDR (Stuttgart: Klett, 1994), 241.Google Scholar

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49 This figure pertains to students of Charles University in Prague and Masaryk University in Brno. SÚA-AÚV KSČ, f. 02/4, a.j. 120, bod 19.

50 The Polish regime mostly scrapped the affirmative action policy in 1955, though there was a brief resurgence after 1965. Osiński, Jan, ‘Zasada preferencji społeecznej jako metoda przyspieszenia demokratizacji wyzszego wykształecenia’, in Roszkowska, Magdalena, ed., Rekrutacja mlodziezy na studia wyzsze (Warsaw: PWN, 1973), 199.Google Scholar In Hungary, the class-based quota system was relaxed in the mid-1950s. Szelényi, Sonija and Aschaffenburg, Karen, ‘Inequalities in Educational Opportunity in Hungary’, in Shavit, Yossi and Blossfeld, Hans-Peter (eds.), Persistent Inequality: Changing Educational Attainment in Thirteen Countries (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1993), 274, 295.Google Scholar

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53 The SED higher education functionary Franz X. Wohlgemuth reported at the first rectors conference after 17 June that ‘there have been no disorders [Unruhen] at any universities’. BAAP, R3/1538/30. In Halle there were some extraordinary cases of students taking part in demonstrations, but ‘in general one can say that the university and its members showed their good side during the events of 17 June 1953’. In Berlin, many students ‘show[ed] a positive attitude either by turning away from the demonstrations, or by discussing with the demonstrators instead of joining them’. BAAP R3/147/28–34.

54 Huschner, ‘Der 17. Juni’, 690–1.

55 Speech of 5 July 1954, in Lammel, Hans-Joachim (ed.), Dokumente zur Geschichte der Arbeiter-und-Bauem-Fakultäten der DDR, II: 1949–1966 (Berlin: Institut für Hochschulbildung, 1988), 130–43.Google Scholar

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57 Hans Mayer, for example, was taken daily to and from university by taxi – an unimaginable luxury for Leipzig the early 1950s. Krzok, Andreas, ‘Erinnerung an Leipzig’, in Jens, Inge, (ed.), Über Hans Mayer (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1977), 126.Google Scholar

58 RFE Report, Item no. 353/57; Luczak, Czesłeaw (ed.), University of Poznań 1919–1969 (Poznań: Drukarnia Uniwersytetu im. A. Mickiewicza, 1971), 255.Google Scholar

59 See the letter of Soviet Professor P.M. Bidulya to Z. Fierlinger in SÚA AÚV KSČ fo. 19/7 a.j. 272/99–103, and the report of a trip in the spring of 1953 of Czechoslovak higher education experts to the Soviet Union, in ibid., f. 19/7, a.j. 272/2 136–43.

60 In 1951 7.7 per cent of East German professors were of working-class background, and 23.1 per cent belonged to the SED. In 1971 the figures were 39.1 per cent and 61.5 per cent respectively. Jessen, Ralph, hochschule ost, no. 3 (1995), 70.Google Scholar

61 Huschner mentions Halle and Jena, ‘Der 17. Juni’, 690.

62 Zimmermann, Hans-Dieter, Der Wahnsinn des Jahrhunderts. Die Verantwortung der Schriftsteller in der Politik (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1992).Google Scholar Yet they also found that workers possessed some legitimate complaints. See esp. the comments of Ernst and Karola Bloch, in SAPMO-BA, ZPA IV 2/9.04/426/93–95.

63 SAPMO-BA, ZPA IV 2/9.04/426/97–9.

64 On professors’ understanding for workers’ demands, see the comments on rector Hämel of Jena. Huschner, ‘Der 17. Juni’, 690.

65 Krönig, Waldemar and Müller, Klaus-Dieter, Anpassung Widerstand Verfolgung. Hochschule und Studenten in der SBZ und DDR 1945–1961 (Cologne: Verlag Wissenschaft und Politik, 1994), 364–93.Google Scholar

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67 ibid. This report from early 1954 is typical of the return to the Stalinist practices of intimidation and crushing of dissent. Now it was noted that ‘the Party organisation stands unanimously behind the Central Committee decisions and thanks the Central Committee for the annihilation of the traitorous Hermstadt–Zaisser Group’.

68 Heider, Magdalena, Politik–Kultur–Kulturbund: Zur Gründungs- und Frühgeschichte des Kulturbundes zur demokratischen Erneuerung Deutschlands 1945–1954 in der SBZ/DDR (Cologne: Verlag Wissenschaft und Politik), 184.Google Scholar In 1956 Ulbricht would demonstrate a similar adeptness at staying one step ahead of a popular mass movement by himself inaugurating the formation of ‘workers’ councils’, fearing that East German workers might follow the Hungarian example. Heym, Stefan, Nachruf (Berlin: Der Morgen, 1990), 605–6.Google Scholar

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71 See Pike, Politics, x.

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76 Kantorowicz, , Tagebuch, 544.Google Scholar

77 Neues Deutschland, 3 Nov. 1956, cited in Richert, , Hochschulpolitik, 139.Google Scholar

78 These were to be accepted at university SED organisations without deliberation. Kantorowicz, , Tagebuch, 603.Google Scholar

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82 ibid., 263.

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88 Beginning in early 1957, a group of seven to eight students formed in Halle for free discussion of ‘political and world view problems’. They were moved by the ‘growth of intolerance in political life after the suppression of the Hungarian Uprising’. Two of the founders were sentenced to seven years in prison for ‘state treason’. Kronig, and Müller, , Hochschule, 296300.Google Scholar In 1958 four students in Magdeburg were given prison sentences of several years for protesting at the founding of a medical academy there. ibid., 300. A group of students formed in Jena in 1954 at the Eisenberg high school, and considered themselves a true resistance group in the tradition of Stauffenberg. They continued meeting as students in Jena, until discovered in 1958. ibid., 301–4. In 1959, a trial took place in Dresden of five students of the Technical University who had formed a school group in 1956 to protest the limitations on political freedom. They received a sentence of five to ten years. ibid., 305–8. On Eisenberg, see also Patrik von zur Mühlen, , Der ‘Eisenberger Kreis’: Jugendwiderstand und Verfolgung in der DDR 1953–1958 (Bonn: Dietz, 1995).Google Scholar

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91 Ulbricht's major rival, Karl Schirdewan, claims to have represented a socialist alternative to Ulbricht. See his Aufstand gegen Ulbricht: Im Kampf urn politische Kurskorrektur, gegen stalinistische, dogmatische Politik (Berlin, 1994), 100, 114. Yet, in the decisive days of 1956, he played the resolute hardliner, telling students that to advocate change to ‘social science’ revealed a ‘reactionary petty bourgeois lifestyle’. Richert, , Hochschulpolitik, 138.Google Scholar

92 ibid., 108–9. For Janka's recollections, see Schwierigkeiten mit der Wahrheit (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1989). Harich's response is Keine Schwierigkeiten mit der Wahrheit (Berlin: Dietz, 1993).

93 Gerhard Zwerenz has called Harich an ‘adventurer’. Der Widerspruch, 212–3.

94 SAPMO-BA IV/2/1/183/18ff. Cited in Mitter and Wolle, Untergang, 288. For the judgement that Ulbricht ‘overreacted’, see Wilhelm Fricke, Karl, ‘Widerstand und Opposition von 1945 bis Ende der fünfziger Jahre’, in Materialien der Enquete-Kommission, Vol. 7, 24.Google Scholar

95 For SED reports on Harich and Bloch, with copious and annotated Western press cuttings, see SAPMO-BA, ZPA IV 2/9.04/162–3.

96 In the words of Kantorowicz, to mention the Petöfi-Club ‘called forth the same reaction among party functionaries as did the mention of the devil among believers in the Middle Ages’. Tagebuch, 692.

97 Herzberg, Guntolf, ‘Ernst Bloch in Leipzig: Der operative Vorgang “Wild”’, Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft, Vol. 42, no. 8 (1994), 686.Google Scholar

98 Loest, , Durch die Erde, 293.Google Scholar

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100 ibid., 186, 189–90; Loest, , Durch die Erde, 292.Google Scholar

101 ibid., 306; Zudeick, Peter, Der Hintern des Teufels. Ernst Bloch – Leben und Werk (Moos/Baden-Baden: Elster, 1985), 237–8.Google Scholar

102 Loest, , Durch die Erde, 320–1.Google Scholar Schroeder is ‘Lehmann’.

103 ibid., p. 309.

104 See, for example, the report of Jürgen Kuczynski's trip to Poland in April 1956. SAPMO-BA, ZPA IV2/9.04/147/14.

105 Klein, Fritz, ‘Dokumente aus den Anfangsjahren der ZfG’, Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft, Vol. 42, no. 1 (1994), 43, 54.Google Scholar

106 Kuczynski, Jürgen, Frost nach dem Tauwetter. Mein Historikerstreit (Berlin: Elephanten Press, 1993), 64.Google Scholar

107 SAPMO-BA, ZPA IV2/9.04/148.

108 Interview with Fritz Klein, 10 Sept. 1996.

109 Aktennotiz of 18 March 1957, SAPMO-BA IV2/90.4/148.

110 Kuczynski, Jürgen, ‘Ein linientreuer Dissident’, Memoiren 1945–1989 (Berlin: Aufbau, 1992), 104–29.Google Scholar For a discussion of revisionist ideas in the social sciences, see Jänicke, , Der dritte Weg, 104–54.Google Scholar

111 Kuczynski, , Historikerstreit, 76.Google Scholar

112 The conversation took place at Behrens's weekend house. SAPMO-BA ZPA IV2/9.04/402/123–8, 160.

113 Richert, , Hochschulpolitik, 136.Google Scholar Even the ‘doctrinaire Stalinist’ Hanna Wolf was implicated. She subsequently aided Ulbricht in defeating Schirdewan. Jänicke, , Der dritte Weg, 124.Google Scholar

114 Cited in Mitter, and Wolle, , Untergang, 282.Google Scholar

115 Loest, , Durch die Erde, 312.Google Scholar

116 Zwerenz, , Der Widerspruch, 101.Google Scholar

117 Loest, , Durch die Erde, 304.Google Scholar

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120 Just, Zeuge, 123–4.

121 In a discussion with Central Committee functionaries on 25 Jan. 1957, Bloch quickly distanced himself from students Zehm and Kleine, professing he could not be held ‘responsible for their thinking’. SAPMO IV2/9.04/163/28. Three days earlier he wrote to the Rector of Karl-Marx-University, G. Mayer, that when: ‘the Horthy regime was on the rise in Hungary, I told the head of the institute: “It's high time now. When will the Red Army finally march in?”’ He further wrote of his ‘deep differences’ with the arrested Wolfgang Harich, and emphasised the care he had taken to hire only graduate students who belonged to the SED, ‘this in distinct contrast to other institutes at the Karl-Marx-University’. ibid., IV2/9.04/163/15–26. In Dec. 1957, Bloch wrote to the SED leadership: ‘If Zwerenz calls himself my student, then this is incorrect’.ibid., IV2/2/569. For the view that Bloch remained loyal to his students, see Grebing, Helga, Der Revisionismus: Von Bernstein bis zum ‘Prager Frühling’ (Beck: Munich, 1977), 165.Google Scholar

122 SAPMO-BA, ZPA IV2/9.04/163/110–1.

123 Neues Deutschland, 20 April 1958; cited in Zwerenz, , Der Widerspruch, 285–6.Google Scholar

124 Cited in Mittenzwei, Werner, Das Leben des Bertolt Brecht oder der Umgang mit den Welträtseln, Vol. 2 (Berlin/Weimar: Aufbau, 1988), 493–4Google Scholar; Kantorowicz, Alfred, Etwas ist ausgeblieben: zur geistigen Einheit der deutschen Literatur nach 1945 (Hamburg: Christians Verlag, 1985), 147, 214–15.Google Scholar

125 See in this regard esp. the interview with Zbigniew Herbert, in Trznadel, , Hańba, and Tyrmand, Leopold, Dziennik 1954 (Warsaw: Res Publica, 1989).Google Scholar

126 Gella, Aleksander, Development of Class Structure in Eastern Europe: Poland and her Southern Neighbors (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1989).Google Scholar

127 For the famous critique, see Chalasinski, Józef, Społeeczna genealogia inteligencji polskiej (Łeódź: Czytelnik, 1946).Google Scholar

128 Raina, , Opposition, 74–82Google Scholar; Friszke, , Opozycja, 178–9.Google Scholar

129 Grunenberg, Antonia, Antifaschismus – ein deutscher Mythos (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1993), esp. 113–19.Google Scholar

130 ‘Stenographische Niederschrift des Referats des Genossen Anton Ackermann auf der Arbeitstagung über die Frage der Auswahl und Zulassung zum Hochschulstudium’, 6 May 1949. SAPMO-BA ZPA IV2/9.04/464 (unnumbered). Dietrich Staritz argues that the regime welcomed the flight of many farmers in the early 1950s, as they left behind land used to form agricultural collectives. Geschichte der DDR 1949–1985 (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1985), 92.

131 ‘Notiz über das Auftreten des Gen. Havemann am 18. Juni 1957 in der Wahlversammlung bei Prof. Neunhöffer’, SAPMO-BA, ZPA IV2/9.04/164/105.

132 Loest, , Durch die Erde, 307.Google Scholar

133 Krüger, , Ende, 44–6.Google Scholar

134 Meuschel, , Legitimation, 1522.Google Scholar See also Joppke, , Dissidents, 206–12.Google Scholar

135 Just, Zeuge, 116.

136 In 1961 3.4 per cent of the male population of West Germany was university-educated. Of the male refugees from East Germany, the percentage was 7.2. Heidemeyer, Helge, Flucht und Zuwanderung aus der SBZ/DDR 1945/1949–1961 (Düsseldorf: Droste, 1994), 50.Google Scholar

137 J. Fuchs, R. Jahn, K. Weiss, U. Poppe and G. Jeschonnek all had their path to higher education blocked; the careers of W. Templin and G. Poppe in the Academy of Sciences were terminated. See the biographies in Torpey, , Intellectuals, 217–32.Google Scholar

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