Wilhelm Pieck


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Pieck, Wilhelm

 

Born Jan. 3, 1876, in Guben; died Sept. 7, 1960, in Berlin. Prominent figure in the German and international workers’ movements and in the party and state organizations of the German Democratic Republic.

The son of a worker, Pieck was a carpenter by trade. He joined the woodworkers’ union in 1894 and the Social Democratic Party of Germany in 1895. From 1899 to 1906 he was chairman of a district organization of the party, and from 1906 to 1910 he was secretary of the party’s city organization in Bremen. In April 1910 he was elected second secretary of the party’s Central Educational Committee and secretary of the Central Party School in Berlin. Pieck was an adherent of the party’s left wing, which was led by K. Liebknecht, R. Luxemburg, F. Mehring, and K. Zetkin, with all of whom he was closely associated. In the summer of 1913 he condemned the approval of military expenditures by the Social Democratic faction in the Reichstag. After the beginning of World War I, he joined the struggle against the annexationist policies of German imperialism and against the policy of Burgfrieden, or civil truce, of the party’s right-wing leaders. Pieck was arrested several times. Along with Liebknecht and Luxemburg, he made a substantial contribution to the cause of uniting the left-wing Social Democrats. After the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia, he called on the German working class to make use of the revolution’s experience. In November 1918 he entered the central leadership of the Spartacus League. He took an active part in preparing and carrying out the November Revolution of 1918 in Germany.

Pieck was one of the founders of the Communist Party of Germany (CPG). At the party’s Constituent Congress, which was held from Dec. 30, 1918, to Jan. 1, 1919, he was elected a member of the Central Committee of the CPG; he remained a member right up to the formation of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany. He belonged to the party’s Marxist-Leninist nucleus, which, led by E. Thälmann, waged a consistent struggle against H. Brandler’s right-opportunist group and later against the “ultra-leftists.” Pieck made an important contribution to the transformation of the CPG into a mass party. From 1921 he was repeatedly elected to the Prussian landtag. From 1928 he was elected to the Reichstag, and from 1929, to the Berlin municipal council and the Prussian state council. He utilized the parliamentary rostrum of the bourgeois state to carry on propaganda for the political program of the CPG. At the Sixth Congress of the Comintern in 1928, he was elected to the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI). In 1931 he became a member of the Presidium and the Secretariat of the ECCI.

After the establishment of the fascist dictatorship in Germany in 1933, Pieck worked for the creation of a united front against fascism. In accordance with a decision of the Central Committee of the CPG, he left Germany in May 1933. Together with F. Dahlem and W. Florin, he formed in Paris the leadership abroad of the CPG. At the Seventh Congress of the Comintern in 1935, he presented the report of the ECCI. He fought for the implementation of the Popular Front policy and for the development of a broad antifascist movement. At the Brussels Conference of the CPG in 1935, Pieck was elected chairman of the party’s Central Committee. At that conference, he showed the need for the creation of a united workers’ front and a popular antifascist front in Germany. In a report at the Bern Conference of the CPG, which was held from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1, 1939, he called on all patriotic forces to unite to save the German people from the danger of war, and he spoke in support of the program for a new, democratic republic in Germany.

During World War II, Pieck denounced German imperialism’s claims to world domination and called on the German people to overthrow the fascist dictatorship and take their fate into their own hands. As one of the leaders of the national committee Free Germany, which was established in the USSR in 1943, he carried on much explanatory work among German prisoners of war in the USSR, particularly among senior officers and generals.

After the liberation of the German people from fascism, Pieck took an active part in the work to democratize and denazify Germany and to eliminate the consequences of fascist rule. He played an important role in ending the schism in the workers’ movement, in unifying the CPG and the Social Democratic Party in the eastern part of Germany, and in the creation of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany in April 1946. From 1946 to 1954, Pieck and O. Grotewohl were cochairmen of the new party. Between 1949 and 1960 he was a member of the Politburo of the Central Board and later of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the party. He was president of the German Democratic Republic from its formation in October 1949. He was a tireless fighter against war, for peace and security among nations, for the construction of socialism in the German Democratic Republic, and for the strengthening of friendship and cooperation between the Socialist Unity Party of Germany and the CPSU and between the peoples of the German Democratic Republic and the USSR.

Pieck was granted the title of Hero of Labor in 1951. He was awarded the Order of Karl Marx, the gold order For Services to the Fatherland, the Banner of Labor, and other orders.

WORKS

Gesammelte Reden und Schriften. vols. 1-3, 5. Berlin, 1959-72.
Reden und Aufsätze: Auswahl aus den Jahren 1908-1950, vols. 1-4. Berlin, 1950-55.
Der neue Weg zum gemeinsamen Kampf für den Sturz der Hitlerdiktatur. Berlin, 1957.
Im Kampf um die Arbeitereinheit und die deutsche Volksfront, 1936-1938. Berlin, 1955.
Zur Geschichte der Kommunistischen Partei Deutschlands: 30 Jahre Kampf. Berlin, 1949.
In Russian translation:
Izbr. proizv. Moscow, 1956.

REFERENCES

Pieck, W. Bilder und Dokumente aus dem Leben des ersten deutschen Arbeiterpräsidenten. Berlin, 1955.
Pieck, W. Gedenkbuch. Berlin, 1961.
Vosske, H. Wilhelm Pieck. Leipzig, 1974.
Hufeld, D. W. Pieck: Bibliographie. [Rostock, 1960.]

V. I. TSAPANOV

References in periodicals archive ?
The party's oppressive leaders, Walter Ulbricht, Wilhelm Pieck, and Otto Grotewohl, all had their offices there.
Su distanciamiento ideologico con los socialismos reales y su renuncia al Partido Comunista no le impidieron volver a la RDA, pais en el que profundizo sus estudios de marxismo en la Escuela Juvenil Superior Wilhelm Pieck, conocida como El Monasterio Rojo.
(126) Preparations for the 85th birthday of Wilhelm Pieck promoted his personality cult as the "father of the German nation." (127) To preserve the imperial hierarchy and the personified motif of German-Soviet friendship, the return to "Leninist norms" was hailed.
This is where the office of the former State President of the GDR, Wilhelm Pieck, is being restored to its original condition.
To arrive at his conclusions, Dirk Spilker examines the records of the Central Party Archives, especially the minutes of the Parteivorstand and Central Committee, in addition to the "private papers" of Wilhelm Pieck, Walter Ulbricht, Otto Grotewohl, and Franz Dahlem.
Notable too in this context is Brecht's ability to manipulate the cultural institutions of the East German State, in particular the Deutsche Akademie der Kunste, as well as the surprising degree of sensitivity to bad publicity in the West on the part of elements in the Socialist Unity Party, including President Wilhelm Pieck.
For example, Leo Zuckermann, the former state secretary and chief of staff of East German President Wilhelm Pieck, fled to West Berlin fearing arrest.
Drawing on the numerous collections of documents and archives which have appeared since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the unification of Germany, especially the edition of Wilhelm Pieck's Aufzeichnungen zur Deutschlandpolitik 1945-1953 by Rolf Badstubner and Wilfried Loth (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1994), he demonstrates convincingly that the conventional notion of 'Stalinism' and the monolithic conception of Stalin as an all-powerful dictator are unreliable abbreviations of much more complex processes.
In a telegram to the Communist Party of Israel, Wilhelm Pieck, East Germany's president, accepted Germany's collective guilt toward the Jewish people immediately after his election, and contrary to future statements and positions (p.
It is very skilfully shown how the combination of Stalinist ideology and the specific experience of the KPD went to make up a particularly noxious brew, but then we are told that the party members' "emancipatory convictions connected them to the long trajectory of German humanism that stretched back to the eighteenth century." In much the same tone, reminiscent of Wilhelm Pieck's musings on "J.S.
In his own book and an accompanying documentary anthology, Loth draws heavily on the contemporaneous notes of Wilhelm Pieck, a veteran German Communist and former Comintern functionary.