East Germany Table of Contents
On January 18, 1956, the People's Chamber (the national legislature) passed a bill creating the NVA and the Ministry of Defense. This act formally acknowledged the existence of East Germany's armed forces. The NVA incorporated the KVP, Sea Police, and Air Police into a single armed force having three branches: ground, naval, and air. The Ministry of Defense was headed by Colonel General (Generaloberst) Willi Stoph, who was also minister of the interior. In 1987 Stoph was chairman of the Council of Ministers and a member of the SED Politburo. General Hoffmann, who was listed as first deputy minister of defense, attended the Soviet General Staff Academy in the mid-1950s and replaced Stoph as defense minister in 1960. Hoffmann held the post until his death in 1985. Concurrent with the establishment of the NVA as a legal entity was a return to public manifestations of German military traditions, with the addition of socialist elements. The training regimen for recruits approximated that of the former Wehrmacht, as did drill and ceremonies. New uniforms, whose color and cut were far closer to those of German World War II forces than to Soviet models, were introduced. Only the helmet represented a radical departure from World War II, but here too the design differed from the Soviet model.
The creation of the NVA addressed both internal and external security problems. Internally the physical appearance of the NVA spoke to the population in terms of their traditional German heritage and differentiated the NVA from the Soviet Army. In theory at least, East German citizens could have pride in their own army. The swift creation of the NVA as a force of more than 120,000 officers and other ranks practicing Prussian-style drill was a dramatic gesture of nationalism that was impossible for the world to ignore.
The creation of the Ministry of Defense and the NVA seemingly should have been a blow to the authority and prestige of the Ministry of the Interior. The bureaucratic impact of this action was mitigated by permitting Stoph to carry both portfolios for four years. In addition, police activities, both civil and secret, remained under the Ministry of the Interior, as did the Border Police. The Ministry of the Interior established its own Alert Units for the specific function of internal security. The Alert Units were militarily structured, fully motorized units with modern weapons and equipment. Garrisoned and trained in battalion-size units, they were capable of carrying out police tasks and other security functions. They have been used in major disturbances or in civil disasters affecting public order and safety.
Data as of July 1987