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East Germany Table of Contents

East Germany

Reserves and Mobilization

Under law the Council of State is empowered to declare a republicwide "state of defense" in the event of an international crisis or an internal or external threat to security. Under such a declaration, the National Defense Council can declare either partial or total mobilization. The principal purpose of the mobilization is apparently to reinforce the Rear services of the NVA rather than to create additional combat units.

Of particular importance to mobilization are the transport, postal, and communications systems. During mobilization the government is able to transfer these functions rapidly from support of the civilian economy to support of military operations. Essentially mobilization is best understood in terms of militarizing the entire country. The National Defense Council, which includes the senior leadership of the SED and the government, assumes military command over all administrative, economic, and social apparatuses of the country. Under the defense law, "every able-bodied citizen, in the event of a state of defense, can be required to serve in or beyond his place of residence." It should be noted that this requirement is beyond the statutory obligation for military service.

The reserve system maintains an inventory of trained manpower for expansion of the armed forces or for replacing casualties in the event of war. All men between the ages of eighteen and fifty automatically belong to the reserves if they are not on active duty. Reserves are organized into two classes--Reserve I and Reserve II. The first category includes all men under age thirtyfive who are not serving in the NVA, former company grade officers and NCOs under age thirty-five, and former field grade officers under age sixty. The second reserve category includes former company grade officers between ages thirty-five and sixty, former NCOs between ages thirty-five and fifty (in certain cases to age sixty), and all other men between ages thirty-five and fifty who have not served in the NVA. The main reserve group is Reserve I, which reinforces combat units. Reserve II, which would probably only be activated in event of total mobilization, is charged with reinforcing units of the rear services. In 1987 the total size of the reserve was estimated to be 400,000.

In accordance with the Military Service Law and the Reservist Regulation, both of which became law on March 25, 1982, reservists have been called up for exercises more frequently than before. Moreover, call-ups were in line with the requirements of mobilization and a national defense emergency. The total length of the qualifying period for reservists after basic training was extended, and the role of reservists in the GST's premilitary training was expanded. These measures should be seen in conjunction with the NVA's manpower problems. In 1984 there were 6.2 million males between 17 and 30; by 1999 this figure will have dropped to 4.2 million. In the mid-1980s, an average of 121,000 young men were reaching military age annually, and almost 95,000 men--about 80 percent of that figure--were being drafted each year.

The new laws also left reservists no opportunity to avoid military service. Anyone who refused to serve at all, even in the construction troops, had to be prepared to face military court proceedings and a term of imprisonment up to four years in length. Despite the stiff penalties, East German military courts had about seventy such cases pending in 1983.

Data as of July 1987