Country Listing

East Germany Table of Contents

East Germany

Foundation of the People's Police

By December 1945--within six months of the end of the war--each of the five states in the Soviet zone had a central police force, in clear violation of the Yalta and Potsdam agreements. In early January 1946, the term Volkspolizei (People's Police) was applied publicly to the new police forces in East Germany, and in August of the same year these forces were placed under the central control of the newly created German Administration of the Interior, headed by Erich Reschke.

Included within the structure of the People's Police was a special group called the Garrisoned People's Police (Kasernierte Volkspolizei--KVP). The group, first known as the Garrisoned Alert Units, was organized in 1948 but not officially recognized until 1952. These police, as the name indicates, lived in garrisons, or barracks, which usually were located in rural areas. The forces were organized and equipped as light infantry. The cadre comprised mostly former officers of Adolf Hitler's Wehrmacht who had undergone a conversion to communism while held as prisoners in the Soviet Union. Later the KVP was to be the major source of cadres for the armed forces of East Germany. The basic organization was similar to that of a Soviet battalion, and the uniforms were supplied by the Soviet Union. Initially the KVP was armed with captured German weapons, but gradually these were phased out in favor of Soviet weapons.

Why the People's Police was created is more difficult to explain. It could be argued that creation of the force was one of the first steps in the establishment of a sovereign state. The preponderance of evidence, however, indicates that in 1945 Stalin had no intention of forming an independent East German state. A reasonable explanation for the establishment of the police force may be found in the Soviet model on which the German Administration of the Interior was patterned. Under the Soviet system, uniformed troops subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior were assigned to tactical units to prevent counterrevolutionary activities. It would seem logical from the Soviet standpoint that the German Administration of the Interior have similar security forces.

Whatever the motivation, centralization of the police, beginning at the state level, was underway within a few months of the end of the war. According to Otto Opitz, who at that time was president of the police in Dresden and later became a senior official in the East German government, the SMAD approved the arming of community-level police forces on October 31, 1945, a date that East Germany also recognizes as the birth date of its armed forces.

From its inception, the People's Police prospered rapidly. By November 1946, the force numbered 45,000 men; two years later, it had grown to 60,000. By 1950 the KVP component alone totaled 70,000. With this growth came better definition of functions and a more sophisticated organization. In November 1946, the SMAD directed the organization of the Border Police. The initial 3,000 recruits were organized and trained from People's Police resources, and by April 1948 the branch numbered 10,000, the total reaching 18,000 in 1950. In December 1946, the Railroad Police was established in the same manner. By 1948 the latter unit, redesignated the Transport Police, consisted of 7,400 men.

By the end of 1948, the German Administration of the Interior had a large, well-organized security force under its command. The units were subordinate to the Main Administration of the Border Police and Alert Units, one of the primary agencies. Corresponding offices formed in each of the five states to coordinate police activities were removed from the jurisdiction of local authorities and directly subordinated to the central administration. While efforts were made to ensure the professional competence of security forces by exploiting the experience of Wehrmacht veterans, of whom there was no shortage, the principal concern was political reliability.

In its pursuit of reliability, the SMAD gave its first purge order in spring of 1949. This order directed the dismissal, from all branches of the police, of personnel who had been German police before 1945, had been prisoners of war in the West for extended periods, or had come to the Soviet-occupied zone of Germany as refugees from former German territories that had been placed under Polish or Soviet control. Those with close relatives in West Germany were also dismissed. In effect, anyone suspected of possible political unreliability was fired. At the same time, the first steps toward producing a reliable and professional cadre were taken by establishing the Main Administration of Training. The first training courses, run in 1949, were directed by such venerable communists as General Wilhelm Zaisser, the renowned "General Gomez" of the Spanish Civil War, and his deputy, the Soviet-trained general Heinz Hoffmann. Hoffmann later became minister of defense, commander of the National People's Army (Nationale Volksarmee--NVA), and a member of the Politburo of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands--SED), positions he continued to hold until his death in 1985.

By 1949 the nascent East German state had a well-organized and centrally controlled national security force. Although it had no armed forces in name, the foundation for the services had been well laid, and the establishment of the German Democratic Republic justified creating such a force.

Data as of July 1987

Country Listing

East Germany Table of Contents