Klaus Gysi

Klaus Gysi (3 March 1912 – 6 March 1999) was a journalist and publisher and a member of the French Resistance against the Nazis. After World War II, he became a politician in the German Democratic Republic, serving in the government as Minister of Culture from 1966 to 1973, and from 1979 to 1988, as the State Secretary for Church Affairs. He was a member of the Socialist Unity Party (SED) and after German Reunification, the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS). His son is the German politician Gregor Gysi.

Klaus Gysi
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-E1104-0037-001, Berlin, 1. DSV-Jahreskonferenz, Klaus Gysi.jpg
State Secretary for Church Affairs
In office
Preceded byHans Seigewasser
Succeeded byKurt Löffler
Ambassador of the German Democratic Republic to Italy
In office
1973 – 1978
Minister of Culture
In office
Preceded byHans Bentzien
Succeeded byHans Joachim Hoffman
Member of the Volkskammer
In office
1967 – March 1990
Personal details
Born3 March 1912
Neukölln, Berlin German Empire
Died6 March 1999 (1999-03-07) (aged 87)
Berlin, Germany
Political party
OccupationPolitician, journalist


Klaus Gysi, 1946

Gysi was born in Neukölln, a borough of Berlin, Germany. His father was a doctor[1] and his mother a bookkeeper. He attended grade school and Gymnasium in Neukölln and in 1928, joined the Young Communist League of Germany, the Workers International Relief and the Sozialistischer Schülerbund. He received his Abitur from the Odenwaldschule in Darmstadt in 1931, and that same year, joined the Communist Party (KPD). From 1931 to 1935, he studied social economics in Frankfurt am Main, the Sorbonne in Paris, and in Berlin.[1]

He became active in the left-wing students' movement in 1931 and in 1935; he was expelled from Humboldt University of Berlin. He went to Cambridge, England in 1936 and later, to Paris, France,[1] where in 1939, he became one of the student leaders of the Communist Party there. He was then detained in France from 1939 to 1940, afterward returning to Germany on order of the KPD, accompanied by his wife, Irene.[2] In Berlin, Gysi worked at the publisher Hoppenstedt & Co. and was involved in underground political activities against the Third Reich.

After the war, Gysi joined the SED. From 1945 to 1948, he was the editor-in-chief of the monthly Aufbau: Kulturpolitische Monatsschrift. From 1945 to 1977, he was a member of the presidium council, the federal secretary and lastly, a member of the presidium of the Cultural Association of the GDR. From 1949 to 1954, he was a representative in the GDR's parliament, the People's Chamber. From 1952 to 1957, he worked at the publishing house Verlag Volk und Wissen, afterward succeeding Walter Janka as head of Aufbau-Verlag, working there until 1966.

In 1963, Gysi became a member of the West Commission of the Politburo of the SED's Central Committee. From January 1966 to 1973, he was the Minister for Culture, a member of the Council of Ministers of East Germany and the Culture Commission of the Central Committee's Politburo. From 1967 to March 1990, he again served as a representative in the People's Chamber.

From 1973 to 1978, Gysi was ambassador to Italy, Vatican City[dubious ] and Malta.[1] From December 1978 to 1979, he was the General Secretary of the GDR's Committee for European Security and Cooperation, which prepared for GDR's participation in the Helsinki Accords. In November 1979 Gysi succeeded Hans Seigewasser as the State Secretary for Church Affairs, remaining in this position until his retirement in 1988.[1] After the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Gysi became a member of the PDS in 1990.


Gysi was married three times and had seven children. His first wife, Irene (née Lessing) (1912-2007) was the sister of Gottfried Lessing, and sister-in-law of Doris Lessing. They divorced in 1958. Their daughter, Gabriele Gysi (*1946), is an actress. She moved to the former West Germany in 1985.[1] Their son Gregor (*1948), a lawyer, was head of the PDS from 1989 to 1993 and is today one of the most prominent politicians in Germany's Left Party.

Recognition and honorsEdit

In 1969, Gysi was awarded the Banner of Labor; in 1970, he received the Memorial Medal of the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit and the Lenin Memorial Medal. In 1972, he was awarded the Patriotic Order of Merit; in 1977, the Order of Karl Marx; and in 1982, he received the honor clasp of the Patriotic Order of Merit. In 1987, he was awarded the Star of People's Friendship and received an honorary degree from the University of Jena.


Further readingEdit

  • Bernd-Rainer Barth, Helmut Müller-Enbergs: Gysi, Klaus. In: Wer war wer in der DDR? 5th edition, volume 1. Christof Links Verlag, Berlin (2010) ISBN 978-3-86153-561-4

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Hans Bentzien
Minister of Culture, (GDR)
Succeeded by
Hans-Joachim Hoffmann
Preceded by
Ambassador to Italy
Succeeded by
Hans Voß
Preceded by
Hans Siegewasser
State Secretary for Church Affairs
Succeeded by
Kurt Löffler