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Chamber of States

German Democratic Republic (East Germany)
Coat of arms or logo
Established1949; 75 years ago (1949)
Disbanded1958; 66 years ago (1958)
Preceded byNazi Reichstag
Succeeded byPeople's Chamber
Meeting place

The Chamber of States (German: Länderkammer) was the upper chamber of the bicameral legislature of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) from its founding in 1949 until 1952, at which time it was largely sidelined, when the five Länder (states) of East Germany ceased to exist and were replaced with smaller administrative regions.[1] The Chamber of States itself was dissolved on 8 December 1958. The lower chamber, which continued in existence until German reunification in 1990, was the People's Chamber (Volkskammer).

In the Federal Republic of Germany the expression Länderkammer is sometimes used to denote the Bundesrat although it is not legally classified as a legislative chamber.

A Session of the Länderkammer in 1958. The Minister of the Interior Karl Maron is speaking.

Idea and reality

Länder in 1947 (purple), and in 1990 (red)

After 1945, the Soviet military administration established the five Länder of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia.

Initially, in 1949, the communists aimed for a quasi-unitary state, with some degree of decentralization. Laws were to be made by the central legislature in East Berlin, and the Länder authorities were responsible for the implementation of the laws.

In practice, due to the democratic centralism of the SED, the GDR rapidly developed strong centralist tendencies. However, it initially operated in this bicameral framework in which the states were represented. The Chamber of States theoretically had the power to introduce bills and to veto laws proposed by the People's Chamber, although another vote in the People's Chamber could overturn such a veto. The Chamber of States never made use of its veto. The two chambers also elected the President of East Germany in joint session.

According to the Constitution of East Germany, in addition to the People's Chamber, a “provisional Land Chamber” was formed. The fifty members of the Land Chamber were to be determined by the assemblies in the various Länder, according to the memberships of these assemblies. Saxony sent thirteen delegates, Saxony-Anhalt eleven, Thuringia ten, Brandenburg nine, and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern seven. East Berlin sent thirteen delegates, but they did not have voting rights owing to Berlin as a whole still legally being occupied territory. (A similar arrangement existed in West Berlin, in which the city's delegates in the Bundestag and Bundesrat had no voting rights.)

In 1952, the East German Länder transferred their administrative functions to the smaller regional districts (Bezirke), effectively dissolving themselves. The Chamber of States remained in existence, but became increasingly redundant. Since the Landtage could no longer meet to elect members of the Chamber of States, the 1954 delegates for each Länder were chosen by a special meeting of the District Assemblies (Bezirkstage) of that state. The members of the Chamber of States elected in 1958 were directly elected by their Bezirkstage. These delegates were appointed as a "suicide squad," raising no objection as the People's Chamber abolished the Chamber of States and the Länder on 8 December 1958.

Presidents of the Chamber of States

Name Period Party
Reinhold Lobedanz October 11, 1949 – March 5, 1955 CDU
August Bach March 5, 1955 – December 8, 1958 CDU

Vice-Presidents of the Chamber of States

Name Period Party
August Fröhlich 1950 – 1958 SED
Hans Luthardt 1950 – 1958 NDPD
Erich Hagemeier 1950 – 1954 LDPD
Dr. Karl Mühlmann 1954 – 1958 LDPD
Max Suhrbier 1958 LDPD
Diedrich Besler 1950 – 1954 DBD
Albert Rödiger 1954 – 1958 DBD

See also


  1. ^ "Bundesrat kompakt: 1952–69: Aufbau und Kalter Krieg" [Federal Council compact: 1952-69: Reconstruction and the Cold War] (in German). Archived from the original on 9 December 2011.