Two Armies and One Fatherland: The End of the Nationale Volksarmee

By Jörg Schönbohm; Peter Johnson et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
THE NVA PRIOR TO 3 OCTOBER 1990

On 18 January 1956 the Volkskammer approved the law which established the NVA and the Ministry for National Defence. The NVA evolved from the barracked units of the Volkspolizei and already comprised 120,000 soldiers in the year it was founded; it was a volunteer army. In order to underline the claim, both internally and externally, that the GDR was a sovereign, national state, the uniform of the former Wehrmacht was introduced.

When the NVA was founded, the ruling party, the SED, had claimed -- and obtained -- the right to run it. The 1963 party programme states: 'The most important source of the strength of our armed forces is their leadership by the party of the working class. The party seeks to ensure that all members of the armed forces become class-conscious fighters for socialism ...'

In order to instil Communist ideas, Socialist military education was practised; it was found throughout the whole sphere of education, from kindergarten to training at work. Socialist military training, 'like every educational process, speaks both to the mind and the feelings. It is systematically differentiated according to political and military needs, to age and occupation ...' ( NVA Military Encyclopaedia). This form of education served the overall development of the Socialist personality and reached its climax during training in the NVA.

Thus, it was thus only consistent that, in January 1962, conscription was decided upon and its length fixed at 18 months. The young citizen of the GDR swore the following oath to his fatherland:

I swear to serve the German Democratic Republic, my fatherland, loyally in all respects and, on the order of the Workers' and Farmers' Govern-

-32-

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