Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview
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government. In fact, the Council of Ministers was concerned mostly with matters of economics and left politics to the party leadership.


Krisch Henry, The German Democratic Republic: The Search for Identity ( Boulder, CO, 1985); Letgers Lyman H, ed. The German Democratic Republic: A Developed Socialist Society ( Boulder, CO, 1978).

Crime in East Germany. The public prosecutor of East Germany disclosed that, between 1945 and 1949, the annual number of criminal offenses was 470,000 in the country. There followed a sharp drop during the next ten years to an average of 157,000. By 1968, the rate was down to 100,000 and then picked up again to 128,000 a year after that. The Socialist Unity party's spokesmen declared that the crime rate provided evidence that, under socialism, crime diminished. There is no doubt that the high figure after 1945 was the result of the chaos and dislocations caused by the lost war, the economic difficulties, and the disappearance of social discipline. When stabilization was achieved, the crime rate slowed down. It is also likely that criminals moved to the West where there were greater opportunities for such behavior.

In 1972, the government announced a wide-ranging amnesty, allowing the liberated criminals to cross over to West Germany. Many of these "criminals" had committed political offenses and would not have been charged in a democratic society.

After 1973, the East German government simply stopped publishing statistics of criminal acts by declaring that East Germany had no criminals or organized crime. It was added that about half such acts concerned public property causing a loss of 500 million marks to the economy. The president of the supreme court, D. Toplitz, announced that there had not been an increase in crimes of violence, assault, hooliganism, rape or homicide; however, he added, there was an extra dimension of brutality in them which, he stated, was the overflow from the criminal development of the West, the capitalist world.

It seems that the relative prosperity of East Germany contributed to rising crime rates. Merchandise was available, and security in stores was not as strict as in the West Furthermore, the population, as in other East European states, took the party's slogan, "the factory belongs to the workers," too seriously, stealing and taking home everything possible. Factory managers consistently have been caught embezzling state moneys.

Petty criminals were punished by being forced to work in work-gangs and to report regularly to the police. In 1974, and 1975, however, sentences became more severe. Petty criminals were locked up, and they lost their jobs. In the early 1970s, 30,000 petty quarrels were handled through local "disputes committees." Highly publicized drunken driving offenses, resulting in deaths, occurred. In 1975, crime preventive measures were announced. Those who were "developing attitudes to shun work"; those who tried to live in an "unworthy way"; and those who were drunkards


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Dictionary of East European History since 1945
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