Ochab was the son of a police officer. At the age of 12 years he has worked with the school in a print shop. Later he studied as a student of Economics, graduated in 1927 at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. 1928 Ochab was drafted for military service, should be an officer. Because " subversive, pro-Communist activities", he was expelled from military school.
1929 Ochab joined the illegal Communist Party of Poland at the time, was arrested several times in the following years. Probably because he was in prison in 1938, he survived the purge and resolution of the party by Stalin. Between 1939 and 1944 he lived in the Soviet Union in 1941 and joined as a volunteer in the Red Army. He was one of the co-organizers of the Związek Patriotów Polskich ( ZPP; , Confederation of Polish Patriots ') and the Berling Army.
From 1945 to 1946 Ochab belonged to the Central Committee of the PPR, 1950-1956 and 1959-1964 of the Polish United Workers Party. Initially worked as Minister of Public Administration, he was sent to 1946-1948 as First Party Secretary to Katowice, where he established inter alia the cooperative system. In the meantime appointed to the General, he was from 1949 to 1950 Deputy Secretary of Defense and Chief of the Political Department of the Polish Army.
After the sudden death of Bolesław Bierut in Moscow the Politburo elected him in March 1956 as a compromise candidate for the new party leader. In this role, he prevented the invasion of the Red Army into the country after the Hungarian model (→ Hungarian national uprising ). After the riots in Poznań, he handed in October 1956 the party chairmanship to Wladyslaw Gomulka, for whose rehabilitation he strongly made before. In the following period was Ochab Minister of Agriculture (1957-1959), Deputy Chairman of the State Council (1961-1964) and State Council Chairman ( 1964-1968 ). Due to the anti-Semitic policy of the year 1968, after the student riots in March of this year, Ochab withdrew from the leadership, because he could not agree with the communist internationalism this policy.
Ochab died on 1 May 1989 at the age of 82 in Warsaw. The political upheaval in Poland (→ Round Table (Poland ) ), he had just witnessed.