Stephanie B. Engelhard

Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Fellow in the Humanities

20092010 Forum on Connections

Stephanie B. Engelhard

European History

College '10

Constructing Socialism in East Germany: An Early History of the GDR; 1945-1955

In April of 1945, the fate of Germany was unclear. With their country in rubble, Germans began rebuilding, hoping to reclaim a way of life that was forever gone. As the specter of Nazism faded into the background, a new conflict arouse between the United States and the Soviet Union, a conflict which placed Germany once again at the front lines. As Germans attempted to pick up the pieces of their fallen nation, the Soviets established themselves in East Germany and encouraged the creation of a Socialist Unity Party. Sitting at the helm of the new party was Walter Ulbricht, a hard-line Stalinist who advocated the radical construction of Soviet-style socialism in East Germany. This thesis tracks the process of Stalinization in the GDR under Ulbricht from the early post-war period until 1955, when the GDR became a founding member of the Warsaw Pact, cementing the division of Germany. Focusing on Ulbricht’s ability to eliminate opposition among the population and within the ranks of his own party, as well as his ability to capitalize on misfortunes, this thesis argues that Ulbricht was the primary driving force behind the radical Stalinization of the GDR and the division of Germany.