State Council of East Germany

The State Council of the GDR in 1960, the collective Head of State of the German Democratic Republic.

Development in the GDR

The State Council of the GDR after the death of the first and only President of the GDR, Wilhelm Pieck, created in 1960 as a successor institution of the Office of the President of the GDR. Thus, the state structure of the GDR has been further aligned with the Soviet model. This was based on the " Law on the Formation of the State Council " of 12 September 1960 that changed the constitution of the GDR from 1949 accordingly.

The Council of State consisted of the chairman, his deputies, 16 additional members and a secretary. This was until 1971 Otto Gotsche, then Heinz Eichler. Deputy State Council President were each all party leaders of the GDR block parties. The Chairman, the Deputy Chairman, Members and Secretary of the State Council were initially for four, elected by the People's Chamber since 1974, five years.

First State Council chairman Walter Ulbricht was, at the same time the First Secretary of the Central Committee (ZK ) of the SED. The position of Chairman of the State Council was initially highlighted. It was said in article 66, paragraph 2 of the Constitution of 1968: " The Chairman of the State Council represents the German Democratic Republic under international law. "

After the death of Ulbricht in 1973 Willi Stoph was elected to the Council of State. By constitutional amendment in 1974 the State Council President formally lost its prominent position. But the function of head of state was de facto and later exercised solely by the Chairman of the State Council - the other members of the State Council had little impact in practice. From the diplomatic protocol produces a collective body as head of state was already problematic.

In 1976, Erich Honecker, who was since 1971 the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED, the Office of the Chairman of the State Council, and had since then - as it already Ulbricht - the highest offices in the party and state again in personal union held.


The Council of State was, according to Article 66 et seq of the GDR Constitution of 1968, the formal head of state of East Germany, as opposed to the subordinated supreme state representative, whom the Prime Minister as head of government of the GDR and the President of the People's Chamber in Parliament chief.

His duties included under Article 66-75 of the Constitution of the GDR

  • The appointment of members of the National Defense Council,
  • The exercise of the amnesty and pardon laws,
  • The ratification of international treaties,
  • The accreditation of diplomatic representatives,
  • The awarding state decorations and awards,
  • The acquisition of honor sponsorships for large families.

Until 1974 the State Council could decide decrees with the force of law and deal submissions to the People's Chamber. He put the Constitution and laws of binding and decided on the conclusion of treaties. In the course of disempowerment Ulbricht but he created the State Council as an advisory and decision-making body lost from 1970 strongly influence what manifested itself in the constitutional amendment of 1974. Since then, he was a representative body essentially.

Important practical significance had governed the Secretariat of the State Council, with its approximately 200 employees as agents of the inputs of citizens ( in the GDR jargon so-called State inputs ), formally the input decree of 27 February 1961. Authorities and enterprises were obliged to provide information and cooperation.

Office of the State Council

The Council of State had after its founding in 1960, its first seat in the castle Schönhausen where previously Wilhelm Pieck had resided as president of the GDR. In 1964 he moved to purpose- built building at the State Council Marx-Engels -Platz 1 ( since 1994 Palace Square ) in Berlin -Mitte, where he remained until he 's dissolution.

Abolition in the turn

Following the resignation of Honecker from all offices during the fall time Egon Krenz took over its first offices. Just six weeks later, on 6 December 1989, however, the Liberal Democratic Party chairman Manfred Gerlach was State Chairman. Result, the actual task of the leadership role of the SED should be made clear.

On 5 April 1990, the State Council was abolished by a constitutional amendment at the inaugural session of the first freely elected People's Chamber. As for the foreseeable short transitional phase until the unification with the Federal Republic of Germany, the office of the president should not be introduced, was compatible with Article 75a of the GDR constitution the Presidium of the People's Chamber with the powers of the State Council and the President of the People's Chamber with the powers of the Council of State, entrusted. Sabine Bergmann -Pohl was so popular as President of the Chamber of April 5 to October 2, 1990, the last head of state of East Germany.

State Councils in other countries

Similar supreme collective state councils existed in the Soviet Union ( Presidium of the Supreme Soviet ), the People's Republics of Bulgaria and Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia.