Policing a Socialist Society: The German Democratic Republic

By Nancy Travis Wolfe | Go to book overview
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Chapter 2
The German People's Police

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who is to guard the guards?)

-- Juvenal, A.D. 60-ca. 130

The researcher who seeks to ascertain the principal role of the German People's Police (Deutsche Volkspolizei, VP) in the GDR can easily find abstract statements written in the socialist style which, unfortunately, do not provide much concrete enlightenment. For example, the police statute identified the VP as a reliable organ of the socialist state power of the German Democratic Republic (Präamble, VP-Gesetz), and an official publication defined the VP as an organ of the unitary socialist state power of the GDR ( Schütz, 1988: 193). A 1985 publication extolling the VP, replete with glossy photographs ( The People's Police), explained that the name People's Police symbolized simultaneously their origin and the mandate of all members of the force:

Flesh of the flesh of the people, themselves workers and farmers, daughters and sons of the people, they themselves personify the people and serve the inherent interests of the working people and all citizens of our socialist Fatherland (Ministerium des Innern der DDR; Politische Verwaltung, 1985: n.p.).

Aside from such nebulous encomiums, little was published concerning the VP in the GDR; nor were foreign researchers able to ferret out significant information about the actual function of the VP. 1 Once the shackles of secrecy were loosened after the revolution, however, information about internal policies and daily operations gradually became available. This chapter explores the nature of the People's Police as it existed prior to the revolution in the fall of 1989. In addition to its mission, administrative structure, and operations, aspects that proved controversial in the GDR are examined. 2

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