Pieck, Wilhelm

(1876-1960)
   politician; a leading KPD functionary in the Weimar era and first President of the German Democratic Republic. Born to a working-class family in Guben, he apprenticed as a cabinetmaker and then joined the SPD. Living from 1910 in Berlin,* he forfeited a Party position in 1915 when his radicalism led him to the Gruppe Internationale, the socialist opposition. Inducted in 1916, he deserted to Amsterdam in January 1918 and returned to Germany just before the November Revolution.* With Karl Lieb-knecht,* he helped found the Spartacus League* on 11 November 1918 and entered its Zentrale. A founder of the KPD, and in turn elected to its Zentrale, he was arrested on 15 January 1919—upon the failure of the Spartacist Upris-ing*—with Rosa Luxemburg* and Liebknecht. According to Waldemar Pabst,* Pieck was about to be shot when he requested a hearing. While he was subse-quently released, his cohorts were murdered. By his testimony, he gained his freedom by convincing Pabst that he was someone else. Some suspect that he gave evidence against his colleagues.
   Within the KPD Pieck hovered between the moderates and the leftists, always giving unwavering loyalty to Moscow. Political leader of Berlin-Brandenburg, he held a seat in the Prussian Landtag during 1921-1928 and in the Reichstag* in 1928-1933 and entered Prussia's* Staatsrat in 1930. A Comintern member from 1928, he joined its Presidium in 1931. During 1929-1933 he led Ger-many's branch of Internationale Rote Hilfe (a Communist assistance society). While he feared the Nazis, Pieck remained loyal to Party leader Ernst Thäl-mann* and took care not to embrace Heinz Neumann's* scheme of opposing the NSDAP in combination with the SPD.
   In May 1933 Pieck fled to France. He was elected chairman of the KPD and from June 1941 assisted the Soviets by broadcasting propaganda to the invading German troops. Stalin sent him to Berlin in June 1945, where, with Otto Grote-wohl, he founded the Socialist Unity Party. He was East Germany's President during 1949-1960.
   REFERENCES:Angress, Stillborn Revolution; Stachura, Political Leaders; Waldman, Spartacist Uprising; Hermann Weber, Kommunismus.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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