Beyond History Blog

Florian Heyden - Walter Ulbricht. Mein Urgroßvater.

Heike Leiacker - 20. August 2020 - Archives, Societies, Museums, Family, General, Germany, Historical Documents, History, Knowledge, Literature, Personalities

Our job is very exciting and full of interesting stories: Long kept family secrets are uncovered, unknown family members found and many questions answered. A very special case was from the beginning the one of Florian Heyden. We have spent many years to search various archives worldwide for him in order to find new information on his famous great-grandfather - none other than GDR politician Walter Ulbricht. Today, a book written by Florian Heyden is published: „Walter Ulbricht. Mein Urgroßvater“ (Walter Ulbricht. My great-grandfather).

Walter Ulbricht was married to Florian Heyden’s great-grandmother Martha Schmellinsky in first marriage and his great-grandson was born 7 years after his death. The relation was never discussed in the family - the famous great-grandfather was not talked about at all. So, Florian Heyden did some research himself - with our help.

During 6 years of research we have searched various archives in Germany, France, Switzerland, the US, England and Russia on behalf of Florian Heyden. And we did find a lot! The declared aim was not only to gather dates and facts, but rather to get to know the person behind the public man. Most people do associate Walter Ulbricht with the installation of socialism in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) and with the construction of the wall. He was a communist, powerful politician, joke figure, ladies’ man and sports fan. But what does this say about the person? Who was Walter Ulbricht really?

On our search we have made many interesting discoveries, but we do not want to anticipate the book (that unfortunately is published only in German). Our research has at least for us opened up new perspectives on his role within the German-Russian history.

We do not want to deprive you of one of our more curious research highlights: Who would have thought that the Federal Archives in Berlin do hold among other things an old library card from Leipzig of the politician? Interesting, what can be preserved in individual cases while otherwise, usually due to lack of space, gems for genealogical research are irretrievably lost.


Note: A revised and expanded new edition of the book was published on 29 September 2021 following a legal dispute with the original publisher. It contains information from exciting new sources.

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