Country Listing

East Germany Table of Contents

East Germany

Socialist Military Education

Civil defense was but one vital element of East Germany's comprehensive system of socialist military education. As a result of extensive measures aimed at the political and ideological education and military training of all citizens fit for military service, more East Germans engaged in military activity in the 1980s than did citizens of any other Warsaw Pact country. Of every 10,000 Germans, 433 were members of the armed forces or of paramilitary units in 1983, in comparison with 210 Czechoslovaks, 185 Soviets and 115 Poles.

Military education had been stressed in East Germany since the founding of the republic, and in 1978 it was made a formal component of the school curriculum as an independent educational subject for the ninth and tenth grades of the republic's schools. In March 1982, the new Military Service Law expanded the obligations of East German citizens yet again with five major new provisions. Preparation for military service was required by law. All state organs, factories, organizations, schools, and universities were legally obligated to provide such preparation. Every citizen was obliged to contribute toward defense. The term of military service for reservists was lengthened. The state was given the right to draft women between the ages of eighteen and fifty for general military service; previously they could be conscripted only into noncombat roles. Service in construction troops was declared equivalent to fulfillment of the military service obligation, and certain conditions for this service were set forth. These measures were in part a response to declining birthrates and an increasing need for conscripts who had enough basic training behind them to spend their active duty learning to master more sophisticated technology. They also could be viewed as a response to growing indications of popular resistance. Signs of resistance included an increasing number of young men who chose to serve in construction troops or refused to serve at all, protests from East Germany's Lutheran Church against the militarization of the educational system and organized military youth activities, and waning interest among young men in an NVA career. The Military Service Law of 1982 gave a more precise and binding legal basis to premilitary training, which had been stressed in East Germany since 1951. In the early 1980s, even before implementation of the new law began in 1983, as many as eight of every ten draftees had had premilitary training. Educational and career opportunities often were tied directly to participation in premilitary activities and to military service.

Socialist military education began in kindergarten, where the children played games with a military orientation and learned songs and poems about soldiers. Older children, as members of the Young Pioneers, took part in military games and the annual Snowflake Maneuver directed by NVA officers. The school system, reinforced by the family, was to lay the basis for forming--as early as possible--what the SED called the image of the enemy and instilling hatred for all foes of socialism, with emphasis on the soldiers of the West German Bundeswehr.

The premilitary education curriculum stressed civil defense and general military subjects. Instruction consisted of lessons on such themes as national defense, the nature of a possible war, the duties of soldiers and territorial defense forces, and the weapons and equipment of the socialist armies. Classroom work was supplemented by a self-contained course of approximately fifty hours taught during the last two weeks of the ninth grade. At the end of the tenth grade, the NVA conducted a closing exercise of several days.

Data as of July 1987