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East Germany

The National Security System and the Citizen

Having successfully met challenges at home and abroad, East Germany entered the decade of the 1970s with a stronger external security image than it had had previously and with a fully active state security apparatus in operation. Internal security had been tightened, and the Berlin Wall had stemmed the emigration problem. The regime was perceptibly closer to international recognition. Matters involving the organization of the national security system and political and social integration still had to be addressed, however.

Civil Defense

As a member of the Warsaw Pact, East Germany is obliged to ensure that its security organization corresponds to the norms accepted for the other member states. In 1961 the Soviet Union had created a comprehensive civil defense system that brought all functions--military, police, economic, and medical--into a single organized body. By 1969 the other non-Soviet Warsaw Pact states had followed suit, and on September 16, 1970, East Germany came into compliance when the People's Chamber passed a law creating a comprehensive civil defense system. This law was replaced by the Civil Defense Law of 1978, later modified by decree in 1981. These laws regulated mobilization, set forth the obligations of the population in the event of war, and determined the role of the citizenry in peacetime civil defense work. Since 1981, for example, all East German males between the ages of sixteen and sixty-five and all females between the ages of eighteen and sixty have been required to participate in civil defense training exercises that frequently simulate nuclear warfare and involve entire sections of a city.

Under the new law, the minister of defense, through the director of civil defense, was made responsible for national civil defense. Until 1978 civil defense had been the responsibility of the minister of the interior; the change was made throughout the Warsaw Pact in the 1970s in accordance with Soviet doctrine, which began to define civil defense as an element of warfare. The Central Civil Defense Staff had been created to formulate plans, conduct day-to-day business, and coordinate activities should an emergency arise. For local operations, regional, urban, and district staffs were established. People's Police officers and others specially trained at national civil defense schools in the Soviet Union occupied many staff positions.

The law also provided for the formation of civil defense committees at local levels, down to the level of cooperatives; directors of plants, offices, and schools would be responsible for civil defense affairs in their organizations. Civil defense training was mandatory for all citizens beginning at the age of sixteen and extending through the age of sixty for women and sixty-five for men. Training included formal schooling at the district level and tournaments with competition in individual and team civil defense skills. Also included in the law was a provision for construction of civil defense shelters, giving emphasis to the safety of the leaders of the SED and the government. Possibly because of shortages of building materials, shelters for the general public were few and of poor quality.

In 1987 the civil defense cadre numbered about 3,000, and several hundred thousand civilians were subject to mobilization as needed (see Paramilitary Forces , this ch.). Public safety organizations, including police, fire, Red Cross, and communications, could be mobilized under the direction of the local Civil Defense Staff. Volunteer formations known since 1982 as Civil Defense Alert Units could also be activated in an emergency. In addition, certain branches of the economy, such as construction organizations and the public health system, created their own civil defense sectors, having specific responsibilities in their own areas of competence.

Another aspect of the civil defense structure was its mass nature. Civil defense not only served its direct purpose of protecting the state, the economy, and the public from the effects of war and natural catastrophe, but it also represented a socializing instrument, or a means of providing mass participation in state affairs without sharing political authority. Civil defense, as one of the methods used to educate the population to think and act as citizens of East Germany, was an important feature of the system of national security.

Data as of July 1987

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