Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview

Warsaw Pact forces. After 1960, the minister was an ex officio member of the East German Defense Council.

The relationship between the People's Army and the Soviet occupational forces was regulated by an agreement signed in March 1947. The East German state never had adequate resources to maintain the huge army it did. Therefore, its maintenance necessitated the lowering of the living standards of the population at large. The largest sums were spent on armaments and equipment. These were initially imported from Czechoslovakian armament factories and from the Soviet Union. Later, East Germany produced at least some of its military equipment. However, no tanks or airplanes were built by East German factories, probably because of Soviet fears of the Germans--even if they were communists. Small naval vessels were produced as well as small arms, antitank missiles, munitions, and explosives.

In 1980, the total strength of the People's Army was 162,000 soldiers. There were also 300,000 men in the reserves. General conscription was introduced in 1962. Women were exempted from entering the services. The People's Army was organized on the pattern of the Soviet armed forces. Each unit from the smallest to the largest had its political officer, and larger units had several security officers--some of them undercover--for counterespionage and general intelligence gathering. Each soldier was drilled not only in the use of arms, but also in Marxist-Leninist ideology. Emphasis on indoctrination was equal to that of mastering the use of armaments. The Main Political Administration of the People's Army maintained a network of Communist party cells in every unit. Some of the officers were full-time party cadres. More than 90 percent of the officers were members of the Socialist Unity party. The leadership of the People's Army maintained close communications with the ministry of state security, especially after East Germany became involved in military operations in Ethiopia and other African states. In fact, East German troops were used in combat operations in Syria, Libya, Nigeria, Congo-Brazzaville, and even in Iraq. Military advisors operated in Zimbabwe and assisted the Namibian Swapo guerrillas in fighting South Africa The People's Army served Soviet foreign policy interests in all these adventures.

In 1990, the Peoples' Army was disbanded. Some of its officers were transferred to the armed forces of united Germany. Most of the higher officers were, however, either dismissed or pensioned.


Bibliography

Larrabee Stephen F., ed. The Two German States and European Security ( New York, 1989); Schneider Eberhard, The GDR: The History, Politics, Economy, and Society of East Germany ( London, 1978).

Oder-Neisse Frontier of East Germany. On June 7, 1950, simultaneous announcements in East Berlin and Warsaw signaled an agreement, arrived at two days before, between Poland and East Germany. The agreement included the recognition of the Oder-Neisse line as the border between the two states. The agreement stated:

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