Gregor Gysi

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Gregor Gysi
2018-06-09 Bundesparteitag Die Linke 2018 in Leipzig by Sandro Halank–120.jpg
President of the Party of the European Left
Assumed office
17 December 2016
Preceded byPierre Laurent
Leader of The Left in the
In office
18 October 2005 – 12 October 2015
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded bySahra Wagenknecht
Dietmar Bartsch
Deputy Governing Mayor of Berlin
In office
17 January 2002 – 29 August 2002
MayorKlaus Wowereit
Preceded byKlaus Böger
Succeeded byHarald Wolf
Senator for Labour, Economics and Women of Berlin
MayorKlaus Wowereit
Preceded byJuliane von Friesen
Succeeded byHarald Wolf
Leader of the Party of Democratic Socialism in the Bundestag
In office
3 October 1990 – 2 October 2000
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byLothar Bisky
Leader of the Party of Democratic Socialism
In office
18 December 1989 – 31 January 1993
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byLothar Bisky
Leader of Socialist Unity Party of Germany
In office
9 December 1989 – 17 December 1989
Preceded byEgon Krenz
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Member of the Bundestag
for Berlin Treptow – Köpenick
Assumed office
18 September 2005
Preceded bySiegfried Scheffler
Member of the Berlin House of Representatives
In office
21 October 2001 – 18 September 2005
Member of the Bundestag
In office
3 October 1990 – 1 February 2002
Member of the Volkskammer
In office
18 March 1990 – 3 October 1990
Personal details
Born (1948-01-16) 16 January 1948 (age 71)
East Berlin, Soviet Zone of Germany
Political partySocialist Unity Party of Germany
Party of Democratic Socialism
The Left
Alma materHumboldt University of Berlin

Gregor Gysi (German pronunciation: [ˈgʁeːgoɐ ˈɡiːzi]; born 16 January 1948) is a German attorney and key politician of the political party The Left (Die Linke).[1]

He belonged to the SED's reformist camp at the time of the pro-democracy transition inspired by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. He has strongly denied allegations that he used to help the Stasi – the East German secret police. He was the last leader of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany and led the effort that transformed it into the post-Communist Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), forerunner of The Left.

Family background[edit]

Gysi was born in East Berlin, Soviet Zone of Germany. His father was Klaus Gysi[2], a was a high-ranking official in East Germany, and was Minister of Culture from 1966-73. His mother, Irene, was the sister of political activist Gottfried Lessing, who was married to British writer and Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing, during his exile in Southern Rhodesia. The surname "Gysi" is of Swiss-German origin.[3] He is of partial Jewish ancestry; his paternal grandmother was Jewish, as was one of his maternal great-grandfathers.[3][4] One of his maternal great-grandmothers was Russian.[3] His sister, Gabriele, is an actress, who escaped from East Germany in 1985. Today, she is chief dramaturge at the Volksbühne in Berlin.



Gysi's political career started in the then-ruling Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) of East Germany, to which he was admitted in 1967. In 1971 he became a licensed attorney, and during the 1970s and 1980s defended several prominent dissidents, including Rudolf Bahro, Robert Havemann, Ulrike Poppe, and Bärbel Bohley.

In addition to his legal work, Gysi emerged as one of East Germany's leading Gorbachev-inspired political reformists within the SED, especially towards the end of the 1980s. In 1989, he and a group of lawyers presented a counter-draft to the government's Travel Bill, which authorised mass public demonstrations. This led to a mass rally on East-Berlin's Alexanderplatz on 4 November in which he spoke and called for various reforms, including free elections. In December 1989, he became a member of a special SED party session investigating official corruption and abuse of power.

Fall of Communism[edit]

Gregor Gysi at the Alexanderplatz demonstration in November 1989

In an interview conducted in 2011, Gysi recalls that in late 1989 he had become the attorney for several of the people who were arrested in the first early public protests. As such he became known to leading figures in the Artistic and Cultural unions and was contacted by a group of actresses about the legality of a large demonstration. He recalls having examined the laws and advising them that they could apply for such a permit from the police and the worst outcome would be that their request could be denied, but they would not be breaking any law or doing anything illegal. He further recalls assisting the group in requesting and completing the appropriate forms and paperwork required for such a permit. [5]

In December 1989, Egon Krenz, the last Communist leader of East Germany, resigned all of his posts. Gysi was elected as the party's chairman. He did not, however, become the leader of East Germany; the SED had abandoned its monopoly of power on 1 December. In his first speech, Gysi admitted that the SED had brought the country to ruin, repudiating everything it had done since 1949. He declared that the party needed to adopt a new form of socialism.[6]

To that end, he immediately set about transforming the SED into a democratic socialist party. Before the year was out, the last hardliners in the SED leadership had either resigned or been pushed out. On 16 December, the SED was renamed the Socialist Unity Party – Party of Democratic Socialism (SED-PDS), it later became simply the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS). Gysi remained as party chairman, and in March 1990 was elected to the Volkskammer in the first free election of that body, serving there until it was dissolved upon German reunification on 3 October 1990.


In the first post-reunification all-German elections, he was elected to the Bundestag from Berlin's Hellersdorf–Marzahn constituency, and served there until 2000. He remained chairman of the PDS through 1998, and then from 1998 to 2000 served as chairman of the party's parliamentary group.

In 1992 allegations were brought against him of having been an "unofficial collaborator" (Inoffizieller Mitarbeiter, IM) or informant of East Germany's Ministry for State Security (the Stasi). He denied these allegations, and the matter was largely dropped due to his parliamentary immunity. In 1995 the Hamburg regional court ruled in Gysi's favour in a complaint against Bärbel Bohley, Gysi's former client, who had accused him of Stasi collaboration. However, the allegations were raised again in 1996, and this time the Bundestag voted to revoke his immunity and proceed with an investigation.

In 1998 the Bundestag's immunity committee concluded that Gysi had been a collaborator with the Stasi from 1978 to 1989 under the name IM Notar, and fined him 8,000 Deutsche Marks. However, both the Free Democratic Party and his own PDS disputed the verdict, and Gysi appealed against the finding. Despite the affair, he retained his seat in the Bundestag in the 1998 elections.[citation needed]

In 2000 he resigned as chairman of the PDS's parliamentary group, but continued as an active member of the party. Following the victory in Berlin's 2001 municipal elections of a coalition of the PDS and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), he was elected Senator for Economics, Labour, and Women's Issues and Deputy Mayor. He emphasised practical issues and advocated the reinstitution of some of what he sees as the better aspects of East Germany's system, such as extended child-care hours and a longer school day. After a scandal involving his use of airline "bonus miles" he had acquired on trips as a Bundestag member, he resigned on 31 July 2002 from the Berlin city government. The resignation was a blow to his public "can-do" image, but he has recovered from that to some extent in the wake of increasing public opposition to a number of new policies of the federal government, like the Hartz reforms lowering unemployment benefits to the levels of mere subsistence welfare, which he strongly opposes.

Oskar Lafontaine (left) and Gregor Gysi, election poster, Alexanderplatz, Berlin, 2005

In late 2004 he survived brain surgery and a heart attack. Formerly a heavy smoker, Gysi quit smoking after the crisis on his doctors' advice.

Gysi remained the PDS undisputed front man in many people's minds and continued to appear in public. In May 2005, when Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder announced plans to call an early election in September, many prominent PDS leaders including chair Lothar Bisky called on Gysi to front their campaign. He was a lead candidate of the PDS, and returned to the Bundestag as the member for Berlin Treptow – Köpenick. The PDS fought the election in an alliance with the new western-based Labour and Social Justice – The Electoral Alternative (WASG), under the new name The Left Party.PDS, with Gysi at times sharing a platform with WASG leader Oskar Lafontaine, former finance minister and formerly party leader of the SPD. In June 2007, the PDS and WASG formally merged to form a united party called The Left.

In 2014, Gysi wrote his analysis on the contemporary Ukraine crisis in the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, where he describes similarities between the United States and Russia in their transgressions of international law. Gysi calls for "a new Ostpolitik" to prevent war and promote "democracy and freedom in Russia".[7] In 2015, Gysi was one of the leading supporters of Greece during the Greek government-debt crisis. He described the current German government as "blackmailers".

Gysi is an outspoken supporter of the Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, an organisation which campaigns for democratic reformation of the United Nations. This is due to his belief in the need for "functioning and democratically legitimate global politics"[8]



Gysi continues to deny allegations, which first surfaced in 1992, that he was the important Stasi informant ("inoffizieller Mitarbeiter") identified in Stasi files as "IM Notar". Invited in 2017 to spell out who, other than himself, "IM Notar" could possibly be, he replied that he had a strong suspicion, backed by a huge amount of information, adding pointedly that whenever the allegations that he himself was "IM Notar" have come before a court, he has "always won". But in the absence of certain proof he is not prepared to disclose the identity of the true "IM Notar".[9]

German Parliament[edit]

In November 2014, after being invited by Inge Höger and Annette Groth, members of the Parliamentary left to talk with them in the German parliament, the Bundestag, journalists Max Blumenthal and David Sheen learned that Gysi, although himself critical of Israel regarding the Gaza Strip and the West Bank after 1967, tried to cancel the meetings on the grounds that Blumenthal and Sheen held extremist views on Israeli settlements,[10][11] from which he wished to dissociate the German Left.[11] An incident, later dubbed "Toiletgate", occurred later. Blumenthal and Sheen waited for Gysi to "confront him about Israel's crimes in Gaza and the smears that Gysi and his acolytes had disseminated against them".[12]

Gysi fled, followed by the two and other parliamentary members down a parliament corridor and into a bathroom. After this event, Blumenthal and Sheen were banned from ever setting foot in the Bundestag again.[13][14][15][16]


  1. ^ bbc news, Profile,; accessed 16 September 2015.
  2. ^ Encyclopedia of contemporary German culture. Sandford, John, 1944 January 1-. London: Routledge. 1999. ISBN 0415245885. OCLC 48138199.CS1 maint: others (link)
  3. ^ a b c Whitney, Craig R. (15 December 1989). "Upheaval In The East; East German Asks Help of U.S. In Keeping His Country Separate". New York Times. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  4. ^ Kamp, Konstantin. "Frage zum Thema Familie". Archived from the original on 21 June 2010. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  5. ^ "Gregor Gysi: Größte Demo der DDR", zeitzeugen-portal, 20 September 2011, retrieved 2 July 2019
  6. ^ Thompson, Wayne C. (2008). The World Today Series: Nordic, Central and Southeastern Europe 2008. Harpers Ferry, West Virginia: Stryker-Post Publications. ISBN 978-1-887985-95-6.
  7. ^ Gregor Gysi. (2014). Europe and the Crisis in Ukraine: Is the International Community facing a new East-West Conflict? Archived 17 June 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, VIII (3), 75-87.
  8. ^ Assembly, Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly. "Statements". Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  9. ^ Stefan Berg; Susanne Beyer; René Pfister (7 October 2017). ""Feigheit, meinetwegen"". Spiegel-Gespräch: Der Linkenpolitiker Gegor Gysi, 69, über sein Aufwachsen in der DDR-Elite, Die Gründe für die Wut vieler Ostdeutsche und seine notorische Neigung zur Pointe. Der Spiegel. 41/2017: 48. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  10. ^ Delfs, Arne (12 November 2014), "Israel Critics Chase Left Leader in German Parliament", Bloomberg News
  11. ^ a b "Gysis ungebetene Gäste" Archived 23 December 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Die Zeit, 11 November 2014.(in German)
  12. ^ "Video: German politician hides in toilet from truth about Israel". 11 December 2014. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  13. ^ Mikcis, David (10 March 2015). "Wild Thing: Max Blumenthal's Creepy Anti-Zionist Odyssey". Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  14. ^ Weinthal, Benjamin (15 November 2014), "German politicians, media outraged over leftists' anti-Israel 'toiletgate'", The Jerusalem Post, retrieved 21 May 2015
  15. ^ "Israel critics chase Gysi into bathroom stall", The Local, 12 November 2014, retrieved 21 May 2015
  16. ^ "Why I Was Censored From Talking About Israel In Germany". 1 December 2014. Retrieved 16 September 2015.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Egon Krenz (as General Secretary)
Chairman of the SED
Succeeded by
Himself as chairman of the PDS
Preceded by
Himself as chairman of the SED
Chairman of the PDS
Succeeded by
Lothar Bisky
Preceded by
Post created
Chairman of the PDS Parliamentary Group
Succeeded by
Roland Claus
Preceded by
Juliane Freifrau von Friesen (Alliance '90/The Greens)
Minister for Economy, Labour and Women in Berlin
Succeeded by
Harald Wolf (PDS)
Preceded by
Roland Claus
Chairman of the Left Party Parliamentary Group
Succeeded by
Sahra Wagenknecht and Dietmar Bartsch