The Last of the Mohicans: How Walter Ulbricht Endured the Hungarian Crisis of 1956

in German Politics and Society

According to German historian Hermann Weber, 25 percent of all

published studies on the German Democratic Republic (GDR) have

focused on the early years of the regime of the Socialist Unity Party

(SED), 20 percent on the 1980s and collapse of the dictatorship, and

only 3 percent on the years in between.1 While the GDR itself may

not have become a mere footnote in history as novelist Stefan Heym

predicted, studies of East German history in the 1950s—before the

construction of the Berlin Wall, when the regime of Walter Ulbricht

was most vulnerable—are exceedingly rare.2 Archive-based studies of

Ulbricht’s response to the Hungarian revolution of 1956 are rarer

still.3 A recently edited volume of essays published in Germany

about responses to the Hungarian revolution, for example, included

the reactions of nearly every East European country, except those of

the GDR.

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