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East Germany Table of Contents

East Germany


The socialist countries of Eastern Europe, and particularly East Germany, have a perception of the roots of criminal behavior that differs fundamentally from the general beliefs accepted in Western culture. This perception, based upon Marxist-Leninist social theory, strongly influences the structure of the criminal justice system and the administration of criminal justice. To understand the structure and functioning of the East German criminal justice system, it is necessary to understand this Marxist-Leninist perception of the roots of crime in society.

Public Order and Mass Participation

Crime is viewed historically as the product of class societies that have private ownership of the means of production. It is this private ownership that breeds exploitation of man by man, antagonism between individuals, and conflict between individuals and society as a whole. It feeds individual egoism that is destructive to human and community interests. In a perfected communist society where social conditions, life-styles, and human personalities have been altered radically, deviant behavior would be impossible. Under socialism, the transitional phase from capitalism to communism, crime exists, but not as a rebellion against existing conditions. Rather, it is a residue or relic of the old, imperfect society. East Germany considers itself a socialist, or transitional, society. The leadership is not so dogmatic as to ascribe all deviant behavior to social causes. It is believed that genetic or biological factors can reduce the competence of individuals below the point where normal societal influences can compensate fully. In these instances, more stringent efforts by the state to recognize criminal potential may be required. These efforts may range from genetic counseling and therapeutic abortion to early recognition and diagnosis of personality disorders in schools and the work place.

The perception of the root causes of criminal behavior and, therefore, the attitude and approach toward addressing the problems of crime and punishment have certain fundamental characteristics that are totally foreign to traditional Western practices, even while preserving some external similarities. The administration of justice, particularly criminal justice, is viewed very much in pragmatic and utilitarian terms. The rule of law that is so important to Western political thought is subordinated to the concept of social (socialist) justice. Because criminality is viewed as a social anachronism left over from capitalism that presumably will disappear with time or is traceable to biological causes correctable by science, justice need not be tempered by legal restraint. The juridical structure of courts, judges, and lawyers, although serving an immediate need, is not fundamentally important to a socialist society. Further, the real function of law is one of educating members of society, both criminal and law-abiding, in the fulfillment of civic duties.

Data as of July 1987