People's Chamber

People's Chamber
People's Chamber
Type unicameral parliament
(until 1958 lower chamber)
Country German Democratic Republic (East Germany)
Established 1949
Preceded by Reichstag
Succeeded by Bundestag
Disbanded 1990
Members 400
Meeting place
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1990-0419-418, Berlin, Volkskammer während Regierungserklärung von Lothar de Maiziere.jpg
Palast der Republik

The People's Chamber (German: Volkskammer) was the unicameral legislature of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). From its founding in 1949 until the first free elections on 18 March 1990, all members of the Volkskammer were elected on a slate controlled by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), called the National Front. Despite the appearance of a multi-party system, all these Bloc parties were effectively controlled by the dominant SED. In addition, seats were also allocated to various mass organizations affiliated with the SED, such as the Free German Youth.

Initially, it existed alongside the Chamber of States, or Länderkammer, but in 1952 the states of East Germany (and with it the chamber) were dissolved.

In theory, the Volkskammer was the highest organ of state power in the GDR. Both GDR constitutions vested it with great lawmaking powers. It also formally appointed the Council of State (after 1960), the Council of Ministers, and the National Defence Council.

In practice, like most other legislatures in Communist countries, the People's Chamber did little more than rubber-stamp decisions already made by the SED. All parties were expected to respect democratic centralism, and the most dissent in voting ever shown by the Volkskammer to the SED were fourteen nays and eight abstentions on the part of CDU representatives in a vote on liberalising abortion law.

A typical slate was as follows:

Party/Group Acronym Members
Socialist Unity Party of Germany SED 127
Free German Trade Union Federation FDGB 68
Christian Democratic Union CDU 52
Liberal Democratic Party of Germany LDPD 52
Democratic Farmers' Party of Germany DBD 52
National Democratic Party of Germany NDPD 52
Free German Youth FDJ 50
Democratic Women's League of Germany DFD 35
Cultural Association of the DDR KB 22

In 1976, the Volkskammer moved into a specially-constructed building on Marx-Engels-Platz (now Schloßplatz again), the Palast der Republik (Palace of the Republic).

Protestor, January 1990
Ballot for the 1990 elections (Text reads "Sample")

After the 1990 elections, the disposition of the parties was as follows:

Party/Group Acronym Members
Alliance for Germany CDU, DA, DSU 192
Social Democratic Party of Germany SPD 88
Party of Democratic Socialism PDS, former SED 66
Association of Free Democrats DFP, FDP, LDP 21
Alliance 90 B90 12
East German Green Party and Independent Women's Association Grüne, UFV 8
National Democratic Party of Germany NDPD 2
Democratic Women's League of Germany DFD 1
United Left VL 1

Chairmen of the People's Chamber

List of Presidents of the People's Chamber

Below is a list of office-holders:

Name Entered office Left office Party
Johannes Dieckmann October 7, 1949 February 22, 1969 LDPD
Gerald Götting May 12, 1969 October 29, 1976 CDU
Horst Sindermann October 29, 1976 November 13, 1989 SED
Günther Maleuda November 13, 1989 April 5, 1990 DBD
Sabine Bergmann-Pohl April 5, 1990 October 2, 1990 CDU

Sabine-Bergmann-Pohl was also head of state of the German Democratic Republic, due to the State Council having been abolished.

See also

  • List of Presidents of the People's Chamber
  • Presidium of the People's Chamber

External links

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