Kurt Wismach

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Kurt Wismach was an East German laborer at the Oberspree Cable Works. He is famous for heckling East German leader Walter Ulbricht during a speech Ulbricht gave to the firm on August 10, 1961. Speaking three days before the Berlin border closure, Ulbricht extolled the purported virtues of East German socialism and denounced the growing numbers of refugees fleeing to West Germany.

Seated above Ulbricht on a roll of cables, Wismach applauded sarcastically after each of Ulbricht’s main points and yelled: "Even if I am the only one to say it: Free elections!"[1] He then added to Ulbricht’s embarrassment by shouting: "Have you the slightest idea what the people really think?"

Infuriated, Ulbricht responded by denouncing Wismach as an imperialist and a fascist. Most of the other workers present remained quiet, ensuring that Wismach’s sentiments, though perhaps shared by many in the crowd (and East Germany) would remain muted.

East German party officials interrogated Wismach the next day and tried to smear him as a West German spy. They then forced him to write a statement retracting his comments, cut his pay, and demoted him.

Wismach and his wife and child subsequently escaped as refugees right before the Berlin Wall went up.[2]


  1. ^ "10 August 1961". www.chronik-der-mauer.de. Retrieved 18 February 2013. 
  2. ^ Kempe, Frederick (2011). Berlin 1961. Penguin Group (USA). pp. 321–322. ISBN 0-399-15729-8.