Leadership of East Germany

The political leadership of East Germany was distributed between several offices. The Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) and its leader held ultimate power and authority over state and government.

Leadership of East Germany
Last General Secretary
Egon Krenz
18 October 1989 – 6 December 1989
ResidenceSchönhausen Palace
Majakowskiring
Waldsiedlung
Formation7 October 1949
First holder
Final holder
Abolished
  • 6 December 1989 /
  • 18 March 1990
    (Communist rule ended)
  • 3 October 1990
    (German reunification)

Prior to the proclamation of an East German state, the Soviets established the German Economic Commission (DWK) in 1948 as a de facto government in their occupation zone. Its chairman was Heinrich Rau.

On 7 October 1949 an East German state, called the German Democratic Republic (GDR), was proclaimed and took over governmental functions from the DWK, largely with the same leading figures.

Until autumn of 1989, the most important position in the GDR was that of the General Secretary of the (SED), titled as the First Secretary between 1953 and 1976. The GDR Constitution contained a section granting the SED a monopoly on power, making the General Secretary the de facto leader of the country. He and the party Politburo, which he headed, set all policy, with both cabinet and parliament acting as a rubber stamp implementing the decisions.

The formal head of state was originally the President of the German Democratic Republic. After the death of incumbent Wilhelm Pieck in 1960, the office was replaced by a collective body as head of state, the State Council. The position of chairman was commonly held by the party leader.

Government was headed by the Council of Ministers and its chairman, sometimes colloquially called Prime Minister. However, all the decisions were made by the party, with the cabinet implementing them. Indeed, the SED Central Committee had committees mirroring the cabinet departments.

Other important institutions included the People's Chamber, the legislature whose sessions were chaired by a President of the People's Chamber, and, since 1960, the National Defense Council, which held supreme command of the GDR's armed forces and had unlimited authority over the State in time of war. The Council was composed exclusively of members of the SED's Central Committee and Politburo, with the party leader serving as Chairman of the National Defense Council.

The political landscape was completely changed by the Peaceful Revolution late in 1989, which saw the SED having to relinquish its monopoly on political power and the National Defense Council and the State Council being abolished. The remaining institutions were the People's Chamber, whose President became head of state by default for the remainder of the GDR's existence, and the Council of Ministers, both now constituted on basis of the country's first and only democratic elections in March 1990. The GDR joined the Federal Republic of Germany on 3 October 1990

Leaders of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED)

Logo of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany
No. Portrait NameTook officeLeft officeTime in officeParty
Joint Chairmen of the Socialist Unity Party
Vorsitzende der Sozialistischen Einheitspartei Deutschlands
.
Pieck, WilhelmWilhelm Pieck
(1876–1960)
22 April 194625 July 19504 years, 94 daysSED
.
Grotewohl, OttoOtto Grotewohl
(1894–1964)
22 April 194625 July 19504 years, 94 daysSED
General Secretary of the Central Committee
(First Secretary of the Central Committee 1953–1976)
Generalsekretär/Erster Sekretär des Zentralkommitees
1
Ulbricht, WalterWalter Ulbricht
(1893–1973)
25 July 19503 May 197120 years, 282 daysSED
2
Honecker, ErichErich Honecker
(1912–1994)
3 May 197118 October 198918 years, 168 daysSED
3
Krenz, EgonEgon Krenz
(born 1937)
18 October 19896 December 198949 daysSED
(Honorary) Chairman of the Central Committee
Vorsitzender des Zentralkommitees
1
Ulbricht, WalterWalter Ulbricht
(1893–1973)
3 May 19711 August 1973 2 years, 90 daysSED

On 1 December 1989, the People's Chamber removed the section of the East German Constitution granting the SED a monopoly of power—thus ending Communist rule in East Germany. Before the month was out, the SED transformed from a Leninist cadre party into a democratic socialist party, renaming itself first to Socialist Unity Party — Party of Democratic Socialism and later in the same year, to Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS). Hence, the party's subsequent leaders were no more leaders of East Germany than the leaders of other parties.

Heads of state

No. Portrait NameTook officeLeft officeTime in officeParty
President of the Republic
Präsident der Republik
Dieckmann, JohannesJohannes Dieckmann
(1893–1969)
Acting
7 October 194911 October 19494 daysLDPD
1
Pieck, WilhelmWilhelm Pieck
(1876–1960)
11 October 19497 September 1960 10 years, 332 daysSED
Dieckmann, JohannesJohannes Dieckmann
(1893–1969)
Acting
7 September 196012 September 19605 daysLDPD
Chairman of the State Council
Vorsitzender des Staatsrats
1
Ulbricht, WalterWalter Ulbricht
(1893–1973)
12 September 19601 August 1973 12 years, 323 daysSED
Ebert Jr., FriedrichFriedrich Ebert Jr.
(1894–1979)
Acting
1 August 19733 October 197363 daysSED
2
Stoph, WilliWilli Stoph
(1914–1999)
3 October 197329 October 19763 years, 26 daysSED
3
Honecker, ErichErich Honecker
(1912–1994)
29 October 197624 October 198912 years, 360 daysSED
4
Krenz, EgonEgon Krenz
(born 1937)
24 October 19896 December 198943 daysSED
5
Gerlach, ManfredManfred Gerlach
(1928–2011)
6 December 19895 April 1990120 daysLDPD
President of the People's Chamber[lower-alpha 1]
Präsident der Volkskammer
Bergmann-Pohl, SabineSabine Bergmann-Pohl
(born 1946)
Acting
5 April 19902 October 1990180 daysCDU

Heads of government

No. Portrait NameTook officeLeft officeTime in officeParty
Minister-President
Ministerpräsident
1
Grotewohl, OttoOtto Grotewohl
(1894–1964)
12 October 194921 September 1964 14 years, 345 daysSED
Chairman of the Council of Ministers
Vorsitzender des Ministerrats
2
Stoph, WilliWilli Stoph
(1914–1999)
21 September 19643 October 19739 years, 12 daysSED
3
Sindermann, HorstHorst Sindermann
(1915–1990)
3 October 197329 October 19763 years, 26 daysSED
(2)
Stoph, WilliWilli Stoph
(1914–1999)
29 October 197613 November 198913 years, 15 daysSED
4
Modrow, HansHans Modrow
(born 1928)
13 November 198912 April 1990150 daysSED
PDS
Minister-President
Ministerpräsident
5
de Maizière, LotharLothar de Maizière
(born 1940)
12 April 19902 October 1990173 daysCDU

Heads of parliament

No. Portrait NameTook officeLeft officeTime in officeParty
President of the People's Chamber
Präsident der Volkskammer
1
Dieckmann, JohannesJohannes Dieckmann
(1893–1969)
7 October 194922 February 1969 19 years, 138 daysLDPD
2
Götting, GeraldGerald Götting
(1923–2015)
12 May 196929 October 19767 years, 170 daysCDU
3
Sindermann, HorstHorst Sindermann
(1915–1990)
29 October 197613 November 198913 years, 15 daysSED
4
Maleuda, GüntherGünther Maleuda
(1931–2012)
13 November 19895 April 1990143 daysDBD
5
Bergmann-Pohl, SabineSabine Bergmann-Pohl
(born 1946)
5 April 19902 October 1990180 daysCDU

Heads of the military

Standard of the Chairman of the National Defence Council
No. Portrait Chairman of the National Defence Council
Vorsitzender des Nationalen Verteidigungsrates
Took officeLeft officeTime in officeParty
1
Ulbricht, WalterWalter Ulbricht
(1893–1973)
10 February 19603 May 197111 years, 82 daysSED
2
Honecker, ErichErich Honecker
(1912–1994)
3 May 197118 October 198918 years, 168 daysSED
3
Krenz, EgonEgon Krenz
(born 1937)
18 October 19896 December 198949 daysSED

See also

Notes

  1. On 5 April 1990, the State Council was abolished and its responsibilities were transferred to the Presidium of the People's Chamber, with the President of the latter body serving as interim Head of state.

References

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