Wolfgang Leonhard

Wolfgang Leonhard (* April 16, 1921 in Vienna as Vladimir Leonhard ) is a German historian. He is a leading expert on the Soviet Union and communism. Leonard was a member of the group Ulbricht and was known for his bestseller The Revolution dismisses their children. Since 1968 he is a member of the PEN center of Germany.


Childhood and Youth in Germany and Sweden

Wolfgang Leonhard is the son of the journalist Susanne Leonhard, a close friend of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxembourg. Susanne Leonhard's first husband, the playwright Rudolf Leonhard, officially recognized paternity. At the time of birth of the son, however, the couple lived apart Leonhard; Susanne Leonhard was married at this time with Mieczyslaw Bronski, the Soviet ambassador in Vienna and close associate of Lenin, according to Soviet law.

In 1931, mother and son moved to a brief episode in the Berlin- Reinickendorf in the left Berlin Artist Colony at Breitenbachplatz. Wolfgang Leonhard attended from 1930 to 1931, the secondary school Reinickendorf and then the Karl -Marx -Gymnasium in Berlin- Neukölln. In 1931, Leonard joined the children's organization of the KPD, the " Young Pioneers " on. Because of the increasingly discerning security situation in Berlin visited Leonhard 1932 for one year, the educational reform school camp in Mr. Lingen and was brought to the seizure of power by the Nazis in the fall of 1933 after Viggbyholm in Stockholm in a boarding school in safety. His mother remained until the early summer of 1935 in Germany illegally.

Youth and adult years in the Soviet Union

Wolfgang Leonhard's mother visited her son in the spring of 1935 in Sweden and returned after two warning messages not go back to Germany. Sweden denied her asylum. She emigrated with her son, Wolfgang, who had Soviet citizenship, in June 1935, Leningrad to Moscow. Susanne Leonhard was arrested in 1936 during a Stalinist purge and deported for twelve years in a gulag in Vorkuta. Leonhard spent this time in the "Children 's Home No. 6" ( an orphanage for the children of German and Austrian Communists ) and attended until 1937, the German -language " Karl Liebknecht School " in Moscow. After the Stalinist " purges " the Karl -Liebknecht- school had to close for lack of teachers. Leonhard joined the school 93 ( a Russian school ) in Moscow. At 19, Leonard began in 1940 to study at the " Moscow State Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages ​​." End of September 1941 ( after the German attack ) Leonhard was forcibly relocated as a German in the north of Kazakhstan. There he attended a Teacher Training Institute in Karaganda 1941-1942. From the summer of 1942 Leonhard was transferred to the School of the Comintern in Kushnarenkovo ​​( Bashkir ASSR ) and got there, under the code name " Wolfgang Linden ," training as a Communist political commissar. On June 10, 1943, Stalin dissolved the Communist International, after which the school was closed.

From 1943 to Leonhard was speaker at the station " Free Germany" by the National Committee for a Free Germany.

During his time in the Soviet Union Leonhard were persistent doubts Stalinism. At the Comintern school Leonhard experienced the first criticism and self-criticism.

"What would be but if, when pressed upon me more critical views, which I kept with me, and wisely kept silent? Today I believe that at that time began a journey that has seven years later, after severe internal struggles meant that I fled with Stalinism broke and out of the Soviet zone of Germany. "

Return to Germany in 1945

Wolfgang Leonhard returned on 30 April 1945 as a 24 -year-old young functionary with Walter Ulbricht in the so called Ulbricht group returned to Berlin, where he was in Berlin devoted to the structure of local government. From July 1945 to September 1947 he worked in the Agitation and Propaganda Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party ( from 1946 the Central Committee of the SED ). From 1947 to 1949 Wolfgang Leonhard taught at the SED Party School Karl Marx - Faculty of History - in the Hakeburg in Kleinmachnow. 1949 Leonhard broke but with Stalinism and fled via Prague to Yugoslavia, where he worked at Radio Belgrade.

In 1950 he moved to the Federal Republic of Germany, where he besides Josef schappe and the Bavarian Communist Party dissenters Georg Fischer of the founders of the Independent Labour Party of Germany, an anti-Stalinist - Aligned Movement, the Socialist Party, was one. The group was financially supported by the Yugoslav Communist Party until end of 1952 and was defamed by the KPD as a " Titoist schappe - Leonhard- clique ".

In the Federal Republic, he then worked as Eastern Europe expert commentator on issues of the Soviet Union and international communism, and was occasionally referred to as " Kremlastrologe ". 1955 Leonhard published his most famous book The Revolution dismisses their children, in which he describes his political way from Moscow in 1935 until his escape from the Soviet occupation zone in 1949. In my history of the GDR Leonhard describes himself as the first Prague embassy refugee of the GDR, since his escape from the SBZ to Yugoslavia led on the Prague embassy.

Teaching and research activities

From 1956 to 1958 graduated Leonhard Postgraduate Studies at St Antony's College, University of Oxford. 1963 to 1964 he held a research as a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Russia Research at Columbia University, New York, from. In the years 1966 to 1987, he taught each summer semester at the Faculty of History at Yale University with the focus topics " history of the USSR " and " history of the world communist movement."

Since July 1987, he regularly visited the Soviet Union, then Russia and some other CIS countries. Since 1993, he was seven times as OSCE election observers at the elections in Russia, Belarus and most recently in Ukraine. He was a visiting professor at the Universities of Michigan, Mainz, Trier, Kiel, Chemnitz and Erfurt. Today he works as Eastern Europe expert, journalist and lecturer and lives in Manderscheid (Eifel ).


Leonhard is married to his second wife Elke Leonhard since 1974. He has a son from his first marriage with Italian Yvonne Sgarella di Fini.


  • Phi Beta Kappa from Yale University ( 1982),
  • Federal Cross of Merit, First Class (1987)
  • Honorary doctorate from the Technical University of Chemnitz ( 1998),
  • Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art, 1st Class (2002)
  • European Science Culture Award (2004)

Works (selection)

  • The revolution dismisses their children. Kiepenheuer & Petrovich, Cologne 1955, ISBN 3-462-01463-3 .. Reprint: Anaconda Verlag, Cologne 2010, ISBN 978-3-86647-460-4.