Policing a Socialist Society: The German Democratic Republic

By Nancy Travis Wolfe | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
Introduction

It is a safe bet that if an American were asked any time before 1990 what he thought about when East Berlin was mentioned, the answer would have included a reference to state violence -- to border guards shooting at those trying to get over the wall or to policemen beating demonstrators. A moment's reflection, however, would have brought the realization that such spectacular events could hardly have represented the usual function of the police system of the GDR. Nor can it be assumed that the polity of the GDR was completely undemocratic. In theory, as is discussed later, the legal system of the GDR was replete with due-process rights for the individual and specific limitations on policing functions. Nevertheless, these homocentric values were subverted by a statist polity in which individual rights were subordinated to socialist imperatives. 1


STATIST ORIENTATION OF THE GDR

In all countries that purport to be democratic, a balance between freedom for the individual and the welfare of society as a whole must be ascertained. In societies where the latter value predominates, repressive measures can be not only justified but seen as essential to the ultimate good of the individual. A distinguishing feature of socialist systems is a teleological orientation; members of the society must be cleansed of false values and inculcated with socialist principles in order to progress toward full Communism. Official GDR literature repeatedly asserted that the socialist mission justified temporary restriction of the rights of individuals for the ultimate good of all members of the society. Cogency of this argument was put to a critical test in the fall of 1989, as citizens subjected to an intrusive policing system rose in protest and forced a transition from a statist to a homocentric orientation.

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Policing a Socialist Society: The German Democratic Republic
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Notes xvi
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Abbreviations xix
  • Part I 1
  • Chapter 1 Introduction 3
  • Chapter 2 The German People's Police 23
  • Chapter 3 The Ministry for State Security 60
  • Chapter 4 The End of an Era 88
  • Part II 101
  • Chapter 5 The Gentle Revolution 103
  • Chapter 6 Slaying the Dragon 123
  • Chapter 7 Reorienting the People's Police 169
  • Chapter 8 The Dissolution of the GDR 211
  • References 229
  • Index 241
  • About the Author 244
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