As the Berlin Wall became a symbol of political and ideological differences, several figures became prominent in the debates and actions that it triggered. We have selected five influential figures in the story of the wall, and used Gale Digital Scholar Lab to conduct sentiment analysis on these figures, to show how a small selection of newspapers presented these figures to the public.

 

WILLY BRANDT  |  MIKHAIL GORBACHEV  |  ERICH HONECKER  |  NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV  |  WALTER ULBRICHT

The German statesman Willy Brandt became the first Socialist chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, or West Germany, in 1969.

Herbert Frahm, who later adopted the name Willy Brandt, was born in the North Sea port of Lübeck on Dec. 18, 1913, the illegitimate son of working-class parents. After a lonely and deprived childhood he found fellowship in the youth organizations of the Social Democratic party (SPD), the strongest bulwark of German democracy in the 1920s. He won a scholarship to a prestigious Lübeck gymnasium (secondary school), from which he graduated in 1932. He had joined a left-wing splinter group of the SPD strongly opposed to the rising tide of Nazi power. Thus, when Hitler came to power in 1933, he decided to change his name to Willy Brandt and flee from certain persecution. He therefore escaped the pursuit by secret police and the confinement in concentration camps which befell so many other SPD leaders.

In 1957 Brandt became lord mayor of West Berlin. He became internationally known for his resistance to Soviet and East German pressures on the isolated city, especially during the Berlin Wall crisis of 1961. The SPD had dropped the last remnants of its revolutionary Marxist heritage in 1959. It was eager to attract a less radical and larger electorate, and Brandt's suave, youthful appearance and proven courage made him a leading contender for the leadership of the party. As candidate for the chancellorship (1961, 1965, and 1969) and as leader of the SPD (after 1964), Brandt led his party to solid political gains on a social reform platform. In 1966 he led the party into a "grand coalition" with the other major party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU); he then became the foreign minister of West Germany.

In the 1969 Bundestag elections the SPD (with support from the small Free Democratic party) won a majority; Brandt, assuming the highest governmental office, became chancellor. While not abandoning West Germany's commitment to Western European economic integration, Brandt took a softer line toward Eastern European governments. In the domestic sphere he initiated broad political, educational, and economic reforms. As chancellor, Brandt ably demonstrated to both his supporters and detractors that a Socialist leader could be effective, statesmanlike, and popular.

Taken from: "Willy Brandt." Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., vol. 2, Gale, 2004, pp. 499-500.

  • What did the media think of Brandt?

    A sentiment analysis using Gale Digital Scholar Lab

    Using Gale Digital Scholar Lab, we ran an analysis of sentiment toward Brandt in some of our major newspaper archives. The analysis was run from 1960 to 1995, covering roughly five years either side of his role as leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany.

    What is Sentiment Analysis?

    Sentiment analysis determines a tally of the positive or negative words within each document of a content set. It uses the AFINN lexicon (dictionary of words and their sentiment value) to compile sentiment scores for each phrase, which are then compiled to produce a document-level sentiment value. By establishing polarity within the texts (i.e. positive/negative word association), this tool can classify the documents in your content set between positive to negative sentiment. The tool assigns sentiment values to tokens (individual words), allowing viewing of positive or negative portions of text for the documents contained in your content set.

     

    The International Herald Tribune:

    The Telegraph:

    The Times:

Mikhail Gorbachev's leadership of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) between 1985 and 1991 was indeed "six years that changed the world." Elected general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in March 1985, Gorbachev immediately signaled that a period of accelerated change would be launched, a process that he called "perestroika" (restructuring). Gorbachev represented the generation of politicians inspired by the spirit of post-Stalinist thaw in the 1950s, epitomized by the Twentieth Party Congress in February of that year at which Nikita Khrushchev delivered his "secret speech" condemning Joseph Stalin's destruction of the Communist Party and other crimes. The critical Soviet elite of the 1960s (known collectively as the shestidesyatniki, "the people of the [nineteen] sixties") sought to save Soviet-style socialism by giving it a more human face, a program implemented by Alexander Dubček in 1968 in Czechoslovakia. The attempt to create "socialism with a human face" was crushed by Soviet and allied tanks in August 1968, but now the Soviet system itself had come to the same point. On assuming the leadership Gorbachev and his colleagues agreed that the old system could not go on in the old way, mired in the "stagnation" of the Leonid Brezhnev years, and sought to implement the ideals of humanistic socialism. In the event, under Gorbachev's leadership the communist political system dissolved, the Soviet bloc of allied socialist countries in Eastern Europe fell apart, and ultimately the USSR disintegrated.

 

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Taken from: "Gorbachev, Mikhail (b. 1931)." Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction, edited by John Merriman and Jay Winter, vol. 3, Charles Scribner's Sons, 2006, pp. 1255-1259.

  • What did the media think of Gorbachev?

    A sentiment analysis using Gale Digital Scholar Lab

    Using Gale Digital Scholar Lab, we ran an analysis of sentiment toward Gorbachev in some of our major newspaper archives. The analysis was run from 1975 to 1995, covering roughly ten years either side of his role as General Secretary.

    What is Sentiment Analysis?

    Sentiment analysis determines a tally of the positive or negative words within each document of a content set. It uses the AFINN lexicon (dictionary of words and their sentiment value) to compile sentiment scores for each phrase, which are then compiled to produce a document-level sentiment value. By establishing polarity within the texts (i.e. positive/negative word association), this tool can classify the documents in your content set between positive to negative sentiment. The tool assigns sentiment values to tokens (individual words), allowing viewing of positive or negative portions of text for the documents contained in your content set.

     

    The Economist:

    International Herald Tribune:

    The Times:

Erich Honecker presided over both the flowering and the demise of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). His career was emblematic of the Communists who ruled the various states of the Soviet bloc after World War II.

Honecker was born into a politically active, working-class family in the Saar region of western Germany. His formative years transpired amid the turbulence of the Weimar Republic (1918–1933), which was marked by almost constant political and class conflict and large-scale unemployment. Honecker became active in the communist youth movement and in 1930 formally joined the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). The KPD gave young men like Honecker an identity and a purpose in life: to transform the difficult conditions around them through revolutionary activism. The party absorbed almost all their waking hours with an endless stream of meetings, rallies, demonstrations, leaflet distributions, and street fights. The promise of a prosperous and flourishing socialist future animated them, but they also came to support an authoritarian and violent form of politics. The Soviet Union was their ideal model.

In 1933 the Nazis came to power. Honecker was involved in resistance activity, and in 1935 the Gestapo caught him. He spent the rest of the Third Reich in Nazi prisons until he was freed by Soviet troops in April 1945. The KPD leaders who returned from exile in the Soviet Union in the company of the Red Army quickly tapped Honecker as a valuable party worker. He became the KPD leader Walter Ulbricht's protégé and quickly acquired a reputation as a dedicated, determined, and authoritarian activist. Already in 1945 he was assigned to lead the communist youth movement, and in 1946, when the Soviet occupation forces and their German communist allies compelled the merger of the Social Democratic Party and the KPD in the Soviet zone, Honecker was elected to the executive of the new Socialist Unity Party (SED). After the German Democratic Republic was founded in 1949, Honecker retained the leadership of the youth movement and was given a series of other special assignments. He supervised the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and in subsequent years led the campaign against dissident artists and writers.

In the 1960s Ulbricht began to stake out a more independent course from the Soviet Union. The Soviets threw their support behind Honecker, and in 1971 he became the first secretary of the Central Committee of the SED and in 1976 also the chairman of the State Council of the GDR, combining in his person the union of party and state typical of Soviet-style systems. Honecker sought to improve living standards and ease relations with the West. So long as the Soviets and the Western powers pursued détente, there was room for East and West Germany to follow similar policies. A series of agreements in the early 1970s eased Western access to the GDR and promoted trade and somewhat normal relations between the two states. The GDR won formal recognition from many countries, including the United States, and became a member of the United Nations. Domestically, Honecker announced the "unity of economic and social policies," a program that did greatly improve living standards and social services. The GDR had the highest formal labor participation rates of women anywhere in the world, and in the 1970s launched an extensive program of pre- and postnatal care, day care, and paid maternity leave for women.

In the early 1980s the GDR seemed like a successful communist society. But much of the material improvement was fueled by borrowing from Western banks. By the middle of the decade, the economy was faltering. Moreover, the state kept a rigid lock on politics. The realms of free expression were severely limited, East Germans were not free to travel, and the Ministry for State Security kept up an extensive net of informal operatives who spied on their fellow citizens.

In the 1980s Mikhail Gorbachev instituted major reforms in the Soviet Union. The reverberations came quickly to the GDR. Citizen groups formed and demanded democratization. In 1989, while thousands of East Germans gathered in demonstrations and fled to West German missions and embassies, Honecker maintained the rigid and repressive policies he had promoted for decades. Even Gorbachev made clear his discontent with the GDR leadership. Finally, a reform movement developed also within the SED and deposed Honecker in mid-October. But it was too little, too late. The GDR was swamped by a popular surge in favor of unification with West Germany and by West German political interests that also favored unification. After the absorption of East Germany in 1990, Honecker was criminally charged with complicity for murder in the shootings of East Germans who had attempted to flee to the West, but the charges were dropped because of his poor health. He went into exile to Chile, where he died in 1994. To the very end, he was a Communist formed by his experiences in Weimar and Nazi Germany, a world ever more removed from the concerns of GDR citizens of the late twentieth century.


Taken from: "Honecker, Erich (1912–1994)." Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction, edited by John Merriman and Jay Winter, vol. 3, Charles Scribner's Sons, 2006, pp. 1352-1354. 

  • What did the media think of Honecker?

    A sentiment analysis using Gale Digital Scholar Lab

    Using Gale Digital Scholar Lab, we ran an analysis of sentiment toward Honecker in some of our major newspaper archives. The analysis was run from 1969 to 1999, covering roughly ten years either side of his role as General Secretary.

    What is Sentiment Analysis?

    Sentiment analysis determines a tally of the positive or negative words within each document of a content set. It uses the AFINN lexicon (dictionary of words and their sentiment value) to compile sentiment scores for each phrase, which are then compiled to produce a document-level sentiment value. By establishing polarity within the texts (i.e. positive/negative word association), this tool can classify the documents in your content set between positive to negative sentiment. The tool assigns sentiment values to tokens (individual words), allowing viewing of positive or negative portions of text for the documents contained in your content set.

     

    The Daily Mail:

    The Telegraph:

    The Times:

Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, born into an illiterate peasant family in Kalinovka, Russia, rose through the Communist Party ranks to become the third leader of the Soviet Union. An activist from his teenage years, and a political commissar with the Bolshevik forces during the Russian Civil War, Khrushchev joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1918. After studying at Kharkov University, he undertook a series of political assignments, which gained the attention of top party leaders in the Ukraine (see Smith 1992). In 1931 Khrushchev moved to Moscow, where he served as secretary of the Bauman district party organization. He became first secretary of the Moscow party organization in 1935.

By 1938 Khrushchev had become a member of the Politburo and went on to serve as first secretary in the Ukraine, where he oversaw the Ukrainian party organization’s purges. He fought in World War II (1939–1945) and afterward became chairman of the Ukrainian Council of Ministers. Other notable positions held by Khrushchev include first secretary of the Moscow City Party Committee (1949), member of the Central Committee Secretariat responsible for supervising party affairs in the various republics, and full member of the Presidium, which well situated him for ascension to the Communist Party’s top leadership after the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953. Khrushchev almost immediately espoused a plan for reforming the economy and stimulating agricultural output. For example, the Virgin Lands program called for plowing up virgin prairie lands in the Caucasus regions, Siberia, and the Volga Basin, and planting corn to use as feed to expand beef production. The plan, a dismal failure, coupled with other failures and leadership challenges, had an impact on Khrushchev’s popularity.

In 1956 Khrushchev launched a de-Stalinization campaign as a means to shore up his popularity, but it also enhanced the rule of law in Soviet society. The de-Stalinization campaign called attention to a series of Stalinist abuses and breaches of power that included establishing a personality cult, orchestrating purges that terrorized innocent people, and violating the Leninist principle of collective leadership. Khrushchev’s campaign and reforms also yielded unintended results, as exemplified by the burst of artistic creativity, strikes, demonstrations, and political reform efforts in Eastern Europe. This aside, he also sought to reduce the Soviet Union’s isolation in the world.

Khrushchev was the first Soviet leader to advocate “peaceful coexistence” with the West, and the first Soviet leader to visit the United States. In 1959 he met with President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969) at Camp David, traveled to Iowa to learn about hybrid corn, and toured IBM and Disneyland. The path to improved relations was, however, short-circuited by the 1960 U-2 affair, the 1961 U.S.’ sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion, and the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Interestingly, Khrushchev’s public persona, as exemplified by heated exchanges with Richard Nixon (1913–1994) during the so-called kitchen debate in 1959, his shoe-banging demonstration at the United Nations in 1960, and communications with John F. Kennedy (1917–1963) during the Cuban missile crisis, most likely contributed to his downfall and banishment from Soviet politics.

 

Taken from: "Khrushchev, Nikita." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, edited by William A. Darity, Jr., 2nd ed., vol. 4, Macmillan Reference USA, 2008, pp. 264-265.

  • What did the media think of Kruschchev?

    A sentiment analysis using Gale Digital Scholar Lab

    Using Gale Digital Scholar Lab, we ran an analysis of sentiment toward Kruschchev in some of our major newspaper archives. The analysis was run from 1945 to 1975, covering roughly ten years either side of his role as Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

    What is Sentiment Analysis?

    Sentiment analysis determines a tally of the positive or negative words within each document of a content set. It uses the AFINN lexicon (dictionary of words and their sentiment value) to compile sentiment scores for each phrase, which are then compiled to produce a document-level sentiment value. By establishing polarity within the texts (i.e. positive/negative word association), this tool can classify the documents in your content set between positive to negative sentiment. The tool assigns sentiment values to tokens (individual words), allowing viewing of positive or negative portions of text for the documents contained in your content set.

     

    The Economist:

    The International Herald Tribune:

    The Times:

The East German leader Walter Ulbricht (1893-1973) succeeded in placing his country in a fairly strong economic position and weathered more political storms than most Soviet and East European Communist leaders.

Born into a poor working-class family in Leipzig on June 30, 1893, Walter Ulbricht learned carpentry and joined the Socialist party (SPD) in 1912. A solid if uninspired student, he early showed a tendency to cling to the simple Marxist ideology of the party. Like many other young Socialists, he was increasingly alienated by SPD support of the imperial German government in World War I. It was thus not surprising that Ulbricht joined a left-wing splinter group, the "League of Spartacus." After the failure of its coup against the new SPD government (which was regarded as too conservative) in January 1919, "Spartacus" broke up. Ulbricht and others formed a new left-wing party, the German Communist party (KPD). After an unsuccessful beginning as an agitator, Ulbricht found his niche as an organizer, first in "Red Saxony" and later in Berlin. He was subsequently trained in Moscow in tactics and administration.

As a member of the German Reichstag from 1928, Ulbricht helped formulate the misguided KPD tactic of attacking the Socialists, who supported the democratic Weimar Republic, instead of the real enemies of democracy, the Nazis. The revolution which the KPD expected as a result of the Nazi consolidation of power in 1933 failed to materialize, and the KPD was ruined. Ulbricht fled, moving to the Soviet Union in 1938 after serving on the Loyalist side in the Spanish Civil War.

Chosen by Stalin to return to Germany in 1945, Ulbricht organized support for the Soviet occupation. In 1946 he helped merge the old SPD and KPD in the Soviet zone into the Socialist Unity party (SED). Despite initial appeals to all "antifascist elements, " the SED drifted under the control of the old Communists. At the same time, Ulbricht's star rose in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), or the former East Germany, the successor to the Soviet Occupation Zone. Elected general secretary of the SED in 1950 and the equivalent of head of state in 1960, Ulbricht came to be the strongest East German leader.

Ulbricht gained international prominence for his increasingly forceful collectivization of the East German economy and the virtual imprisonment of his people. His high voice and his goatee figured in many caricatures. Defenders of Ulbricht pointed out that he, unlike Stalin, refrained from murdering his enemies and that East Germany had finally begun to achieve a limited prosperity under his rule. Ulbricht was, however, perhaps the most unpopular Communist leader of the century because of his inflexible policies, including the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 to prevent East Germans from fleeing the country. He resigned in May 1971 and was succeeded by Erich Honecker.



Taken from: "Walter Ulbricht." Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., vol. 15, Gale, 2004, pp. 383-384.

  • What did the media think of Ulbricht?

    A sentiment analysis using Gale Digital Scholar Lab

    Using Gale Digital Scholar Lab, we ran an analysis of sentiment toward Ulbricht in some of our major newspaper archives. The analysis was run from 1940 to 1975, covering roughly five years either side of creating the Socialist Unity Party and his resignation.

    What is Sentiment Analysis?

    Sentiment analysis determines a tally of the positive or negative words within each document of a content set. It uses the AFINN lexicon (dictionary of words and their sentiment value) to compile sentiment scores for each phrase, which are then compiled to produce a document-level sentiment value. By establishing polarity within the texts (i.e. positive/negative word association), this tool can classify the documents in your content set between positive to negative sentiment. The tool assigns sentiment values to tokens (individual words), allowing viewing of positive or negative portions of text for the documents contained in your content set.

     

    The International Herald Tribune:

    The Telegraph:

    The Times: