Walter Ernst Paul Ulbricht (30 June 1893 – 1 August 1973) was a German Communist politician. Ulbricht played a leading role in the creation of the Weimar-era Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and later (after spending the years of Nazi rule in exile in France and the Soviet Union) in the early development and establishment of East Germany (the German Democratic Republic). As the First Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party 1950 to 1971, he was the chief decision maker in East Germany. From President Wilhelm Pieck's death in 1960, he was also the East German head of state until his own death in 1973. He followed Stalin's guidelines very closely, and made sure that everyone else in East Germany did so as well. Historian Michael Beschloss says of Ulbricht: "an alumnus of Stalin's wartime Free Germany Committee, the rigid Ulbricht clearly felt that his best path to power was by turning the zone into a highly militarized Soviet client state."