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German History in Documents and Images
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Wilhelm Pieck Giving a Speech at Friedrichstadt-Palast in East Berlin (c. 1950)
On October 11, 1949, Wilhelm Pieck (seen here in front of a picture of Stalin) was elected the first president of the GDR by the Provisional People’s Parliament [Provisorische Volkskammer] and the Provisional States' Chamber [Provisorische Länderkammer]. According to the GDR constitution, which took effect on October 7, 1949, the tasks of the president of the republic included promulgating laws, swearing in members of the government when they took office, representing the GDR in international relations, concluding and signing treaties with foreign powers, accrediting and receiving ambassadors and envoys, and exercising the right to grant pardons. After Pieck's death on September 7, 1960, the People’s Parliament, through the law of September 12, 1960, abolished the office of president and created a collective organ, the State Council [Staatsrat], to replace it. The State Council assumed the functions and tasks of the office of the president, giving its chairman a leading position. The first chairman of the State Council was Walter Ulbricht; his deputies were the chairmen of the block parties. Photo by Jochen Moll.