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East Germany


In 1987 East Germany maintained a regular military establishment with a strength of 175,300, about 1 percent of the population. Conscripts totaled about 95,000, or approximately 54 percent of the armed forces.

The ground, air/air defense, and naval forces were included in the NVA, which had grown out of the police units created under the Soviet occupation after World War II. The close association thus established with the Soviet Army continued to exist in 1987 and was reflected in the missions and roles of the NVA. Even the military oath of allegiance taken by all NVA service personnel refers to the alliance with the Soviet Army (see fig. 11).

Since the mid-1970s, East Germany has had three military districts--I, III, and V--defined as higher militaryadministrative groupings of formations, units, and military facilities in a certain area (see fig. 12). Until the mid-1970s, the People's Navy had constituted Military District IV, while the Air Force/Air Defense Force had formed Military District II; these two districts as such were abolished in the mid-1970s. In 1987 the air/air defense and naval forces were under the orders of their respective commands. The military districts were also separate from the fifteen districts of the civil administration and from the air defense districts, which were part of the Warsaw Pact air defense system. Within the NVA's system of military justice, each military district constituted a judicial district for a military high court.

In 1987 Military District I, headquartered at Strausberg--a small town near Brandenburg, thirty-five kilometers west of Berlin--was essentially the capital district. The district included the Ministry of Defense, the Border Troops, and Civil Defense. Military District III and Military District V--the two ground force districts--have been subordinate to the Ground Forces Command in Potsdam since 1972. The head of each district was supported by a staff and an advisory military council. Military District III, embracing the southern half of the country, was headquartered in Leipzig; Military District V, which included the northern half of East Germany, had its headquarters in Neubrandenburg.

The decline in East Germany's population from a high of 18.4 million in 1950 to the 1987 figure of 16.7 million, caused serious manpower problems for the armed forces. The Military Service Law contained several measures designed to increase the pool of potential service personnel, including a provision for mandatory premilitary training for all young men and women. As of 1987, women were not subject to compulsory military service, but they were permitted to volunteer and were doing so in increasing numbers. For the most part, women served as temporary NCOs, career NCOs, or warrant officers in the NVA and the Border Troops. Typically, they worked in the administrative service as secretaries, in stationary communications centers as telephone and teletype operators, and in the medical service as nurses. More and more women displayed interest in becoming officers, and in September 1985 the Franz Mehring Officer School of the Air Force/Air Defense Force for the first time admitted women for education as political officers or technicians. Women were not assigned to line units in mid-1987, although official publications contained discussions of the possibility of a combat role for women.

During mobilization and in a national defense emergency, East German women between the ages of eighteen and fifty (through December 31 of the year in which they turned fifty) might be included in the general draft. Since appropriate peacetime preparation was a prerequisite, they might at any time receive an order to report for induction for training purposes. One source estimated that in the mid-1980s women accounted for as much as one-third of the country's active civil defense forces. Socialist military education stressed women's important contribution to national defense, and in January 1983 the magazine Sport und Technik, an official GST publication, appealed to young women to volunteer for service in the NVA, since the mission of the armed forces--the prevention of war--is not men's concern exclusively.

For the fiscal year ending on December 31, 1986, the sum of 14.1 billion GDR marks--5.8 percent of the total budget--was earmarked for national defense and security (for value of the GDR mark--see Glossary). The figures published may have little indicative value, however, since East Germany does not fully disclose defense expenditures. Many Western experts agree that economic problems apparently have resulted in a trend toward negative real growth in defense spending. Numerous economy measures have been instituted in the armed forces, particularly in regard to consumption of petroleum, oil, and lubricants.

Data as of July 1987

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