(b. Stettin, 8 Oct. 1926; d. Berlin, 18 Mar. 1994)
German; member of the Politburo of the SED 1963–89, Secretary for the Economy 1962–73, 1976–89 In 1958 Ulbricht picked out Günter Mittag, a former railway inspector from Stettin, then a 32-year-old economics expert, and put him in charge of transforming the East German economy into a world-class, technologically based vehicle of socialism. After occupying several posts connected with economic management, Mittag was ‘elected’ secretary of the Central Committee of the ruling SED responsible for the economy in 1962. He headed a team of experts who introduced the New Economic System in 1963. In the same year he became a candidate member of the Politburo. His reforms were meant to reintroduce an element of the market economy, strengthen the remaining private sector, concentrate investment in the new technologies, and put the emphasis on quality rather than quantity. The erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961 had at last secured the labour force and for a few years the GDR seemed to enjoy modest prosperity. When Honecker overthrew Ulbricht in 1971 what was left of the reforms came to an end. In 1973 Mittag was given a lesser economic post in the state apparatus, remaining a member of the Politburo of which he had been a full member since 1966. With the economy faltering he was returned to his old command in 1976. But this meant his complete submission to Honecker, who understood little of economics. Despite West German assistance, Western loans, and millions of West German visitors, the East German economic situation got steadily worse from at least the late 1970s onwards. Mittag was regarded as a virtual dictator of the economy until in October 1989 he fell with Honecker when he was arrested for misuse of office. He died a sick and broken man in 1994.