Premilitary Training by Mass Organizations
A major component of socialist military education was the
mandatory premilitary basic training provided for all young men
between sixteen and nineteen in training units of the Society for
Sport and Technology (Gesellschaft für Sport und Technik--GST) at
expanded secondary schools, vocational schools, or other
vocational training institutions. According to law, the Free
German Youth (Freie Deutsche Jugend--FDJ) was jointly responsible
with the GST for premilitary training, particularly for its
Of the two mass youth organizations, it was the FDJ that had
the earlier influence on young East Germans. In 1946 the FDJ
began to provide, as part of its program, military training for
young men and women between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five.
It had the right to maintain organizations in schools, factories,
offices, and the armed services. It also ran the Ernst Thälmann
Pioneer Organization for children between the ages of six and
fourteen. The most important aspects of FDJ premilitary training
were discipline, physical training, and political reliability.
Discipline was instilled through the group's semimilitary
organization, which emphasized order and obedience to authority.
Physical training was reinforced through an extensive,
well-organized system of calisthenics, physical conditioning
programs, and athletic competitions. Participation in the FDJ's
annual Hans Beimler Contest, a premilitary competition, was
required for boys and girls in grades eight through ten.
Political reliability was taught through participation in
ceremonies and was incorporated in lectures and other events in
the FDJ program.
The leadership of the NVA was particularly pleased with the
physical training program and stated that the physical quality of
recruits coming from the FDJ was decidedly above that for
nonmembers. The most important role for the FDJ, however, was in
the area of political reliability. Even after members entered the
service, the FDJ organizations there oversaw their off-duty time
and ensured that they maintained proper socialist values. It was
the FDJ that was selected to sponsor campaigns in the mid-1980s
to encourage young conscripts to add another eighteen months or
more to their term of active military service. In the early
1980s, about 80 percent of the young service personnel were FDJ
members. For those young men or women who wished to become
officers in the NVA, the People's Police, and probably the
Ministry of State Security as well, an endorsement by their local
FDJ organization was an unofficial but nonetheless real
FDJ brigades also had a role to play in the Third World.
Young East Germans, regarded as industrious, skilled, and well
behaved, were much sought after. In the early 1980s, there were
approximately fifteen FDJ brigades in nine African countries.
These youth brigades did construction and repair work and trained
truck drivers and mechanics.
The GST, founded in 1952 and directly subordinate to the
minister of defense, had as its primary tasks the development of
public military readiness and the premilitary preparation of
young people between fourteen and twenty-five for service in the
armed forces. The organization soon enjoyed a certain popularity
because it offered numerous opportunities to engage in expensive
hobbies and activities that as a rule were not easily accessible
to East German teenagers. In 1982, with the passage of the new
Military Service Law, premilitary training became compulsory;
hence the GST was an essential instrument in East Germany's
system of socialist military education and national defense. As
of April 1983, the society had approximately 480,000 members and
almost 100,000 instructors. Many of the latter were NVA
reservists. The top officials of the GST were NVA officers and
generals. Vice Admiral Günther Kutzschebauch, a graduate of the
Naval Academy of the Soviet Armed Forces in Leningrad, has headed
the GST since 1982.
Like the FDJ, the GST was responsible for physical training
and for inculcating political reliability and military
discipline. The GST differed from the FDJ, however, in that it
concentrated on teaching military and military-related skills and
knowledge. In addition to compulsory basic training, the
premilitary training program included specialized preparation for
specific NVA career fields. Participation in career training was
voluntary except for young men between sixteen and nineteen who
intended to be career servicemen. Among the offerings were
vehicle driving, mechanics, radio and telegraphy, sailing,
diving, parachute jumping, gliding and flying, and marksmanship.
Successful completion of a requirement earned a badge that later
could be worn on the NVA uniform.
The GST also pursued its goals through classes on socialism
and SED objectives, patriotic activities such as visits to war
memorials, organization of national and international military
and athletic competitions, and sponsorship of annual training
camps, which were considered the high point of general
premilitary training. Young people in vocational training
attended camp during the first year of their apprenticeship,
while university students went at the beginning of the second
phase of their studies. All university students, even those who
already had served in the armed forces, were subject to military
student training. The program for young women attending the camp
focused on civil defense, and members of the Red Cross received
special training. After camp training--at the start of the second
year of apprenticeship or the third phase of university
study--additional advanced training began.
Data as of July 1987