14. The Soviets sought to remove Walter Ulbricht as the General Secretary of the SED
On June 24, the senior Soviet ministers in East Berlin, led by Semyonov, reported their findings regarding the uprising to Moscow. The report whitewashed their own culpability over policies which preceded the strikes and placed the blame on Ulbricht. Ulbricht had long aligned himself with the policies of Josef Stalin, and with the Soviet dictator dead had few allies in Moscow. When the East German Politburo met in early July, Ulbricht found he had little support there as well. Once again, events in Moscow took precedence over those in East Germany. On June 26, Stalin’s longtime enforcer and executioner, Lavrenty Berea was arrested. The arrest took place as Nikita Khrushchev seized power in the Soviet Union. The coup elevating Khrushchev shook the Soviet power structure, and a decision to maintain the Ulbricht in East Berlin came as a result.
Encouraged by events in Moscow, Ulbricht took steps to consolidate his own power in East Germany. He managed to expel his opponents in the Politburo, and despite his growing unpopularity retained his hold on the SED. Meanwhile, the Soviet crackdown on access to East Berlin led to ever more evident shortages of food and medicines in the city. By early July food shortages reached a crisis level. Intelligence sources relayed the food crisis to their agencies in the United States and Great Britain. John Foster Dulles, US Secretary of State, devised a relief program to aid the city which had only weeks before arisen in protest against their government and the Soviets. On July 10, President Eisenhower announced the program, scheduled to begin on July 27. The United States pledged $15 million of food, to be sent to West Berlin for distribution to the East.