Albert Norden

Albert Norden

Albert Norden (1963)
Born 4 December 1904
Myslowitz, Silesia, Germany
Died 30 May 1982
East Berlin, East Germany
Nationality German
Occupation Journalist
Spouse(s) Herta Fischer/Norden (1908-1990)
Parent(s) Joseph Norden (1870-1943)
Emilie Meseritz/Norden (1876-1931)

Albert Norden (4 December 1904, Myslowitz - 30 May 1982) was a German communist politician. He went into exile during Nazi rule. He returned to Germany after the war, and became an important politician in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). A writer of several works, Norden authored the 1965 Braunbuch.

Early years

Albert Norden was born in Silesia, one of the five recorded children born to a liberal rabbi called Joseph Norden[1] (1870-1943) and his wife, Emilie Meseritz/Norden (1876-1931).[2]

In 1919 he joined the Young Communist League of Germany. The following year he became a member of the Communist Party of Germany. From 1923 onwards, he held editorial positions in various communist publications. Between 1931–33 he was the editor of Rote Fahne ('Red Flag').[3][4]

In exile

In 1933 Norden emigrated to France. He also spent time in exile in Denmark and Czechoslovakia. In 1938 he returned to France. Norden was detained in France 1939-1940. In 1941, he was able to emigrate to the United States.[3][4] During World War II, his father died in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.[2][5]

In exile in Paris and New York he worked with various popular front publications. He wrote some chapters, dealing with the international linkages of the German NSDAP, in the widely read 1933 Braunbuch über Reichstagsbrand und Hitlerterror ('Brown Book on Reichstag Fire and Hitler Terror').[6] In 1940 he married Herta Fischer, and their son, Johnny, was born in October 1942.[2] In October 1946 he returned to Berlin, where he became editor of the weekly Deutschlands Stimme ('Voice of Germany').[3]

Political career in East Germany

Norden, at the 6th SED Party Congress (1963)

In 1949 he was assigned as head of the Press Section of the Information Department of Ministerial Council of the German Democratic Republic, working under Gerhart Eisler. In December 1952 he was purged from his position in the Press Department, but obtained a professorship at Humboldt University.[4][7]

In 1954 he became director of the National Council of the National Front for a Democratic Germany. He would also become director of the Committee for German Unity.[7] In 1955, he became a member of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED). He was elected as one of the secretaries of the Central Committee. In 1958 he became a member of the Politburo of the party.[4]

Norden served as head of the Agitation Committee of the Politburo, 1955–67. He was in-charge of the Information & Foreign Department of the Politburo until 1979. In 1958 he became a member of the Volkskammer (People's Chamber, the parliament of the GDR). In 1960 he became the head of the 'West Commission'.[4] In June 1965 Norden suggested that regional elections in the German Democratic Republic should be open for alternate candidates.[8]

In 1963 Norden became a member of the National Defense Council, a post he held until 1979. In 1976 he became a member of the State Council. In April 1981 the then ailing Norden was left out of the Central Committee and Politburo at the 10th SED party congress. In the same year he left the Volkskammer and State Council positions.[4][9]

Brown Book

After the war Norden argued in several publications, articles and speeches that there was a direct continuation between the Hitler and Adenauer governments. In 1965 the National Front published a work by Norden, Braunbuch ('Brown Book'), in which he accused over 1,900 politicians, state officials and other prominent persons in West Germany of having worked for the Nazi regime in the past. The book became a reference in the West German New Left, which increasingly had begun to question the official historiography on the Nazi period.[10]

Religious identity

Norden was born into a Jewish petty bourgeois family, the son of a rabbi.[1] As an adult, Norden declined to identify himself as a Jew. He was however, one of the most prominent persons of Jewish origin in East German society.[11]


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  1. 1 2 Timm, Angelika. Jewish Claims against East Germany: Moral Obligations and Pragmatic Policy. Budapest: Central European University Press, 1997. p. 61
  2. 1 2 3 Bernd-Rainer Barth, Helmut Müller-Enbergs. "Norden, Albert (Ps. Hans Behrend) * 4.12.1904, † 30.5.1982 Mitglied des Politbüros des ZK der SED". Bundesstiftung zur Aufarbeitung der SED-Diktatur: Biographische Datenbanken. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 Amos, Heike. Politik und Organisation der SED-Zentrale 1949–1963: Struktur und Arbeitsweise von Politbüro, Sekretariat, Zentralkomitee und ZK-Apparat. Diktatur und Widerstand, Bd. 4. Münster: Lit, 2003, pp. 547–48.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "NORDEN, Albert (1904–82)". Kabinettsprotocollen. Das Bundersarchiv.
  5. Zuckermann, Moshe. Zwischen Politik und Kultur — Juden in der DDR. Conferences / Institut für Deutsche Geschichte der Universität Tel Aviv, 1. Göttingen: Wallstein, 2002, p. 33.
  6. Palmier, Jean Michel. Weimar in exile: the antifascist emigration in Europe and America. London: Verso, 2006. p. 320
  7. 1 2 Herf, Jeffrey. Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997, p. 170.
  8. Staar, Richard Felix. Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe. Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1982, p. 109.
  9. "East Germany — Party Congresses". Country Data. July 1987.
  10. Herf, Jeffrey. Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997, pp. 182–5.
  11. Ó Dochartaigh, Pól. The Portrayal of Jews in GDR Prose Fiction. Amsterdamer Publikationen zur Sprache und Literatur, 126. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1997. p. 14
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