Beyond History Blog

Literature tip: "Walter Ulbricht. Mein Urgrossvater" by Florian Heyden (publication in German)

Heike Leiacker - 27. September 2021 - General, Genealogy, Germany, Historical Documents, History, Knowledge, Literature, Personalities

On 29 September 2021, the revised and expanded new edition of the book by our client Florian Heyden is published in German: “Walter Ulbricht. Mein Urgrossvater” (Walter Ulbricht. My great-grandfather). It was an honor to be part of the research for this book.

For more than 6 years we explored countless archives across the world. We dived deep into Russian archives, transcribed letters and files and lent Florian Heyden a strong hand to create an exciting book that gives the reader a completely new and unexpected perspective on Ulbricht.

Walter Ulbricht's great-grandson Florian Heyden was born 7 years after the passing of his famous ancestor. The family talked little about the relation. It simply was not a topic. In the end Florian Heyden decided to do the research himself - with our help. The result is fascinating, captivating and worth reading.

Walter Ulbricht is a well-known historical figure. People know him as a communist, powerful politician, somewhat of a joke, womanizer and sports fan. Negative verdicts usually dominate. But who was the person behind it all? Countless, newly discovered sources have been found and included. The book shows the human side of Walter Ulbricht and the relationships with his family, his three wives and daughters.

Private, loving, letters between him and his last wife Lotte could only be included in the new edition of the book. Florian Heyden was able to secure them for the family and the German Federal Archives in 2020. They provide completely new insights and show how quickly and deeply Lotte fell in love with Walter. He wrote from Paris to his lover in Moscow, "You really had said everything with the words 'I want to stand on my head.'”

The book also shows that for Walter Ulbricht, the political party ultimately came before himself and his family. Florian Heyden's great-grandmother was Ulbricht's first wife, Martha Schmellinsky. She wrote after their divorce in 1951:

"I recently have had to suffer the hardest thing in my life, I have let go my husband, without harming him and the party, on a friendly basis.

This only out of my party discipline and devotion to the party.

Through my self-sacrificing, correct behavior throughout the years, I have probably contributed significantly to the fact that he has remained available for the party."

Secret service files from several countries were also studied. They provided valuable insights in a different way: Into Walter Ulbricht's life, international relations and the different assessments by the secret services.

And the research is far from complete. We have just started further research together in Germany, France, Switzerland and Spain. We are excited to see what fascinating stories might still be found about Walter Ulbricht.



5 days, 5 questions, 5 books!

You are interested in reading this great book (in German) and would like to learn more about Walter Ulbricht?

Then we have good news for you: You can win one of 5 books that the author provides for this purpose during the next 5 days (advertisement). Starting on 30 September 2021, we will ask a question about Walter Ulbricht's life each of the five days.

You can send your answers to the following e-mail address: gewinnspiel(at) However, please note that we can only send out books to addresses within the European Union.

We keep our fingers crossed!

The prize draw has ended on 05 October 2021, 12:00 German time (CEST) and the winners will be notified. Please do not send us any more answers.



Here are the questions (and later answers):

30 September 2021:
When and where was Walter Ulbricht born?
Answer: Walter Ernst Paul Ulbricht was born in Leipzig on 30 June 1893. He was the son of Ernst August Ulbricht and Pauline Ida née Rothe.

01 October 2021:
What profession was Walter Ulbricht originally trained in?
Answer: He was trained as a carpenter between 1907 and 1911. The training was successfully completed.

02 October 2021:
In which political party was Walter Ulbricht a member during the Weimar Republic?
Answer: Walter Ulbricht was a member of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in which he quickly moved up.

03 October 2021:
What was the name of Walter Ulbricht's last wife (first name and maiden name)?
Answer: Walter Ulbricht's last wife was Charlotte "Lotte" née Kühn. She was first married to Erich Wendt, who was also a communist politician.

04 October 2021:
Ulbricht became notorious for saying "No one intends to build a wall!". In what year did the construction of the Berlin Wall begin?
Answer: The construction of the Berlin Wall began of course in 1961, more precisely on 13 August 1961 after Walter Ulbricht had still denied such plans at a press conference on 15 June 1961.



Terms and conditions

Please find the German version here.

The first question will be published on 30 September 2021. All correct answers we receive via gewinnspiel(at) from the publication of the respective question onwards until 12:00 p.m. German time (CEST) on the following day will be entered into the prize draw. The prize draw will end after the last question of 04 October 2021 on 05 October 2021 at 12:00 p.m. German time (CEST).

The data processing is carried out in accordance with Art. 6 para. 1 p. 1 lit. b. DSGVO. Your data will be used exclusively for the drawing and notification of the winners and subsequently for the shipment of the books. The names of the winners will not be published.

Your e-mails will only be kept for the period of the competition and its processing and will then be deleted. If you win, you will be notified by email from 06 October 2021 onwards and will then have two weeks to get back to us with your address for the shipment of the book. Otherwise, a new winner will be drawn. The address will be passed on to the agency of the author through which the shipment will be made. This is done solely for the purpose of processing the shipment. Please note that we can only send out books to addresses within the European Union.

In accordance with articles 15-21 of the European Data Protection Regulation (DSGVO), we would like to point out that you have the right to objection, information regarding, correction, restriction of processing, data portability as well as erasure of your personal data.

Legal recourse is excluded with regard to the drawing of the winners and the possible assessment of the submitted competition entries.

Beyond History, Stresemannallee 90, 22527 Hamburg, Germany (for more information, see our legal disclosure), is responsible for the competition.

Our privacy policy also applies.



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