The 20th Communist Party Conference

// awarded the "Bayerischer Fernsehpreis" 2006

Author & Director:
Daniel Ast | Juergen Ast

Commissioning Editors:
Dagmar Mielke | Rolf Bergmann

45' | 52'

astfilm productions | ARTE | RBB // ARD | ARTE

Moscow, February 25th 1956. At the end of the 20th Communist Party Conference Nikita Khrushchev, the new party leader, gives a five hours lasting "secret speech". He talks about his predecessor Josef Stalin, speaks out the unspeakable and accuses the "godlike" of being a criminal, a mad man, a mass-murderer. The icon Stalin is taken apart by Khrushchev. The listeners are in a state of shock. Within a few hours a world falls apart. Khrushchev triggers an earthquake that pushes the tyrant from his pedestal.

Shortly after the New York Times publish the secret speech. With the help of a polish journalist, Israel's Secret Service gets hold of the high-explosive paper and then transfers it to the CIA. They are sure, by publishing the papers the East Bloc will collapse within the next 10 years. Meanwhile millions of Communist Party-Members all over the World are informed by Moscow. Khrushchev believes that the "destalinization" will permit a new kind of socialism. But the "thaw" seems to turn into a highly dangerous "flood".

In the satellite states of Moscow tensions are constantly rising. On June 28th 1956 one hundred thousand workers take to the streets in Poznan in Poland. At the beginning they demand only "Bread!" and shortly after "Away with the Russians!". The polish government's reaction is fierce, the revolt ends in a bloodbath. Five months later a new President is coming to power in Poland, Vladislav Gomulka. When at the end of October 1956 the people in Hungary start their revolution, Moscow reacts brutally by invading the country with tanks and destroying all hopes. It turns out the "Reformer" Khrushchev is following Stalin's doctrines of protecting the Soviet Empire.

The film reconstructs in detail the highly dramatic events that took place. How was the decision taken to settle the score with Stalin? What were Khrushchev's motives? How did the secret speech get into the general public? And what were the consequences? Witnesses from around the world, former politicians, people from the Intelligence Communities, Gulag prisoners, ... they all remember and talk about the time of broken hopes. The dramatic events of the year 1956, that changed their life and the life of millions.