Willi Stoph

Willi Stoph
Prime Minister of the German Democratic Republic
(East Germany)
In office
21 September 1964  3 October 1973
President Walter Ulbricht
Preceded by Otto Grotewohl
Succeeded by Horst Sindermann
In office
29 October 1976  7 November 1989
President Erich Honecker
Preceded by Horst Sindermann
Succeeded by Hans Modrow
Chairman of the State Council of the German Democratic Republic
(East Germany)
In office
3 October 1973  29 October 1976
Prime Minister Horst Sindermann
Preceded by Walter Ulbricht
Succeeded by Erich Honecker
Personal details
Born (1914-07-09)9 July 1914
Berlin, German Empire
Died 13 April 1999(1999-04-13) (aged 84)
Berlin, Germany
Political party KPD (1928–1946)
SED (1946–1990)
Profession Engineer

Willi Stoph (German pronunciation: [ˈvɪli ˈʃtoːf]; 9 July 1914 13 April 1999) was an East German politician. He served as Prime Minister (Chairman of the Council of Ministers) of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) from 1964 to 1973, and again from 1976 until 1989.


Stoph was born in Berlin in 1914;[1] his father died the following year in World War I. In 1928, Stoph joined the Communist Youth League of Germany (Kommunistischer Jugendverband Deutschlands; KJVD) and in 1931 he joined the Communist Party of Germany. He also served in the Wehrmacht from 1935 to 1937, and again during World War II from 1940 to 1945. He was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class and rose to the rank of Unteroffizier.

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

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

From 1964 to 1973, he was Chairman of the Council of Ministers (Ministerrat). After the death of Walter Ulbricht in 1973, Stoph became Chairman of the Council of State, and thus, head of state of the GDR. After Volkskammer elections in 1976, the state and party leadership structure was re-arranged, and Stoph once again became Chairman of the Council of Ministers.

Stoph to deliver New Year's Eve address, 1974

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.

For the most part, Stoph was a loyal supporter of SED leader Erich Honecker. However, he joined the plot to remove him 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.[2] A month later, on 7 November, Stoph and his entire 44-member cabinet resigned in response to public pressure. On 8 November, the Central Committee of the SED nominated Hans Modrow as Stoph's replacement. Stoph was subsequently arrested for corruption in December 1989. In a desperate attempt to rebuild its image, the Party of Democratic Socialism, successor to the SED, expelled Stoph in January 1990. He was later spared detention due to health reasons. In 1994, a court in Berlin decided that he should not get back his seized savings of 200,000 DM.

Stoph died in Berlin at the age of 84 on 13 April 1999 as the last surviving leader of East Germany before Egon Krenz.[3] He was buried in Wildau.


  1. 1 2 3 "East German ministries". Rulers. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  2. Sebetsyen, Victor (2009). Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire. New York City: Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-375-42532-2.
  3. Saxon, Wolfang (22 April 1999). "Willi Stoph, 84, Premier, Twice, in East Germany". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
Political offices
Preceded by
Otto Grotewohl
Prime Minister of East Germany
Succeeded by
Horst Sindermann
Preceded by
Walter Ulbricht
Chairman of the State Council of the German Democratic Republic
Succeeded by
Erich Honecker
Preceded by
Horst Sindermann
Prime Minister of East Germany
Succeeded by
Hans Modrow
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