Policing a Socialist Society: The German Democratic Republic

By Nancy Travis Wolfe | Go to book overview

Preface

Socialist legal systems, though perhaps the least understood of the three prevailing families of law (common law, Romano-Germanic law, and socialist law) are unquestionably significant. Although the Soviet Union comes to mind first in this context, it may be more relevant to examine socialist criminal justice in a country that was part of the western EuroU+00A pean community until 1945 and on October 3, 1990, became one again: the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

The spirit of rapprochement, evident in the policies urged by Gorbachev and the moves toward cooperation between the two parts of Germany during the 1970s and 1980s, emphasized the need to comprehend the principles and methods of governance in a socialist system such as that of the GDR on the eve of its union with the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). Inasmuch as the GDR and the FRG shared a common legal and social heritage prior to World War II, the criminal justice system that developed in the GDR over four decades of socialist leadership offers an excellent basis for analysis.

The heuristic value of transnational study has prompted a proliferation of comparative criminal justice courses in American colleges and universities. Examination of a foreign criminal justice system can broaden a student's perspective and stimulate him or her to question the "hidden" assumptions on which his or her country predicates its policies. Comparative study fosters awareness both of alternative societal values and of the implications of these values for criminal justice agencies. More specifically, it can suggest approaches to resolving the dilemmas inherent in the goal of seeking justice both for society as a whole and for each individual within it. This book, then, is intended primarily for university students, both undergraduate and graduate, in courses that compare the criminal justice systems of various countries.

There is a dearth of comparative literature concerning the criminal justice systems of the countries along the Iron Curtain. 1 For the past six

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