President of the GDR

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President of the Republic
Standard of the President
Standard of the President
President Wilhelm Pieck
Wilhelm Pieck
from October 11, 1949 to September 7, 1960 †
Official seat Schönhausen Palace in Berlin
Term of office 4 years (re-election possible)
Existence of the office 1949 to 1960
Deputy President of the People's Chamber
Successor Office State Council Chairman

The office of President of the German Democratic Republic existed from 1949 to 1960. The basis for this was the constitution of the GDR of October 7, 1949 (Section V). The " President of the Republic " was elected by the People's Chamber and the Länderkammer , ie the two chambers of parliament. The office was more representative. If necessary, the President of the People's Chamber represented the President of the Republic.

The only incumbent was Wilhelm Pieck from the SED (since October 11, 1949, re-elections in 1953 and 1957). Shortly after his death on September 7, 1960, the constitution was changed. The law on the formation of the State Council of September 12, 1960 introduced a collective head of state in place of the President, namely the State Council of the GDR . In the last, democratic phase of the GDR in 1989/1990, the Council of State was abolished; The CDU President of the People's Chamber, Sabine Bergmann-Pohl , acted as head of state .


According to Article 101 of the Constitution, the President was elected for a period of four years in a joint meeting of the People's Chamber and the Land Chamber . Every eligible voter who had reached the age of 35 could be elected. Before the end of the term of office, the President could be voted out of office by a joint decision of the People's Chamber and the Land Chamber with a two-thirds majority .

In the event of the President's prevention, death or incapacity for office, the President of the People's Chamber should take over the representation for shorter periods of time; for longer periods a different legal regulation could be made.

The administrative reform of 1952 led to the fact that the states were effectively dissolved. The provincial chamber thereby became meaningless; it met for the last time in 1954 and was formally abolished in 1958 by a constitutional amendment . As a result, the People's Chamber was solely responsible for electing the President.


In terms of power, the president had an even weaker position than the Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germany . As head of state, he was responsible for representation under international law, concluded treaties with foreign states and exercised the right to pardon . In addition, he was responsible for swearing in the government when it took office and signed the laws passed by the People's Chamber .

President Pieck was already at an advanced age and did not play an important role in the ruling state party, the communist SED. Pieck was SED party leader, but the general secretary had most of the power. That changed after the abolition of the presidency, because since then the most powerful SED politician has usually also been the Chairman of the State Council.


After Wilhelm Pieck died in 1960, the office of president was abolished in favor of a collective body, the Council of State . Like the President, the State Council of the GDR was elected by the People's Chamber and exercised its powers. From now on, the chairman of the State Council represented the State Council and thus de facto also the GDR.

With the “socialist” constitution of 1968, the last references to the presidency were removed. After the peaceful revolution there were plans to reintroduce the office of “President of the Republic” by constitutional law from 1990, but this no longer came about in the course of German reunification .

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