Cold War Covers
Formation of the DDR
DDR Heads of State
Prior the proclamation of an East German state, the Soviets established in 1948 the German Economic Commission (DWK) as a de facto government in their occupation zone. Its chairman was Heinrich Rau.  On 7 October 1949 an East German state, called the German Democratic Republic (GDR), was proclaimed and took the governmental functions over from the DWK. Essentially with the same personnel. For most of its existence (until autumn of 1989), the most important position in the GDR was that of the General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) (titled as the First Secretary between 1953–1976). The Communist party and its leader held ultimate power and authority over state and government. The formal head of state originally was the President of the German Democratic Republic. After the death of incumbent Wilhelm Pieck in 1960, the office was replaced by a collective head of state, the State Council. The position of chairman was commonly held by the party leader.  Government was headed by the Council of Ministers and its chairman, sometimes colloquially called Prime Minister.  
State President

 
Johannes Dieckmann 
1949-1949. 
 
Photo copyright Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-F0711-0037-001 / CC-BY-SA 3.0.
State President

Wilhelm Pieck. 1949-1960

Photo copyright Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-F0711-0037-001 / CC-BY-SA 3.0.
 

Chairman of the State Council

Walter Ulbricht. 1960-1973

Photo copyright Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-F0711-0037-001 / CC-BY-SA 3.0.

 

Chairman of the State Council

Willi Stoph. 1973-1976


Photo copyright Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-F0711-0037-001 / CC-BY-SA 3.0.

 

Other important institutions included the People's Chamber, whose sessions were chaired by a President of the People's Chamber, and, since 1960, the National Defense Council, which held supreme command of the GDR's armed forces and had unlimited authority over the State in time of war. The Council was composed exclusively of members of the SED's Central Committee and Politburo, with the party leader serving as Chairman of the National Defense Council.  
 
  
The peaceful revolution in 1989 forced the SED to relinquish its monopoly on political power and saw the National Defense and State Councils abolished. The remaining institutions were the People's Chamber, whose President by default became head of state for the remainder of the GDR's existence, and the Council of Ministers, both eventually validated by the country's first and last democratic elections in March 1990. The GDR joined the FRG on 3 October 1990
Chairman of the State Council

Erich Honecker. 1976-1989
 
Photo copyright Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-F0711-0037-001 / CC-BY-SA 3.0.