Democratization of the State Organs (1952)

Under its original constitution, East Germany’s administrative structure was designed to mimic that of Imperial Germany and continued the traditional division of the country into federal states known as Länder. However, under Communist rule the country rapidly developed centralist tendencies and within four years of the constitution’s promulgation, East German leaders designed to begin the process of abolishing federalism and establishing a unitary state, with all decisions to be made by authorities in Berlin.

This law was the basis for the breakup or dissolution of the states and their replacement with districts. On July 25, 1952 – two days after the passage of this law – the states carried transferred all power into newly-created districts. The local state assemblies and parliaments were also abolished, with the members of the state parliaments becoming members of the district parliaments according to their place of residence.

Interestingly, this law did not actually abolish the Länder. They remained in existence, although they had no powers and served no role in the state administration. Until 1958, the states (despite being de facto abolished) were still represented in the national government through the States' Chamber. After the passage of this law, each state’s delegation to the States' Chamber was elected by the members of the district parliaments who were resident in that state. On December 8, 1958 the States' Chamber was abolished altogether, effectively ending the existence of the states.

Law on the Further Democratization of the Structure and Functioning of the State Bodies in the Länder in the German Democratic Republic

The tasks of the further democratic and economic development of the German Democratic Republic require the greatest possible rapprochement of the organs of state power with the population and a broader involvement of the working people in the management of the state.

The system of administrative division into states with their own state governments and into large districts, which originates from imperial Germany, does not guarantee the solution of the new tasks of our state.

The state of the old Germany had nothing to do with the management of the economy, since the factories, plants and mines as well as the banks belonged to individual big capitalists who drew profits from the exploitation of the working people. The new, truly democratic state in the German Democratic Republic, which has put an end to the big capitalist exploiters, also manages the economy on behalf of the people, which has become the property of the people and serves the interests of the people.

The old German state of big capitalists and big landowners, which deliberately separated itself from the working people, strove to keep the people out of politics and to exclude them from day-to-day participation in the affairs of state. The new socialist state of the German Democratic Republic, on the other hand, will only be an insurmountable force if it is close to the working people, if it involves the working people in politics, and if it draws the people into constant, systematic, active and decisive participation in the management of the state.

That is why the old administrative division, even with the changes made after 1945, has now become a fetter on the new development. The local organs of state power must therefore be reorganized in such a way that the state apparatus is given the opportunity to fulfill unwaveringly the will of the working people expressed in the laws of the German Democratic Republic and, supported by the initiative of the masses, to carry out a policy of the working people. The territorial scope of the local organs of state power must therefore be determined in such a way that these organs can fully carry out the management of economic and cultural construction. Effective guidance and control of the lower organs by the higher ones and by the people themselves must be ensured. This will strengthen our state, which is one of the most important instruments of building socialism in our country.

On this basis, the People’s Chamber of the German Democratic Republic shall pass the following law:

Section 1.

The Länder shall reorganize their territories into districts.

The districts shall be delimited in such a way as to meet economic requirements and to ensure the performance of all state tasks, in particular the effective guidance and control of state organs in the municipalities.

Section 2.

The Länder shall each combine several counties into districts.

The boundaries of the districts shall be drawn in such a way as to meet economic requirements and to ensure the performance of all State functions, in particular the effective guidance and control of the State organs in the districts.

Section 3.

The Council of Ministers of the German Democratic Republic shall be instructed to take the necessary measures to ensure the uniformity of construction and the progressive democratization of the functioning of the local organs of state power.

Section 4.

The departments of the Government of the German Democratic Republic shall, in agreement with the Coordination and Control Office for the Work of Administrative Bodies, regulate the following for their areas of responsibility:

a. the transfer to the organs of the districts the tasks hitherto performed by the Land governments, and

b. the adjustment of the structure of their subordinate departments to the new structure of the local state organs.

Section 5.

The revenue and expenditure confirmed by the Law of June 19, 1952, on the State Budget for 1952 (Journal of Laws, p. 483) for the budgets of the Länder and districts for 1952 shall be apportioned by the Council of Ministers to the districts and the new counties, amending accordingly the provisions on the financing of expenditure and on budgetary savings and reserves.

Section 6.

This law shall enter into force upon its promulgation.

The foregoing law, executed by the Vice-President of the People’s Chamber under the twenty-third of July nineteen hundred and fifty-two, is hereby promulgated.

Berlin, the twenty-fourth of July nineteen hundred and fifty-two.

The President of the German Democratic Republic
By proxy: