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Wilhelm Pieck, "To the Returnees" (1946)

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The German people have become a poor people, a people of beggars. In this war, Hitler gambled away a part of our country in the East, and there is a great danger that we will also lose the Ruhr and the Saar regions, that Germany will be divided into various states and its unity thereby destroyed.

It is a horrifying legacy that Hitler has left us. But we must not despair, we must work hard to get ourselves out of this misery and build a new Germany. For this, we are counting on the help of the Allied powers, who, in their decrees, have promised not to destroy Germany, but to help our people to rebuild its homeland and economy, and to also give it [our people] the possibility of being readmitted into the community of nations.

But to this end, we have to accomplish very serious tasks, the foremost being that we ourselves create guarantees that a war can never again be instigated by the German side. Not only must the war criminals and those responsible for the war be punished for their crimes, but the corporate potentates and large landowners must be completely stripped of their power as well. A start was made in the Soviet occupation zone through the land reform and the expropriation of the war criminals and active Nazi leaders. Beyond that, all Nazi leaders responsible for the great crimes against our people must be punished most severely and neutralized.

A word about those members of the liquidated Nazi party who became members of the party under coercion, or out of calculation, without participating in its crimes: the so-called nominal party comrades. The SED has advocated that no special measures be taken against these people, and that instead they be given the possibility of participating in our work of democratic rebuilding. But we tell them in no uncertain terms that they must prove through their work that they have made a serious break with Nazism.

Our most important task is to relieve the misery of our people and, above all, to get our economy moving again. But unlike in past times, this is no longer the task of the big capitalists; instead, it must be done with the full responsibility of the workers, the unions, and the works’ councils. They must be assured of the decisive influence in this process. A large number of enterprises will be destroyed as former war enterprises or dismantled for reparations purposes. All the greater is our interest in developing our industry as a peace industry, and in using its production to satisfy the needs of our people.

First and foremost here is the concern for feeding our people, then rebuilding housing, procuring heating fuel, clothes, and shoes. That is especially urgent in order to ensure that our people are somewhat protected in the winter. But here, precisely, it is imperative that all men and women and youth participate in this great work of reconstruction and within the framework of the great national solidarity.

We appeal to all those who are of good will. We turn to the urban population and farmers, to begin and accomplish this great work united in solidarity.

We turn especially to the women, because now, more than before, they are the majority of our nation and will participate in its working life. They must have much greater influence than before on the economic and political shape of the new Germany.

Young people, too, have a great responsibility for this work. We must develop all educational opportunities for youth and attend to their training and the better shaping of their future.

These are the great tasks that confront our nation today, and I appeal to you once more to participate, upon your return to the homeland, in their realization with full self-confidence and all your energy. Look around at home and join in life and work for a new, democratic, and peaceful Germany. I wish all of you a happy reunion with your families.

Source: BA – SAPMO, DY, NY 4036, 428, 20-24.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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