People's Chamber

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Meeting of the People's Chamber of the GDR under the direction of Hans Jendretzky in the plenary hall of the Palace of the Republic in East Berlin, November 1989
Extraordinary plenary session, September 1, 1989
Entrance to the People's Chamber on the north side of the Palace of the Republic (1990)

The People's Chamber was until October 2, 1990 October 7, 1949 Parliament and nominally highest constitutional body of the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

Origin and function

Presidium of the first full session of the People's Chamber in 1950 with People's Chamber President Johannes Dieckmann
Postage stamp for the first Volkskammer election in 1950
Egon Krenz and People's Chamber President Horst Sindermann in the People's Chamber, 1989

The Provisional People's Chamber was formed on October 7, 1949 in East Berlin from the Second German People's Council . The first election of the People's Chamber took place on October 15, 1950, delayed and according to a different electoral system than originally planned. The elections from 1950 (see People's Chamber Election 1950 ) were based on unified lists of the National Front . Since the result was certain beforehand, many GDR citizens folded the ballot paper and threw it into the ballot box unread . This process was popularly called “going to fold”. The only free elections were the People's Chamber election in 1990 and the local elections that still took place afterwards . In many places, the elections were no longer held in secret: although voting booths were there, their use was seen as a sign of opposition to the system. According to official figures, the turnout was 98% and 99.7% voted for the National Front. After the end of the GDR, files from the Ministry for State Security showed that extensive election fraud had been carried out. Election manipulation was also the rule in later elections to the People's Chamber. In their voting behavior, the MPs were bound by the political guidelines of the SED. Until 1958 there was a state chamber in addition to the people's chamber , which never made use of its right to introduce bills to the people's chamber and to raise suspensive objections to legislative resolutions.

The People's Chamber elected Wilhelm Pieck (1876–1960) as President of the GDR in 1949 . After his death in 1960, the function of President was replaced by the State Council of the GDR or its chairman, who were elected by the People's Chamber.

According to the understanding of the Soviet occupying power and the SED, the People's Chamber was not a parliament in the bourgeois sense of a representative democracy , but was intended to represent a new type of popular representation. You should postulated by the claims in civil parliamentarianism not given unity between political leadership and the people establish and party selfishness , partisanship for the capital , personal enrichment addiction and self-blockade of powers to exclude.

The only vote of the People's Chamber in which conflicts became publicly known was in March 1972 the vote on the law on the interruption of pregnancy to introduce the deadline solution for abortions , in which 14 members of the CDU voted against the law after consultation with their party leadership. These votes against and some abstentions had no effect on the legislative process to resolve the deadline, but on the other hand increased the legitimacy of the People's Chamber, as in this case the public appeared to be a real, arguing body .

In fact, the People's Chamber largely had no influence on political events, because the SED's claim to leadership, which had been officially anchored in the constitution of the German Democratic Republic since 1968, prevented parliament from exercising any real political influence from the start.

Working method and composition

Presidium meeting of the People's Chamber, 1988

The People's Chamber usually met two to four times a year; according to Section 6 of the Rules of Procedure, the meetings were generally public. It met between 1950 and 1970 in the Langenbeck-Virchow-Haus . After that, the congress hall on Alexanderplatz served as the conference venue. From 1976 their meetings took place in the small hall of the newly built Palace of the Republic . After the Palace of the Republic was closed in September 1990, the People's Chamber last met in the house on Werderschen Markt .

The People's Chamber had the following committees:

  • General Affairs Committee (1950–1963)
  • Committee for Local People's Representations (1956–1963)
  • Economic and Financial Affairs Committee (1950–1963)
  • Foreign Affairs Committee (1950–1990)
  • Labor and Health Committee (1950–1958)
  • Health Care Committee (1958–1990)
  • Labor and Social Policy Committee (1958–1990)
  • Trade and Supply Committee (1963–1990)
  • Petitions Committee or Committee for Citizens' Submissions (1950–1990)
  • Rules of Procedure Committee (1950–1990)
  • Grace Committee (1950–1963), task then taken over by the State Council of the GDR
  • Budget and Finance Committee (1950–1990)
  • Mandate Review Committee (1963–1990)
  • Youth Committee (1950–1990)
  • Justice Committee (1950–1963)
  • National Defense Committee (1963–1990)
  • Committee for Industry, Construction and Transport (until 1990)
  • Agriculture and Forestry Committee (1950–1990)
  • Committee for Popular Education and Culture (1954–1958)
  • Culture Committee (1958–1990)
  • Committee for Popular Education (1958–1990)
  • Legal Committee (1950–1963)
  • Election Examination Committee (1950–1963)
  • Constitutional Committee or Constitutional and Legal Committee (1950–1990)

The Volkskammer had 400 seats until 1963, then 500. Up to the 5th electoral period (1967–1971), 66 Berlin representatives of the Volkskammer belonged to the Volkskammer in an advisory capacity, after which they were normal MPs. Since the end of 1958, 100 and later 200 successor candidates took part in the meetings and committee work. These had no right to vote in the votes, but were otherwise largely on an equal footing with the regular MPs.

The following parliamentary groups were represented in the People's Chamber from 1950 to April 1990: SED parliamentary group, CDU parliamentary group, LDPD parliamentary group, NDPD parliamentary group, DBD parliamentary group, FDGB parliamentary group, FDJ parliamentary group, DFD parliamentary group, Kulturbund parliamentary group, VdgB / Consumer cooperatives faction (only from 1950 to 1963 and from 1986) and VVN faction (1950–1954).

Members of the People's Chamber by party or mass organization (1981–1986)

Group name
Abbreviation of the
parliamentary group
Number of
Pseudographic representation of
the number of MPs
Socialist Unity Party of Germany SED 127 •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• ••••••••••••••
Christian Democratic Union CDU 52 •••••••••••••••••••••••••
Liberal Democratic Party of Germany LDPD 52 •••••••••••••••••••••••••
Democratic Peasant Party of Germany DBD 52 •••••••••••••••••••••••••
National Democratic Party of Germany NDPD 52 •••••••••••••••••••••••••
Free German trade union federation FDGB 68 ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Free German Youth FDJ 40 ••••••••••••••••••••
Democratic Women's Association of Germany DFD 35 ••••••••••••••••••
Kulturbund KB 22nd •••••••••••

The proportion of women among MPs was 23.0 percent in 1950 (with Berlin representatives), and 32.2 percent in 1986. The majority of the SED in the People's Chamber since 1950 was secured by the parliamentary groups of the mass organizations (FDGB, DFD, FDJ, KB), whose parliamentary group members were usually also members of the SED.

In addition to all the important SED party functionaries and chairmen of the other parties, prominent MPs included prominent athletes such as Heike Drechsler or Täve Schur and worker activists as well as veterans of the socialist movement and the GDR construction such as Rosa Thälmann , Kurt Krjeńc , Käthe Kern and Wilhelmine Schirmer Pröscher .

Election dates and official results

Advertising banners in Kamenz for the first GDR-wide, so-called popular elections, August 1950

The results of the Volkskammer elections (partly also popular elections ) from 1950 to 1986 are not considered democratic.

Election date voter turnout Yes votes invalid
01st legislative term: October 15, 1950 98.53 99.72 0.28
02nd electoral term: October 17, 1954 98.51 99.46 0.54
03rd electoral term: November 16, 1958 98.90 99.87 0.13
04th legislative term: October 20, 1963 99.25 99.95 0.05
05th legislative term: 0July 2, 1967 99.82 99.93 0.07
0Sixth legislative term: November 14, 1971 98.48 99.85 0.15
07th legislative term: October 17, 1976 98.58 99.86 0.14
08th legislative term: June 14, 1981 99.21 99.86 0.14
09th legislative term: 0June 8, 1986 99.74 99.94 0.06
10th electoral term: March 18, 1990 93.40 Election result 0.55

President of the People's Chamber

No. Surname Beginning of the term of office Term expires Political party
1 Johannes Dieckmann 0October 7, 1949 February 22, 1969 LDPD
2 Gerald Götting May 12, 1969 October 29, 1976 CDU
3 Horst Sindermann October 29, 1976 November 13, 1989 SED
4th Günther Maleuda November 13, 1989 0April 5, 1990 DBD
5 Sabine Bergmann-Pohl 0April 5, 1990 0October 2, 1990 CDU

The freely elected People's Chamber in 1990

Demonstrator in front of the People's Chamber, January 1990

After the political turnaround and peaceful revolution in the GDR triggered by civil protests in 1989 , the only free parliamentary elections were held on March 18, 1990. For the first time, the power of parliament corresponded to that of parliaments in bourgeois democracies. With the Land Introduction Act , the People's Chamber created the new federal states , which became part of the Federal Republic when they were founded. The GDR was thus abolished. At the same time, the People's Chamber initiated a “minimum legal framework” for the new states, which immediately had state law upon their establishment . It is true that the Unification Treaty , which was, inter alia, regulated which federal laws in the accession area should not apply or only apply in modified form, was negotiated by the governments, but the government factions had formulated a wealth of conditions in advance (such as the existence of the land reform ) that were incorporated into the treaty.

At the constituent meeting on April 5, the Presidium of the People's Chamber was entrusted with the powers of the no longer occupied Council of State by inserting Article 75a into the constitution of the GDR . The President of the People's Chamber, Sabine Bergmann-Pohl (CDU), who was elected on the same day , was given the powers of the Chairman of the State Council and was thus formally the last head of state of the GDR.

On April 12, 1990 Lothar de Maizière (CDU) was elected Prime Minister of the GDR with 265 votes, 108 against and 9 abstentions . The MPs then also confirmed en bloc the cabinet de Maizières , the first and last freely elected government of the GDR.

In its historic session on August 23, 1990, the People's Chamber decided that the GDR would join the Federal Republic of Germany with effect from October 3, 1990, and thus the end of the GDR as a subject of international law .

CDU / DA parliamentary group

The parliamentary group officially called itself “ CDU / DA ” until August 5, 1990, the day the two organizations merged. After that she called herself the "CDU parliamentary group". The chairmen were:

SPD parliamentary group

The chairmen of the SPD parliamentary group were:

PDS group

The chairman of the PDS parliamentary group was Gregor Gysi during the entire legislative period .

DSU parliamentary group

The parliamentary group of the DSU had only one chairman, Hansjoachim Walther , from March to October .

"The Liberals" parliamentary group

The “Liberals” parliamentary group was a group of FDP , DFP , LDP and NDPD . The first three parties took part in the Volkskammer election as members of the Bund Free Democrats ' list, the NDPD put together its own list. After the formation of the People's Chamber, the two members of the NDPD joined the liberal parliamentary group. The chairman of the parliamentary group was Rainer Ortleb until October .

Alliance 90 / Greens parliamentary group

Alliance 90 formed a group with the Greens , which had no group chairman, but several group spokesmen. The spokesmen for the group were:

DBD / DFD parliamentary group

The Democratic Peasant Party of Germany and the only member of the Democratic Women's Association of Germany formed a parliamentary group in the People's Chamber, whose chairman was Günther Maleuda . On August 29, 1990, the parliamentary group decided to dissolve it. Maleuda remained non-attached , three DBD members joined the SPD, four joined the CDU, one DBD member and the member of the DFD switched to the Liberal parliamentary group.


Thomas Klein , who was elected through the United Left , remained non-attached .

See also


  • Bettina Tüffers: The 10th People's Chamber of the GDR. A parliament in upheaval. Self-perception, self-parliamentarization, self-dissolution , Düsseldorf 2016, ISBN 978-3-7700-5333-9 .
  • Nicole Glocke : Spontaneity was the order of the day. Three members of the first and only freely elected GDR People's Chamber report. Mitteldeutscher Verlag, Halle (Saale) 2012, ISBN 978-3-89812-898-8 .
  • Christopher Hausmann: Biographical Handbook of the 10th People's Chamber of the GDR (1990). Böhlau Verlag, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2000, ISBN 3-412-02597-6 .
  • Werner J. Patzelt , Roland Schirmer (ed.): The People's Chamber of the GDR. Socialist parliamentarism in theory and practice. Westdeutscher Verlag, Wiesbaden 2002, ISBN 3-531-13609-7 .
  • Peter Joachim Lapp: The People's Chamber of the GDR. Studies in social science. Vol. 33. Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 1975, ISBN 3-531-11299-6 .
  • Gabriele Gast: The political role of women in the GDR. Studies in social science. Vol. 17. Bertelsmann Universitätsverlag, Düsseldorf 1973, ISBN 3-571-09219-8 .
  • Handbooks of the People's Chamber of the GDR 1957 to 1986. Staatsverlag der GDR, Berlin.

Web links

Commons : People's Chamber of the GDR  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Last meeting of the People's Chamber and Balance Sheet, October 2, 1990 ( memento of October 16, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) (accessed on August 20, 2011).
  2. Birgit Wolf: Language in the GDR. A dictionary . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2000, ISBN 978-3-11-080592-5 , pp. 59 f. (Accessed via De Gruyter Online).
  3. a b c Hermann Weber : The GDR 1945–1990. 4th edition, Oldenbourg, 2006, p. 32.
  4. See Klaus Sorgenicht, Wolfgang Weichler, Tord Riemann, Hans-Joachim Semler (eds.): Constitution of the German Democratic Republic. Documents, Comments , Vol. 1, Staatsverlag der DDR, Berlin (East) 1969; Commentary on Article 5 of the GDR Constitution of 1968 , pp. 277–278: “In terms of their composition and overall activities, the people's representations are not conceived and viewed as parliaments, but rather as the embodiment of the alliance, the common will and cooperation of all political forces of the people. "
  5. Ehrhart Neubert : History of the Opposition in the GDR 1949–1989. 2., through and exp. Ed., Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-86153-163-1 , p. 204.
  6. Udo Wengst , Hermann Wentker: Das doppelte Deutschland. Ch. Links Verlag, 2008, ISBN 978-3-86153-481-5 , pp. 185-187.
  7. Decision of the People's Chamber on the accession of the GDR to the scope of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany of August 23, 1990 ( Memento of August 26, 2010 in the Internet Archive )