German Democratic Republic (1949-1990)

By | November 10, 2021

German Democratic Republic, abbreviation GDR, state in Central Europe that existed from 1949 to 1990.

It comprised the area of ​​today’s federal states of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia of the Federal Republic of Germany as well as Berlin (East), the capital of the GDR.

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After the constitution of the GDR passed in 1968, the highest state power was the People’s Chamber, which elected all other constitutional organs. The collective head of state was the Council of State elected by the People’s Chamber, whose chairman represented the GDR under international law. The Council of Ministers, the government of the GDR, was responsible for carrying out political, economic, cultural, social and military tasks. The Central Committee and Politburo of the SEDwere de facto the sole determining forces.

The fundamental rights were subject to political expediency; were severely restricted freedom of expression (including in the media) and freedom of assembly; for the individual citizen there was no freedom of departure or emigration. The state and the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), which is closely connected to it, along with the affiliated mass organizations such as the Free German Trade Union Federation (FDGB) and the Free German Youth (FDJ) regulated life.

After its establishment, the GDR was initially only recognized by the socialist states and fully integrated into the military and economic system of Eastern Europe (1950 Mutual Economic Assistance Council, 1955 Warsaw Pact).

The country’s economy was based on the Soviet model as a state-controlled planned economy. In addition to a few private companies, there were predominantly state-owned enterprises (VEB) as well as agricultural production cooperatives (LPG) and state-owned goods in the agricultural sector. Despite limited raw material deposits (lignite, hard and potash salt), the industry took a leading position within the Council for Mutual Economic Aid. – for the story, see German history.

Party leadership of the GDR

Parallel structure of the SED and the state: the state and party leadership of the GDR

Highest functionary of the SED

Party leader:

Wilhelm Pieck and Otto Grotewohl (1946–54)

First Secretary of the Central Committee:

Walter Ulbricht (1950–71)

General Secretary of the Central Committee:

Erich Honecker (1971-89 1))

Egon Krenz (1989)

Heads of State of the GDR


Wilhelm Pieck (1949-60)

Chairman of the Council of State:

Walter Ulbricht (1960–73)

Willi Stoph (1973-76)

Erich Honecker (1976-89)

Egon Krenz (October to December 1989)

Manfred Gerlach (December 1989 to March 1990)

Sabine Bergmann-Pohl (March to October 2, 1990) 3)

Chairman of the Council of Ministers (Head of Government):

Otto Grotewohl (1949–64 2))

Willi Stoph (1964-73)

Horst Sindermann (1973-76)

Willi Stoph (1976-89)

Hans Modrow (1989 to April 1990)

Lothar de Maizière (April to October 2, 1990)

1) As first secretary of the Central Committee of the SED until 1976.

2) Represented by Willi Stoph from 1962.

3) President of the People’s Chamber (acting head of state).

Two-state theory

Two-state theory developed by the Soviet party and state leadership (N. S. Khrushchev and N. A. Bulganin) in response to the Paris Treaties concluded between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Western Powers (1954) and the thesis defended by the USSR after the failure of the Geneva Summit Conference (1955) of the existence of two German states with different social systems, which are mutually exclusive, with Berlin (West) as “special territory”. The two-state theory was adopted by the GDR and the other states of the Eastern Bloc and confirmed in friendship treaties between the USSR and the GDR (June 12, 1964 and October 7, 1975).

North German Lowlands

North German lowlands, the northern part of Germany, in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony, Bremen, Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg, Berlin, Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony. The North German Lowland is part of the Central European Lowland that extends north of the low mountain range; it continues to the east in Poland (Pomeranian and Masurian Lake District, Silesian Bay), to the west in the Netherlands. In the Lower Rhine Bight, the Westphalian Bight and the Leipzig Lowland Bay, the North German lowlands encroach into the German low mountain range threshold. The north German lowlands are largely covered by deposits of Pleistocene inland glaciations; in the western part of the old moraine areas (Geest). The North Sea coast is surrounded by sea and river marshes (March) and the Wadden Sea. Loess blankets can be found at the foot of the low mountain range (e.g. Magdeburger Börde, Soester Börde). The pre-Pleistocene subsoil only emerges in isolated cases.

The North German lowlands are v. a. an agricultural area; Because of the partly poor soils, rye and potato cultivation predominate; Wheat and sugar beet cultivation v. a. in the Bördenzone at the foot of the low mountain range; Forage plant cultivation in Ostholstein. In the river and glacial valleys, grassland use and cattle breeding predominate (especially cattle farming). In addition, the cultivation of fruit and vegetables (around the big cities of Hamburg, Berlin, in the Bördenzone), of tobacco (in the eastern Uckermark) and of pulses (East Frisia).

Since the Middle Ages, the brine sources, z. B. in Lüneburg and Halle (Saale), used; In the 18th century the peat cutting was intensified, in the 19th century the extraction of potash salt began. Furthermore, the oil and natural gas fields in the central Emsland, in Ostholstein and in the area between Leine and Lüneburg Heath are important, as is the lignite in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg as well as in North Rhine-Westphalia. Coal mining in the Ruhr area has now advanced north to the north of the Lippe into the North German lowlands.

German Democratic Republic (1949-1990)