Leadership of East Germany

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Leadership of East Germany
Coat of arms of East Germany.svg
Formation 7 October 1949
First holder
Final holder
Abolished
  • 6 December 1989/
  • 18 March 1990
    (Communist rule ended)
  • 3 October 1990
    (German reunification)

The political leadership of East Germany was in the hands of several offices.

Prior the proclamation of an East German state, the Soviets established in 1948 the German Economic Commission (DWK) 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 the governmental functions over from the DWK. (Largely with the same function owners.)

For most of its existence (until autumn of 1989), the most important position in the GDR was that of the General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party (SED). The Communist party and its leader held ultimate power and authority over state and government.

The formal head of state originally was the President of the German Democratic Republic. After the death of incumbent Wilhelm Pieck in 1960, the office was replaced by a collective 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.

Other important institutions included the People's Chamber, 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 Socialist Unity Party of Germany 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 by default became head of state for the remainder of the GDR's existence, and the Council of Ministers, both now based on the country's first and 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)[edit]

Logo of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany
Picture Name
(Born–Died)
Took office Left office Political Party
Joint Chairmen of the Socialist Unity Party
Vorsitzende der Sozialistischen Einheitspartei Deutschlands
Fotothek df roe-neg 0002793 004 Portrait Wilhelm Piecks im Publikum der Bachfeier.jpg Wilhelm Pieck
(1876–1960)
22 April 1946 25 July 1950 SED
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-19204-3150, Otto Grotewohl.jpg Otto Grotewohl
(1894–1964)
General Secretary of the Central Committee
(titled as First Secretary of the Central Committee 1953-1976)
Generalsekretär/Erster Sekretär des Zentralkommitees
1 Fotothek df pk 0000079 077.jpg Walter Ulbricht
(1893–1973)
25 July 1950 3 May 1971 SED
2 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R0518-182, Erich Honecker.jpg Erich Honecker
(1912–1994)
3 May 1971 18 October 1989 SED
3 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1984-0622-026, Egon Krenz.jpg Egon Krenz
(born 1937)
18 October 1989 3 December 1989 SED
(Honorary) Chairmen of the Central Committee
Vorsitzender des Zentralkommitees
Fotothek df pk 0000079 077.jpg Walter Ulbricht
(1893–1973)
3 May 1971 1 August 1973 SED

On December 1, 1989, the People's Chamber deleted 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[edit]

Picture Name
(Born–Died)
Took office Left office Political Party
President
Staatspräsident
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-F0711-0037-001, Johannes Dieckmann.jpg Johannes Dieckmann
(1893–1969)
Acting President
7 October 1949 11 October 1949 LDPD
1 Fotothek df roe-neg 0002793 004 Portrait Wilhelm Piecks im Publikum der Bachfeier.jpg Wilhelm Pieck
(1876–1960)
11 October 1949 7 September 1960 SED
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-F0711-0037-001, Johannes Dieckmann.jpg Johannes Dieckmann
(1893–1969)
Acting President
7 September 1960 12 September 1960 LDPD
Chairman of the State Council
Vorsitzender des Staatsrats
1 Fotothek df pk 0000079 077.jpg Walter Ulbricht
(1893–1973)
12 September 1960 1 August 1973 SED
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-83285-0029, Friedrich Ebert.jpg Friedrich Ebert, Jr.
(1894–1979)
Acting Chairman
1 August 1973 3 October 1973 SED
2 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1987-0306-112, Willi Stoph.jpg Willi Stoph
(1914–1999)
3 October 1973 29 October 1976 SED
3 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R0518-182, Erich Honecker.jpg Erich Honecker
(1912–1994)
29 October 1976 18 October 1989 SED
4 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1984-0622-026, Egon Krenz.jpg Egon Krenz
(born 1937)
18 October 1989 6 December 1989 SED
5 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-83285-0015, Manfred Gerlach.jpg Manfred Gerlach
(1928–2011)
6 December 1989 5 April 1990 LDPD
President of the People's Chamber of the GDR
Präsident der Volkskammer
1 Sabine Bergmann-Pohl.jpg Sabine Bergmann-Pohl
(born 1946)
5 April 1990 2 October 1990 CDU

Heads of government[edit]

Picture Name
(Born–Died)
Took office Left office Political Party
Chairman of the Council of Ministers
Vorsitzender des Ministerrats
1 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-19204-3150, Otto Grotewohl.jpg Otto Grotewohl
(1894–1964)
12 October 1949 21 September 1964 SED
2 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R0430-0305A, Willi Stoph.jpg Willi Stoph
(1914–1999)
21 September 1964 3 October 1973 SED
3 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-M1030-0315, Horst Sindermann.jpg Horst Sindermann
(1915–1990)
3 October 1973 29 October 1976 SED
4 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R0430-0305A, Willi Stoph.jpg Willi Stoph
(1914–1999)
29 October 1976 13 November 1989 SED
5 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1989-1117-019, Hans Modrow.jpg Hans Modrow
(born 1928)
13 November 1989 12 April 1990 SED / PDS
6 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1990-0318-046, Berlin, Volkskammerwahl, Lothar de Maizière.jpg Lothar de Maizière
(born 1940)
12 April 1990 2 October 1990 CDU

Heads of parliament[edit]

Picture Name
(Born–Died)
Took office Left office Political Party
President of the People's Chamber
Präsident der Volkskammer
1 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-F0711-0037-001, Johannes Dieckmann.jpg Johannes Dieckmann
(1893–1969)
7 October 1949 22 February 1969 LDPD
2 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1986-0617-033, Gerald Götting.jpg Gerald Götting
(born 1923)
12 May 1969 29 October 1976 CDU
3 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-M1030-0315, Horst Sindermann.jpg Horst Sindermann
(1915–1990)
29 October 1976 13 November 1989 SED
4 Maleuda.jpg Günther Maleuda
(1931–2012)
13 November 1989 5 April 1990 DBD
5 Sabine Bergmann-Pohl.jpg Sabine Bergmann-Pohl
(born 1946)
5 April 1990 2 October 1990 CDU

Heads of the military[edit]

Coat of arms of the National People's Army
Picture Name
(Born–Died)
Took office Left office Political Party
Chairman of the National Defense Council
Vorsitzender des Nationalen Verteidigungsrates
1 Fotothek df pk 0000079 077.jpg Walter Ulbricht
(1893–1973)
10 February 1960 3 May 1971 SED
2 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R0518-182, Erich Honecker.jpg Erich Honecker
(1912–1994)
3 May 1971 18 October 1989 SED
3 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1984-0622-026, Egon Krenz.jpg Egon Krenz
(born 1937)
18 October 1989 6 December 1989 SED

See also[edit]

External links[edit]