Policing a Socialist Society: The German Democratic Republic

By Nancy Travis Wolfe | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
The Dissolution of the GDR

On August 23, 1990, the People's Assembly sounded the death knell of the German Democratic Republic. By a vote of 294 to 62, the delegates approved October 3 as the date for unification with the Federal Republic of Germany. Disappearance of the GDR, far from freeing its citizens from the Stalinist legacy, created additional difficulties for them in coming to terms with the past. A pertinent cartoon showed a man labeled "GDR" walking in the direction of an arrow marked "Democracy"; rising from a manhole was a black arm labeled "Stasi" that hooked a cane on one of the man's legs.

Although final details of the unification contract with the FRG were still being thrashed out as October third approached, it was manifest that four decades of socialist rule were being repudiated in favor of the economic and legal system of the FRG. The decision of the People's Assembly to dissolve the GDR was the high point of a tumultuous year in which frantic efforts to reorient the policing system were constantly thwarted by rapid and radical changes in the GDR polity.


LEGAL ISSUES

Among fractious issues vexing GDR citizens during the interim before unification was the question whether modifications of the constitution would suffice or fundamental restructuring of the polity required a new constitution. For many, repudiation of the SED regime in October 1989 implied invalidation of the constitution under which it had ruled. From an abstract legal point of view, the validity of the constitution raised the question whether its ratification in 1974 had been freely endorsed by the GDR people or been politically manipulated. If the citizenry had not freely approved the constitution, it was argued, then it had no legal force.

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