East Germany Table of Contents
Many observers reported an increase in crime throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1970s, with population growth at virtually zero, the number of persons convicted began to rise significantly following a drop in the 1960s.
A West German analyst identified young people as the most frequent offenders. The districts with the highest incidence of criminal activity all lie in the north, he determined, where the country's population base is youngest. Theft, fraud, and embezzlement accounted for 50 percent of all crimes. Drastic increases were reported in robbery, blackmail, and juvenile delinquency. Alcohol abuse was linked to about 32 percent of violent crimes. Murder remained constant, while serious economic offenses--white-collar crimes such as illegal building and graft--decreased somewhat.
Some East German authorities attributed the sharp upswing in crime to the moral impairment of a small group of young people who had come under imperialist influence, while other experts also blamed domestic remnants of presocialist society and, in cases of insanity or near-insanity, biological and psychological factors. Western analysts attributed the persistence of crime largely to apathy, cynicism, and declining public morale resulting from the high regulation of society.
Prevention has centered on efforts to address citizens' grievances more quickly and thoroughly; analyze and influence public opinion; instill in young people a belief that work is an honor and discipline a duty to society; use the penal system as well as the family, mass youth organizations, unions, and schools as tools in rehabilitating criminals; and encourage popular participation in law enforcement. Voluntary assistance forces, for example, help the People's Police and the Border Troops in their work. Where prevention fails, punitive measures are available, including probationary sentences, fines, restitution, and increasingly severe sentences for crimes against property motivated by capitalist influences.
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Because of the communist penchant for secrecy, particularly where military issues are concerned, reliable primary source data on East Germany's national security systems are scarce. Few good sources are available in English. The most definitive treatment of this subject comes from West German sources. The nature of West Germany's relationship with its East German neighbor, however, sometimes precludes unbiased analysis or interferes with an evenhanded approach to the subject. Scholarly research on East Germany by non-German Westerners exhibits a preference for economics, politics, demography, and other subjects less controversial than military affairs and national security. There are, however, some useful sources. A definitive source is Die NVA: Kernstück der Landesverteidigung der DDR by Thomas M. Forster. Forster has published several editions of this book, each more professionally written and displaying better research than the last. An excellent English translation of the 1980 edition is available; as of mid-1987 the most recent edition, dated 1983, had not yet been translated. NVA in Stichworten, edited by Ullrich Rühmland, is a dictionary that lists terms and titles used in the NVA and describes their origin, history, and meaning in encyclopedia-style entries. Although a bit polemical in style, it is an extremely valuable source. As of mid-1987, the 1985 edition had not been translated, although English versions of earlier editions were available. Bewaffnete Organe in der DDR: Nationale Volksarmee und andere militärische und paramilitärische Verbände, by Joachim Nawrocki, contains a wealth of detail on the organization of the NVA and other armed agencies. Siegfried Breyer's Die Volksmarine der DDR: Entwicklung, Aufgaben, Ausrüstung, published in 1985, provides excellent information on the history, missions, and equipment of the People's Navy. For data on the Border Troops, the best source is Frontdienst im Frieden: Die Grenztruppen der DDR by Peter Joachim Lapp. In English, The Military Balance by the International Institute for Strategic Studies is a good source for a current summary of the overall strength and arms inventory of East Germany. Other useful sources in English are East European Military Establishments: The Warsaw Pact Northern Tier by A. Ross Johnson and Challenges to Soviet Control in Eastern Europe by J. F. Brown and A. Ross Johnson. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)
Data as of July 1987
East Germany Table of Contents