Policing a Socialist Society: The German Democratic Republic

By Nancy Travis Wolfe | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
The End of an Era

Consonant with the persistent statist policy of the GDR, which subordinated homocentric values to the welfare of the state, expansion of police power to form a totalitarian state was not only tolerated, but considered necessary for achievement of the ultimate goal of communism. The question posed in the first chapter, whether the GDR was a police state, clearly has an affirmative answer. Ironically, the policing system, especially the MfS, represented one of the more successful operations in the GDR prior to the fall of 1989. With traditional German thoroughness (Gründlichkeit), the police managed to infiltrate every facet of the lives of citizens, creating an atmosphere in which they were destabilized by uncertainty. In the words of Markus Wolf, long-time head of the MfS department for foreign espionage, the Stasi could with truth be seen as the heart of the repression ( Der Spiegel, 27/ 1990: 24). In fact, the GDR in 1989 corresponded closely with the police state described by Brian Chapman in his monograph on the topic:

What seems to have been the principal change in the modern police state is the emergence of the police service as an offensive force, reversing its traditional role as defender of the existing order and protector of the state. This change involves the systematic and deliberate use of police powers to alter the nature of the state, and to convert people to views different from those they previously held -- or, at the very least, to ensure that in their public behaviour and private conversations they act as if they do hold these new views. In the modern police state the police come to regard political re-education as an important part of their functions ( Chapman, 1970: 81).

Concomitant with the effort of the state to control the lives of its citizens, there were nevertheless positive aspects of the role of the police, aspects deriving from the socialist nature of the society. The principle

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Policing a Socialist Society: The German Democratic Republic
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Notes xvi
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Abbreviations xix
  • Part I 1
  • Chapter 1 Introduction 3
  • Chapter 2 The German People's Police 23
  • Chapter 3 The Ministry for State Security 60
  • Chapter 4 The End of an Era 88
  • Part II 101
  • Chapter 5 The Gentle Revolution 103
  • Chapter 6 Slaying the Dragon 123
  • Chapter 7 Reorienting the People's Police 169
  • Chapter 8 The Dissolution of the GDR 211
  • References 229
  • Index 241
  • About the Author 244
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