District (GDR)

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Bezirk Cottbus Bezirk Dresden Bezirk Erfurt Bezirk Frankfurt (Oder) Bezirk Gera Bezirk Halle Bezirk Karl-Marx-Stadt Bezirk Leipzig Bezirk Magdeburg Bezirk Neubrandenburg Berlin Bezirk Potsdam Bezirk Rostock Bezirk Suhl Bezirk Schwerin Volksrepublik Polen Tschechoslowakei Berlin (West) Deutschland#Bundesrepublik Deutschland und DDR (1949–1990) Dänemark
The districts of the GDR (clickable map)

A district was an administrative unit in the German Democratic Republic .

Between 1952 and 1990 he formed the middle level of state administration. The administrative reform of 1952 established 14  districts that took on the tasks of the state governments . They were further divided into rural and urban districts. The State Council of the GDR turned East Berlin in 1961, the districts of the same.

The districts were comparable to the federal German government districts in terms of population, area and status . The districts had no political ( member state ) autonomy like a Land of the Federal Republic of Germany and no self-administration rights like a local authority . It was the middle state administrative level between the central state and the district, on which the state performed tasks to a greater extent than is the case with the federal German administrative districts.

List of districts

The following districts existed from north to south:

location district Area in km² Inhabitants
Population density
in inhabitants / km²
District structure
District of Rostock in German Democratic Republic (-water) .svg Rostock 07,075 0.916,500 130 A. 10 rural districts,
4 urban districts
District of Schwerin in German Democratic Republic (-water) .svg Schwerin 08,672 0.595.200 069 B. 10 rural districts,
1 urban district
District of Neubrandenburg in German Democratic Republic (-water) .svg Neubrandenburg 10,948 0.620,500 057 C. 14 districts,
1 urban district
District of Potsdam in German Democratic Republic (-water) .svg Potsdam 12,568 1,123,800 089 D, P 15 rural districts,
2 urban districts
District of Frankfurt in German Democratic Republic (-water) .svg Frankfurt (Oder) 07.186 0.713,800 099 E. 9 rural districts,
3 urban districts
District of Magdeburg in German Democratic Republic (-water) .svg Magdeburg 11,526 1,249,500 108 H, M 17 rural districts,
1 urban district
District of Cottbus in German Democratic Republic (-water) .svg cottbus 08,262 0.884,700 107 Z 14 districts,
1 urban district
District of Halle in German Democratic Republic (-water) .svg Hall 08,771 1,776,500 203 K, V 20 rural districts,
3 urban districts
District of Leipzig in German Democratic Republic (-water) .svg Leipzig 04,966 1,360,900 274 S, U 12 districts,
1 urban district
District of Erfurt in German Democratic Republic (-water) .svg Erfurt 07,349 1,240,400 169 L, F 13 rural districts,
2 urban districts
District of Dresden in German Democratic Republic (-water) .svg Dresden 06,738 1,757,400 261 R, Y 15 rural districts,
2 urban districts
District of Karl-Marx-Stadt in German Democratic Republic (-water) .svg Karl-Marx-City * 06.009 1,859,500 309 T, X 21 rural districts,
3 urban districts
District of Gera in German Democratic Republic (-water) .svg Gera 04,004 0.742,000 185 N 11 rural districts,
2 urban districts
District of Suhl in German Democratic Republic (-water) .svg Suhl 03,856 0.549,400 142 O 8 rural districts,
1 urban district
District of Berlin in German Democratic Republic (-water) .svg Berlin ** 00.403 1,279,200 3,1740. I. (11 boroughs ) 001
GDR 108,3330 16,669,3000 154 - 191 rural districts,
27 urban districts
(+ East Berlin)

*) At its beginning and end, the Karl-Marx-Stadt district had the name Chemnitz district for a short time in reference to the name of the city of Chemnitz , which was called Karl-Marx-Stadt from May 10, 1953 to May 30, 1990 .
**) East Berlin was not officially a district, but had been given the function of a district since 1961 ( see status of East Berlin ).

Administration of a district

The highest body of a district was a representative body called the district day. The composition of the district days was in the National Front merged block parties and mass organizations through the establishment of unit lists determined. The task of the district days was to vote on proposals that were introduced by the district council. Theoretically, the members of the district days had the right to submit their own applications, but this was hardly used. In order to reach a decision, so-called “appointed citizens” could be consulted during the deliberations.

The district council as the administrative authority was determined by the district assembly. The authority was headed by a chairman, the central person in the authority being the secretary of the council. The district planning commission as a counterpart to the central state planning commission belonged to the various specialist departments . In theory, the work of the district council should be effectively controlled by both the district council and the superordinate council of ministers of the GDR according to the principle of dual subordination. However, the influence of the district days was very weak. The decisive force in the respective district was the district leadership of the SED with its first secretary, whose position was far more influential than that of the members of the district council.


Administrative reform of 1952

After the Second World War , five countries were established as administrative units in the Soviet occupation zone by order of the Soviet military administration in Germany . Until the dissolution of Prussia in 1947, in the case of Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg, provinces were also used . The states of Mecklenburg , Saxony-Anhalt , Brandenburg , Thuringia and Saxony formed the larger administrative units of the GDR from 1949.

At the beginning of July 1952, the Second Party Conference of the SED proclaimed the construction of socialism in the GDR. In the course of this development it was decided to redesign the state structure based on the Soviet model in order to achieve better control ( democratic centralism ) and to dissolve the countries as remnants of the federal order . Although the prime ministers of the five federal states were much more dependent on the government in East Berlin for their decisions than their colleagues in the western German states, the central government saw the potential danger of being too independent. The GDR leadership, however, shied away from lifting the status quo of the states in the constitution of the GDR , as they considered this point to be important for a future clarification of the German question . So you chose a middle ground.

The law on the further democratization of the structure and functioning of the state organs in the states in the German Democratic Republic of July 23, 1952 imposed on the states to reorganize the districts in their area and to combine several districts into districts. Then the state governments should transfer their tasks to the new districts. These requirements were implemented in the federal states through corresponding laws of July 25, 1952. 132 districts became 217 (→  district reforms in the GDR ). They have been grouped into 14 districts. The state parliaments dissolved themselves, and their members became members of the new district parliaments according to their place of residence .

The federal states relieved themselves of their administrative functions. A symbolic remnant of federalism was retained in the form of the GDR Land Chamber , which was composed of representatives from the Landtag. In 1954 the district days met once again, sorted by country, in order to elect the members of the 2nd regional chamber. The 3rd regional chamber was unconstitutionally elected directly by the district assembly. In December of the same year, the state chamber was formally abolished through a constitutional amendment. The states were thus effectively dissolved.

In public, those responsible justified the administrative reform with the fact that a division into independent countries and large circles was an inherent element from the imperial era . The state administrations were seen as "bastions of bourgeois thinking". The new structure corresponds more to the requirements of the new tasks of the state and an approximation of the administration to the population will follow.

Cutting the districts

When drawing the boundaries, economic criteria were the main guidelines and attempts were made to concentrate certain economically important industries within the individual districts. With the Rostock district, a coastal district was created that covered the entire Baltic Sea region of the GDR. Cottbus became a coal district, Frankfurt a steel district and Halle a chemical district. A textile district and a caliber district were planned, but could not be realized. In the south of the GDR in particular, industry was too diverse for only one branch to shape the districts there. Schwerin and Neubrandenburg were agricultural districts, but Frankfurt, Cottbus, Magdeburg and Potsdam also remained strongly agrarian.

In addition to the economic aspects, however, security policy considerations also came into play. The Potsdam district owed its size solely to the fact that a single district was supposed to deal with questions of border security to West Berlin . At the same time, parts of the Brandenburg district of Westprignitz went to the new Schwerin district, so as not to burden the Potsdam district with the border to West Germany . The new districts Templin , Prenzlau and Bernau should first belong to the district of Potsdam, but then came to other districts so that from there on the way to the district town West Berlin would not have to be crossed. In other regions, especially in Saxony and Thuringia, security issues were given less attention when drawing the border. A total of eight out of 14 districts were concerned with border issues.

With the cutting of the new districts and districts and the definition of the district cities, a break with the past was also sought in some cases. For example, Neubrandenburg instead of Neustrelitz and Suhl instead of Meiningen became the seat of the district administration. Weimar came to the district of Erfurt instead of forming a district of Weimar with the districts of the Gera district.

Status of East Berlin

After 1945 East Berlin did not belong to any country in the Soviet zone of occupation, but was subject to the four-power status of Greater Berlin . Thus from 1949 it did not become a constitutive member of the GDR. After the administrative reform of 1952, its status increasingly approximated that of the districts. On September 7, 1961, East Berlin was given the function of a district by a decree of the State Council of the GDR (“The capital of the German Democratic Republic exercises the function of a district”). This gave the city the status of a district, but was still not one. As East Berlin gradually lost its privileges vis-à-vis the GDR administration over the next two decades, this difference was of little importance in practice. In many publications of the GDR East Berlin is listed as the 15th district, mostly with the simple name "Capital Berlin". Berlin was assigned the license plate "I".

End of the districts

The new federal states and the five states of the early GDR in comparison

On July 22, 1990, the People's Chamber passed the Land Introduction Act , which came into force on October 14 of the same year. This created the five states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania , Brandenburg , Saxony-Anhalt , Saxony and Thuringia .

On October 3, 1990, the day the GDR acceded to the Federal Republic of Germany, the five new states had already been re-established. East Berlin, which had only recently given itself its own constitution as a city, was united with West Berlin on the same day . The district days and councils of the districts were liquidated as early as August 1990 or integrated into the new state authorities.

The districts of Rostock, Schwerin and Neubrandenburg essentially formed the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The districts of Potsdam, Frankfurt and Cottbus became the state of Brandenburg, the districts of Magdeburg and Halle became part of the state of Saxony-Anhalt. The districts of Erfurt, Gera and Suhl became the Free State of Thuringia and the Free State of Saxony was created from the districts of Leipzig, Dresden and Karl-Marx-Stadt (Chemnitz district again since 1990). Some districts and municipalities moved to another federal state in the following years. The new state borders are now neither completely in line with the old district borders nor with the state borders of 1952. In Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt the districts were wholly or partially transferred to government or administrative districts , which were dissolved again in Saxony-Anhalt in 2003 and abolished in Saxony in 2012 by amalgamation.

Population development

district 1952 1965 1975 1988
Rostock 859,000 842.743 868.674 916,541
Schwerin 681,000 594.786 590,347 595.176
Neubrandenburg 706,000 633.209 626,362 620.467
Magdeburg 1,504,000 1,323,644 1,280,615 1,249,518
Potsdam 1,232,000 1,127,498 1,120,557 1,123,759
Frankfurt (Oder) 665,000 660.666 688.883 713.764
Erfurt 1,343,000 1,249,540 1,242,454 1,240,394
Hall 2,112,000 1,932,733 1,876,516 1,776,458
Leipzig 1,621,000 1,510,773 1,445,840 1,360,923
Dresden 1,986,000 1,887,739 1,835,621 1,757,363
cottbus 804,000 839.133 872.968 884.744
Suhl 558,000 549,398 549.453 549,442
Gera 755,000 735.175 737.916 742.023
Karl Marx City 2,287,000 2,082,927 1,976,869 1,859,525

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b Regulations on the tasks and working methods of the city council of Greater Berlin and its organs , decree of the Council of State of the GDR of September 7, 1961 (GBl. SDr. 341, p. 3)
  2. Law on the further democratization of the structure and functioning of the state organs in the states in the German Democratic Republic (Journal of Laws of the Federal Republic of Germany , p. 613)
  3. ^ Siegfried Mampel : The socialist constitution of the German Democratic Republic: Commentary; with an addendum on the legal development up to the fall of 1989 and the end of the socialist constitution . Keip, Goldbach 1997, ISBN 3-8051-0275-5 , p. 137