Otto Grotewohl

(b. 1894)

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(b. Braunschweig, 11 Mar. 1894; d. Berlin, 21 Sept. 1964)

German; head of government of the GDR 1949–64 Born the son of a master tailor, Grotewohl was a full-time SPD politician before 1933. In the Third Reich he worked as a small businessman, being held in custody in 1938 for seven months for illegal SPD activities.

Many regarded Grotewohl as a duped opportunist when he led the Social Democrats (SPD) in the Soviet Zone into a merger with the Communists to form the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) in April 1946. The SPD was, however, under heavy pressure from the Soviet military authorities, who arrested some Social Democrats. Many activists fled to the West where they were welcomed by Kurt Schumacher. Grotewohl remained to save what he could of the SPD legacy. His reward was election as co-chairman of the SED and, in 1949, becoming head of government (Minister-President) of the government of the new East German state. Although he remained head of government until his death in 1964 he saw his power steadily decline. The government became secondary to the SED and in that party Ulbricht was dominant.

Subjects: Politics.

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