Willi Stoph

Willi Stoph

Stoph, Willi, 1914-99, East German political leader. A member of the German Communist party from 1931, he helped build the East German Socialist Unity (Communist) party after World War II. In 1953 he was named to the party's politburo. Stoph served (1952-55) as minister of internal affairs and (1956-60) as minister for national defense, in which capacity he developed the East German army. After serving as deputy chairman of the council of ministers (1954-64), he became chairman, or prime minister, in 1964. In Mar., 1970, he met with West German Chancellor Willy Brandt and initiated negotiations for a nonaggression treaty and the normalization of relations; it was the first meeting between leaders of East and West Germany. He was replaced (1973) as prime minister by Horst Sindermann and given the ceremonial position of chairman of the Council of State. In 1976 Stoph was reappointed chairman of the council of ministers. He was expelled from the post in 1989, in the midst of unrest that led to the collapse of the Communist dictatorship and the subsequent electoral defeat of the Communist party (Mar., 1990).
Willi Stoph (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.


Born in Berlin in 1914, Stoph's father died the following year as a result of WWI. In 1928, the young 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 WWII from 1940 to 1945. He was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class and rose to the rank of Unteroffizier.

Following the establishment of the GDR, 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 1952 to 1955, and defense minister from 1956 to 1960.

From 1964 to 1973, he was Chairman of the Council of Ministers (Ministerrat). After the death of Walter Ulbricht in 1973, Stoph became Chairmen 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 Chairmen of the Council of Ministers.

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.

Following the ouster of Erich Honecker in October 1989, Stoph and all 44 members of his cabinet resigned on November 7 in response to public pressure. On November 8, the Central Committee of the SED nominated Hans Modrow as Stoph's replacement. Stoph was subsequently arrested for corruption in December 1989. 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 on 13 April 1999.

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