Free German Federation of Trade Unions

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Free German Trade Union Confederation (FDGB)
purpose Trade union confederation
Establishment date: March 18, 1945
Dissolution date 1990
Number of members: 9.6 million (1986)
in 15 unions
Seat : Berlin
House of the Trade Unions, Unter den Linden 13/15

The Free German Trade Union Federation ( FDGB ) was the umbrella organization of around 15 individual trade unions in the Soviet occupation zone (SBZ) from 1945 to 1949 and then until 1990 in the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

The FDGB was a member of the World Trade Union Confederation . In 1986 the largest individual trade unions were IG Metall (1.8 million members), the trade union for trade, food and enjoyment (1.1 million), IG Bau-Holz (950,000) and the union of employees of state bodies and municipal services (840,000) . The central organ of the FDGB was the daily newspaper Tribüne .

The trade union apparatus was a component and instrument of the political-ideological power structure of the SED and, like all other mass organizations in the GDR, was organized centrally and hierarchically. The smallest unit was the union group, to which the employees, state leaders and party officials of a work area belonged. From this collective, the shop stewards - ideologically reliable colleagues - were nominated as the lowest FDGB functionaries and elected in an open vote.


First FDGB congress in 1946, speaker: Colonel Tjulpanow


Outside of an FDGB membership card from 1948
Inside of an FDGB membership card from 1948
Seat of the FDGB Federal Executive Board until 1988, Fritz-Heckert-Straße 70
Seat of the FDGB federal executive committee from 1988 (today the Chinese embassy in Berlin ), Märkisches Ufer 54

The FDGB was founded in Aachen on March 18, 1945, several weeks before the end of the Second World War . Mathias Wilms , who also included Anna Braun-Sittarz , Toni Valder, Nikolaus Kreitz and Peter Spiegelmacher, took over the chairmanship . Three months later, the new union had around 1,300 members and five local chapters in the region.

Since the western allies only allowed industrial associations and not the organization of a unified trade union, the FDGB could not establish itself in the western occupation zones. The formation of “free trade unions” on the territory of the Soviet Occupation Zone (SBZ) was permitted on June 10, 1945 by Order No. 2 of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany (SMAD). As early as June 2, representatives of the trade union movement were tasked with forming a unified union. On June 13th, on the initiative of the Ulbricht group, the Preparatory Trade Union Committee for Greater Berlin (VGfG-B) was set up, which played a decisive role first in the establishment of the FDGB Greater Berlin (which formed an independent organization because of Berlin's four-power status) and then the FDGB and its district associations played.

In August 1945 Ulbricht gave a seminal speech in which he explicitly rejected the demand for party-political neutrality of a unified union, in which he characterized it as "an expression of the fear of certain circles of the unifying force of the working class". In the Greater Berlin delegate elections at the end of 1945, the KPD won 312 seats, the SPD 226 and the CDU 3-17 were non-party . The union representatives quickly moved into key positions in local, regional and central administrations and took a third of the seats in the reshaped Chamber of Commerce and Industry . The union of the nationwide unions established after the war reached its conclusion at the first FDGB Congress, which took place from February 9 to 11, 1946.

The operational security of the FDGB was associated with resistance. In August 1945, SMAD's efforts to strictly subordinate the works councils to the trade unions failed , thus restricting the factually far-reaching economic and political rights of participation and gaining central control over spontaneous basic activities in the company area. This only succeeded in a foreign and domestic political constellation in 1947/48, through the creation of the FDGB company union management controlled by the SED . The last works council election in the Soviet Zone was in 1947. At the Bitterfeld Conference in autumn 1948, the works councils were de facto dissolved and transferred to the works union management. In the same year, the Independent Trade Union Opposition (UGO), the strongest opposition within the FDGB until then, split off from the unified trade union. The UGO was approved as an independent professional organization with consideration for the West.

From 1946 to 1948 there were a total of 9 all-German interzone conferences initiated by the World Trade Union Federation , at which there was initially broad agreement on key issues. There were joint resolutions u. a. on the topics of denazification , co-determination, planned economy and land reform adopted. From August 1948, however, due to political developments such as the Cold War , but also because of fundamental differences of opinion, there was no continuation of the interzonal conferences.

The first members received membership cards to stick the weekly contribution stamps. These folding cards were only intended for 18 months - i.e. 96 weeks. Then the next membership card was handed out. Membership in a trade union organization before 1933 was entered on the back of these folded cards, which ensured that these times were credited. From the beginning, it was the aim of the FDGB to gain co-determination rights in companies and administrations. This should ensure that the interests of its members are represented.

After the turn

The last chairman of the FDGB Harry Tisch was removed from office in November 1989 and expelled from the FDGB.

In March 1990, the FDGB was registered for the 1990 Volkskammer election, but was not approved by the election commission.

On September 30, 1990 - shortly before reunification  - the FDGB dissolved. The individual trade unions of the FDGB joined their West German counterparts in the DGB until 1991.

After the reunification and peaceful revolution, the assets of the FDGB were subject to the control of the Treuhandanstalt and the UKPV (Independent Commission to Review the Assets of the Parties and Mass Organizations of the GDR).

Official union understanding

The constitution of the GDR in the 1974 version contained a separate chapter in Section II. Citizens and Communities in Socialist Society, The Trade Unions and Their Rights (Articles 44 and 45).

"Article 44
1 The free trade unions, united in the Free German Trade Union Confederation, are the comprehensive class organization of the working class. They look after the interests of workers, employees and members of the intelligentsia through extensive participation in the state, economy and society.
2 The unions are independent. Nobody is allowed to restrict or hinder them in their work.
3 Through the activities of their organizations and organs, through their representatives in the elected state organs of power and through their proposals to the state and economic organs, the trade unions play a decisive role in
shaping socialist society,
in the management and planning of the national economy,
in its implementation the scientific-technical revolution,
the development of working and living conditions, health and safety at work, the work culture, the cultural and sporting life of the working people.
The unions work in the factories and institutions to work out the plans. You lead the permanent production consultations. "

For their part, the unions of the FDGB:

“Recognize the leading role of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, the Marxist-Leninist vanguard of the German working class. They are firmly committed to the SED and its Central Committee and, as loyal helpers, unite the workers, employees and members of the intelligentsia closely around the party. "

The tasks of the trade unions are defined in the FDGB statutes as follows:

“The unions represent the material, social and cultural interests of workers, employees and members of the intelligentsia. In the interests of the working class they do this primarily by exercising their great responsibility for material production and ensuring the development of the socialist consciousness of all union members, the members for conscious participation in the struggle for the constant increase in labor productivity on the basis of the win the most advanced science and technology and mobilize the whole working class and the intelligentsia to fulfill the national economic plans with the aim of ever better satisfaction of the material and cultural needs of the working people and the all-round development of the people of the socialist society. At the same time, the trade unions realize concern for people by constantly striving to improve the working and living conditions of workers, employees and members of the intelligentsia, and advocating that their rights are protected and their diverse needs increasingly met. "

List of affiliates

Organs and officials

The higher functionaries, departmental union leaders (AGL) up to the head of the central company union management (BGL) in combines were usually members of the SED loyal to the line, in individual cases also from bloc parties and mostly full-time. From the death of Herbert Warnke in 1975 until the political turnaround in 1989, the chairman of the FDGB Presidium was Harry Tisch , who was also a member of the SED Politburo . Johanna Töpfer , who was also a member of the Central Committee of the SED, was the deputy chairwoman of the federal executive committee from 1976 to 1989 .

Then the Berlin FDGB district chief Annelis Kimmel became chairwoman of the Federal Presidium. On February 1, 1990, Helga Mausch (NDPD) was elected chairwoman of the executive board of the FDGB. It was disempowered in May 1990 through the establishment of a spokesman's council.

The highest organ was the FDGB Congress, the last regular one was the XI. Congress in April 1987. The seat of the federal executive committee was the Taut house . At the end of the 1980s, the company moved to a new building on Jannowitzbrücke in Berlin-Mitte (now used as the Chinese embassy ).

The FDGB had its own university, the trade union college "Fritz Heckert" in Bernau near Berlin . Its rector was Hermann Duncker from 1949 until his death in 1960 .


In addition to ideological activities in the companies, the tasks of the FDGB also included the provision of canteens and the allocation of vacation spots as well as visits to the sick, awarding of awards and prizes, gifts for special anniversaries, etc. to the awarding of cures.

Main tasks

The main task of the union was to ensure that the plan was met . The FDGB trade unions were not employee representatives vis-à-vis the management, as there was no official opposition between management and workforce in the GDR.

The FDGB was also responsible for workers and employees for social security in the GDR . Furthermore, together with the Faculty , he operated an optional legal protection and liability support facility for members employed in public transport.

Vacation service

The FDGB's own holiday service was the largest provider of holiday travel in tourism in the GDR and maintained numerous FDGB holiday homes and holiday settlements such as the FDGB holiday settlement Klink an der Müritz, which opened in 1962. The FDGB also maintained holiday ships like the Fritz Heckert , Völkerfreundschaft and from 1985 the modern Arkona (formerly Astor ). FDGB holidaymakers were also able to temporarily stay in Interhotels such as the Hotel Neptun on the beach in Warnemünde.


Officially, membership in the FDGB was voluntary, but unofficially, a professional career as a non-member was difficult. The entry fee was one GDR mark. The membership fees were based on the gross wage or salary and were initially paid weekly, later monthly. Basic scholarships for students, pensions, supplementary pensions and pensions and wage compensation in the event of illness were also used. The various contribution classes were defined in the contribution regulations, which are adjusted annually.

In 1986 98% of all workers and employees were organized in the FDGB and it had a total of 9.6 million members. The FDGB was thus the largest “social organization” in the GDR and, after the SED, had the second largest parliamentary group in the GDR Volkskammer parliament with 61 members . It was nominally one of the largest trade union federations in the world. FDGB members were able to take advantage of various discounts, such as reduced fares on the Deutsche Reichsbahn for trips to FDGB holiday destinations and the like. Until the 1950s, death grants were paid, the amount of which depended on the contributions paid. An accident death benefit was paid regardless of the length of membership. A mutual aid fund was also assigned. One-off financial grants or interest-free loans were paid on a case-by-case basis when hardship emerged.

Membership book (as of 1980)

The member's book contained on page 3 the personal data of the member, name, date of birth. Page 4 began with Uninterrupted membership in a recognized trade union organization before 1933 ; followed by the paragraph member in the FDGB . Pages 5, 6 and 7 provided for entries for trade union functions . Page 8 was for entries about membership in sub-unions or dormant membership. On page 9 the contributions paid so far since 1949 are listed, with a column for annual updates. Pages 10 to 29 provided space for the monthly adhesive contribution stamps - next to each, significantly larger, there was space for solidarity stamps showing the amount paid. At the foot of the page there was space for stamping and signing the book control. Pages 30 to 40 were then again intended for special and solidarity stamps.

Every year, special stamps with money paid for May 1st were planned. Page 36 left room for trade union awards and honors , pages 37 to 39 information about attendance at union schools . On page 40 the participation in union elections in the basic organization was documented, on page 41 participation in delegate conferences of the boards of the FDGB and the IG / Gew . Pages 42 and 43 were for the identification of trade union benefits - sickness benefit . Pages 44 and 45 Union benefits, e. E.g .: vacation, health resort, other social grants, birth assistance honorary gifts for long-term membership . Were listed z. B. the travel dates and the vacation location. Page 46 required the identification of regular support . On pages 47 to 48, with the stamp of the Deutsche Reichsbahn, fare reduction f. Holiday trips reported. As a footnote, show
the membership book at ticket controls.

FDGB congresses

  1. Congress 9. – 11. February 1946 (founding congress)
  2. Congress 17. – 19. April 1947
  3. Congress August 30 - September 3, 1950
  4. Congress 15. – 20. June 1955
  5. Congress 26. – 31. October 1959
  6. Congress 19. – 23. November 1963
  7. Congress 6. – 10. May 1968
  8. Congress 26.-30. June 1972
  9. Congress 16. – 19. May 1977
  10. Congress 21.-24. April 1982
  11. Congress 22. – 25. April 1987
  12. Congress (Extraordinary Congress of the FDGB) January 31 - February 1, 1990
  13. Congress September 14, 1990 decides to dissolve the FDGB

See also


  • Knut Brockmöller: Catalog of the contribution and donation stamps of the Free German Trade Union Federation (FDGB) of the Soviet Zone and GDR (1945–1990). Arbeitsgemeinschaft Fiskalphilatelie e. V. 2014.
  • Horst Bednareck (ed.): The Free German Trade Union Federation. His rights and achievements, facts, experiences, points of view. (1945–1990) , Verlag am Park, Berlin, 2006, ISBN 978-3-89793-122-0 .
  • Wolfgang Eckelmann, Hans-Hermann Hertle , Reiner Weinert: FDGB internal, interior views of a mass organization. Treptower Verlagshaus GmbH 1990, ISBN 3-7303-0635-9 .
  • Jens Hildebrandt: Trade unions in divided Germany. The relations between DGB and FDGB from the Cold War to the New Ostpolitik 1955 to 1969. Röhrig Universitätsverlag, St. Ingbert 2010, ISBN 978-3-86110-476-6 .
  • Christoph Kleßmann: The double founding of the state. German history 1945–1955. 5th ed. Göttingen 1991, pp. 129-135. ISBN 3-525-36228-5
  • Matthias Loeding, Uwe Rosenthal: Development and institutionalization of trade union and works constitution interest groups in the new federal states. Hamburg 1998, ISBN 3-86064-691-5 .
  • Matthias Loeding, Uwe Rosenthal: A decade of trade union unity : a historical look back at the role and strategies of the German Federation of Trade Unions and two of its individual trade unions in the process of state and trade union unification. In: Contributions to the history of the labor movement. 43, 4, 2001, pp. [3] -44. ISSN  0942-3060 .
  • Matthias Loeding, Uwe Rosenthal: Between self-discovery and dissolution: the liquidation of the Free German Trade Union Federation in the process of political disintegration in the GDR. (October 1989 to September 1990) Part 1. In: Contributions to the history of the labor movement. 41, 4, 1999, pp. 65-81. ISSN  0942-3060 .
  • Matthias Loeding, Uwe Rosenthal: Between self-discovery and dissolution: the liquidation of the Free German Trade Union Federation in the process of political disintegration in the GDR. (October 1989 to September 1990) Part 2. In: Contributions to the history of the labor movement. 42, 1, 2000 pp. 63-77. ISSN  0942-3060 , ( ).
  • Matthias Loeding, Uwe Rosenthal: Stages of the works council movement in the SBZ: a sketch. In: Contributions to the history of the labor movement. 41, 1, 1999, pp. 35-57. ISSN  0942-3060 .
  • Stefan Paul Werum: Union decline in socialist construction. The Free German Trade Union Federation (FDGB) 1945 to 1953 (= writings of the Hannah Arendt Institute for Totalitarian Research. Volume 26). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2005, ISBN 978-3-525-36902-9 .
  • Manfred Wilke : The strike breaker headquarters. The Free German Trade Union Federation (FDGB) and June 17, 1953 (= dictatorship and resistance. Volume 8). Li, Münster 2004, ISBN 3-8258-7775-2 .

Web links

Commons : Free German Trade Union Confederation  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Constitution of the GDR from 1968 in the amended version of October 7, 1974
  2. a b Statutes of the Free German Trade Union Federation, resolved at the 7th FDGB Congress, in: Bundesvorstand des FDGB (Hrsg.), Handbook for trade union officials. Documents, laws, ordinances, resolutions, Berlin (Verlag Tribüne) 1970.
  3. Meyer's Universal Lexicon in four volumes. Volume 1, VEB Bibliographisches Institut Leipzig, 1st edition 1978, license number 433 130/86/78, p. 681.