Council of Ministers of East Germany

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The Stadthaus in Berlin, seat of the Ministerrat der DDR from 1961 until 1990

The Council of Ministers (German: Ministerrat der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik) was the chief executive body of the German Democratic Republic from November 1950 until the country was unified with the Federal Republic of Germany on 3 October 1990. Originally formed as a body of 18 members, by 1989 the council consisted of 44 members.

Under the Constitution of East Germany, the Council of Ministers was formally defined as the government of East Germany. The same Constitution, however, officially confirmed the leading role of the Socialist Unity Party (SED). Hence the Council of Ministers was not the highest power in the country, but rather had the job to implement the SED's policies into practical administration. In particular, ministers were subordinate to the secretary of the CC[1] responsible for their portfolio, and, at least unofficially, to the General Secretary.

State arms of German Democratic Republic.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
East Germany


The Council was led by a chairman (Vorsitzender), equivalent to a Prime Minister. There were two first deputy chairmen and nine other deputy chairmen. Together with some key ministers they formed the presidency (Präsidium) of the Council. The Präsidium prepared all decisions in consultation with the responsible departments of the Central Committee (Zentralkomitee) of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) and especially the Politbüro of the SED Central Committee. The Präsidium managed the day-to-day affairs of the Council between its weekly meetings, which took place regularly on Wednesdays to execute the resolutions of the Politbüro’s weekly meetings (on Tuesdays). The secretaries and department managers in the Central Committee were authorized to give instructions to the ministers as necessary.

Until the Wende in the fall of 1989, the two first deputy chairmen were Werner Krolikowski and Alfred Neumann, who were both members of the SED Politbüro. Other deputy chairmen included the leaders of the four allied parties (Blockparteien). Additional members included the chairman of the State Planning Commission, the president of the Staatsbank der DDR (State Bank of the GDR) and some state secretaries, who were usually office directors at the Council. All members of the Council were selected by the GDR Volkskammer (parliament) for a term of five years. Within the centralized state structure of the GDR, the city, county and district administrations were subordinated to the Council.

After the SED abandoned power in November 1989, the last Communist prime minister, Hans Modrow, became in name as well as in fact the leader of East Germany. He was succeeded by Lothar de Maizière after what turned out to be the only free election ever held in East Germany, in March 1990. De Maizière presided over the transition period to the reunification of the two Germanies in October 1990.

The former Prussian state parliament (Preußischer Landtag) served as the seat of the Council from 1950 to 1953. From 1961 to 1990 the Council's offices were located in the former Old City Hall of Berlin at No. 47 Klosterstraße. The Law Gazette of the GDR (Gesetzblatt der DDR) was also published by the Council. In addition, the Council’s Press Office made official government announcements and was responsible for the accreditation of foreign journalists in the GDR.

The individual ministries had their own headquarters buildings in East Berlin, although the former Reich Air Ministry building on Leipziger Straße housed the industrially-oriented ministries.

Chairmen of the Council of Ministers

Chairman Took office Left office Time in office Party
Otto Grotewohl
Grotewohl, OttoOtto Grotewohl
12 October 1949 21 September 1964 † 14 years, 345 days SED
Willi Stoph
Stoph, WilliWilli Stoph
21 September 1964 3 October 1973 9 years, 12 days SED
Horst Sindermann
Sindermann, HorstHorst Sindermann
3 October 1973 29 October 1976 3 years, 26 days SED
Willi Stoph
Stoph, WilliWilli Stoph
29 October 1976 7 November 1989 13 years, 9 days SED
Hans Modrow
Modrow, HansHans Modrow
(born 1928)
8 November 1989 12 April 1990 156 days SED
Lothar de Maizière
Maizière, LotharLothar de Maizière
(born 1940)
12 April 1990 2 October 1990 173 days CDU


Ministries of the industries (1961-1965 in the course New Economic System were summarized the Ministries in national economy advice under his chairman Alfred Neumann):

* Renamed in 1990 as the Ministry for Disarmament and Defense.

** Renamed on 17 November 1989 as the Office for National Security (Amt für Nationale Sicherheit - AfNS); abolished on 13 January 1990.

*** Renamed in 1989 as the Ministry for Education and Youth.

See also

  1. ^ See the article on the Soviet equivalent, of which the German structure was the exact copy.
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