Willi Stoph - Wikipedia Jump to content

Willi Stoph

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Willi Stoph
Stoph in 1976
Chairman of the
Council of Ministers
In office
29 October 1976 – 13 November 1989
Chairman of the
State Council
First Deputy
Preceded byHorst Sindermann
Succeeded byHans Modrow
In office
21 September 1964 – 3 October 1973
Acting: November 1960 – 21 September 1964
Chairman of the
State Council
First Deputy
  • Alfred Neumann
  • Horst Sindermann
Preceded byOtto Grotewohl
Succeeded byHorst Sindermann
Chairman of the State Council
In office
3 October 1973 – 29 October 1976
Preceded byFriedrich Ebert Jr. (acting)
Succeeded byErich Honecker
Secretary for Economic Policy of the
Central Committee Secretariat of the Socialist Unity Party
In office
25 July 1950 – 26 July 1953
First Secretary
Preceded byWalter Ulbricht
Succeeded byGerhart Ziller (Economy)
Council of Ministers
First Deputy Chairman of the
Council of Ministers
In office
4 July 1962 – 24 September 1964
Preceded byWalter Ulbricht (1960)
Succeeded byAlfred Neumann (1968)
Minister of National Defence
In office
1 March 1956 – 14 July 1960
Chairman of the
Council of Ministers
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byHeinz Hoffmann
Minister of the Interior
In office
6 May 1952 – 1 July 1955
  • Otto Grotewohl
Preceded byKarl Steinhoff
Succeeded byKarl Maron
Member of the Volkskammer
for Dresden-Nord, Dresden-Ost[1]
In office
22 February 1950 – 16 November 1989
Preceded byWilhelm Pieck
Succeeded byHorst Buder
Personal details
Wilhelm Stoph

(1914-07-09)9 July 1914
Schöneberg, Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire (now Germany)
Died13 April 1999(1999-04-13) (aged 84)
Berlin, Germany
Political partySocialist Unity Party
Other political
Communist Party of Germany (1928–1946)
  • Politician
  • Engineer
  • Bricklayer
AwardsOrder of Karl Marx
Central institution membership

Other offices held

Wilhelm Stoph (9 July 1914 – 13 April 1999) was a German politician. He served as Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) from 1964 to 1973, and again from 1976 until 1989. He also served as chairman of the State Council from 1973 to 1976.


Stoph was born in Berlin in 1914;[2] his father died the following year in World War I. In 1928, Stoph joined the Young Communist League of Germany (Kommunistischer Jugendverband Deutschlands; KJVD) and in 1931 he joined the Communist Party of Germany. He was conscripted into the Wehrmacht from 1935 to 1937, and served during World War II from 1940 to 1945.

He was assigned to the 293rd Infantry Division's artillery regiment,[3] and was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class and rose to the rank of Unteroffizier. As the war ended, according to historian Harris Lentz, "Stoph worked with the Communist-dominated Socialist Unity party and served on the party's executive committee from 1947."[4]

Stoph (right) in NVA colonel-general uniform, 1957
Meeting West German Chancellor Willy Brandt (on his right), 1970

Following the establishment of the GDR in 1949, Stoph became a member of the Socialist Unity Party's Central Committee and member of the Volkskammer in 1950. He was named to the Politbüro in 1953. He served as Interior Minister from 9 May 1952 to 1 July 1955, and as East Germany's first Defense Minister from 18 January 1956 to 14 July 1960.[5][6] As defense minister, he was awarded the rank of Armeegeneral.

After having served as first deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers (first Deputy Prime Minister) from 1960 to 1964, he was named Chairman of the Council of Ministers (Ministerrat), or Prime Minister, in 1964 after the death of Otto Grotewohl. However, he had been serving as acting chairman of the council since October 1960 due to Grotewohl's poor health. He was initially thought to be the heir apparent to longtime party leader Walter Ulbricht, but his ascendancy was checked by Erich Honecker.[6][7] After Ulbricht's death in 1973, Stoph became Chairman of the Council of State—a post equivalent in rank to president of the GDR. After Volkskammer elections in 1976, Honecker re-arranged the state and party leadership structure. Believing that Stoph's successor as prime minister, Horst Sindermann, was too liberal on economic matters, Honecker replaced him with Stoph.

Stoph delivering New Year's Eve address to the East German people, 1974

During his first stint as Prime Minister, Stoph began a series of negotiations with West German Chancellor Willy Brandt in 1970. It marked the first ever meeting between the leaders of East and West Germany.

Stoph was known as a man who could be trusted to carry out the directives of the SED's Politburo; indeed, Honecker tapped him for his second stint in the premiership for this reason.[6] For the most part, Stoph was a loyal supporter of Honecker. Although he nominally held the highest state post in the GDR, in practice he was outranked by Honecker, who derived most of his power from his post as general secretary of the SED.

However, Stoph joined the plot to remove Honecker in October 1989. At the Politburo meeting at which Honecker was voted out, Stoph made the motion to depose Honecker and replace him with Egon Krenz.[8] A month later, on 13 November, Stoph and his entire 44-member cabinet resigned in response to public pressure. Stoph was subsequently arrested for corruption in December 1989. Despite his role in pushing Honecker out, the SED expelled Stoph on December 3, the same day it expelled Honecker. He was later spared detention on grounds of ill health. In 1994, a court in Berlin decided that his seized savings of 200,000 Deutsche Mark would not be returned to him.

Stoph died in Berlin at the age of 84 on 13 April 1999.[6] He was buried in Wildau.


  1. ^ Schmidt, Arthur. "Volkskammer der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik 1986-1990, Seite 29" (PDF). gvoon.de. Retrieved 23 July 2023.
  2. ^ "Obituary: Willi Stoph". The Independent. 21 April 1999.
  3. ^ Rogers, Steven (2014). "Stoph, Willi (1914–1999)". In Zabecki, David T. (ed.). Germany at War: 400 Years of Military History. Vol. 3. ABC Clio. pp. 1244–1245. ISBN 9781598849806.
  4. ^ Harris M. Lentz (2014). Heads of States and Governments Since 1945. Routledge. p. 305. ISBN 9781134264902.
  5. ^ "East German ministries". Rulers. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d Saxon, Wolfang (22 April 1999). "Willi Stoph, 84, Premier, Twice, in East Germany". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  7. ^ Hoffman, Dierk [de]. Otto Grotewohl 1894-1964 : Eine politische Biographie (in German). Publications of the Soviet Occupation Zone/GDR-Institute of Contemporary History (Munich). 2009. pp. 466–468.
  8. ^ Sebestyen, Victor (2009). Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire. New York City: Pantheon Books. ISBN 978-0-375-42532-5.
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of the Interior of the German Democratic Republic
Succeeded by
Preceded by
none (position established)
Minister of National Defense of the German Democratic Republic
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairman of the Council of Ministers
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairman of the State Council of the German Democratic Republic
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairman of the Council of Ministers
Succeeded by