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Ministry of National Defence (East Germany)

The Ministry of National Defense (German: Ministerium für Nationale Verteidigung - MfNV) was the chief administrative arm of the East German National People's Army. The MND was modeled on the Ministry of Defense of the Soviet Union. The headquarters of the Ministry was in Strausberg near East Berlin. The Guard Regiment Hugo Eberlein provided security and guard services to the Ministry. The Ministry also had its own publishing house, Military publishing house of the German Democratic Republic.

Ministry of National Defence
Ministerium für Nationale Verteidigung
DDR Verteidigungsminister Kfz-Flagge.svg
Flag of the Ministry of National Defence
Agency overview
Formed1 March 1956
Dissolved23 April 1990
JurisdictionEast Germany National People's Army

Minister of DefenceEdit

The NVA was administered through the Ministry of National Defense, one of the principal branches of the national government. The ministers of National Defense were:

No. Minister of Defence Took office Left office Time in office Party Chairman
1Stoph, WilliArmeegeneral
Willi Stoph
1 March 195614 July 19604 years, 135 daysSEDGrotewohl
2Hoffmann, HeinzArmeegeneral
Heinz Hoffmann
14 July 19602 December 1985 †25 years, 141 daysSEDOtto Grotewohl
Willi Stoph
Horst Sindermann
Willi Stoph
3Kessler, HeinzArmeegeneral
Heinz Kessler
3 December 198518 November 19893 years, 351 daysSEDWilli Stoph
Hans Modrow
4Hoffmann, TheodorAdmiral
Theodor Hoffmann
18 November 198912 April 1990145 daysSEDHans Modrow
5Eppelmann, RainerRainer Eppelmann
(born 1943)
As Minister of Disarmament and Defence
12 April 19902 October 1990173 daysDALothar de Maizière


The Minister of National Defence was assisted by a colloquium of deputy ministers who were also chiefs of certain key administrations within the ministry.

In 1987 the deputy ministers and their assignments were as follows:

Wilhelm Ehm, middle, at a Fleet parade for the 30th Anniversary of the German Democratic Republic in 1979.


On January 18, 1956, the People's Chamber (the national legislature) passed a bill creating the NVA and the Ministry of Defense from the Chief Administration of Training of the Ministry of the Interior. This act formally acknowledged the existence of East Germany's armed forces. The NVA incorporated the Kasernierte Volkspolizei or KVP, Sea Police, and Air Police into a single armed force having three branches: ground, naval, and air. The Ministry of Defense was headed by Colonel General (Generaloberst) Willi Stoph, who was also minister of the interior. In 1987 Stoph was chairman of the Council of Ministers and a member of the SED Politburo. General Hoffmann, who was listed as first deputy minister of defense, attended the Soviet General Staff Academy in the mid-1950s and replaced Stoph as defense minister in 1960. Hoffmann held the post until his death in 1985. Concurrent with the establishment of the NVA as a legal entity was a return to public manifestations of German military traditions, with the addition of socialist elements. The training regimen for recruits approximated that of the former Wehrmacht, as did drill and ceremonies. New uniforms, whose cut but not colour (stone grey) were far closer to those of German World War II forces than to Soviet models, were introduced. Only the helmet represented a radical departure from World War II, but here too the design differed from the Soviet model.

The creation of the NVA addressed both internal and external security problems. Internally the physical appearance of the NVA spoke to the population in terms of their traditional German heritage and differentiated the NVA from the Soviet Army. In theory at least, East German citizens could have pride in their own army. The swift creation of the NVA as a force of more than 120,000 officers and other ranks practicing Prussian-style drill was a dramatic gesture of nationalism that was impossible for the world to ignore.

The creation of the Ministry of Defense and the NVA seemingly should have been a blow to the authority and prestige of the Ministry of the Interior. The bureaucratic impact of this action was mitigated by permitting Stoph to carry both portfolios for four years. In addition, police activities, both civil and secret, remained under the Ministry of the Interior, as did the Border Police. The Ministry of the Interior established its own Alert Units for the specific function of internal security. The Alert Units were militarily structured, fully motorized units with modern weapons and equipment. Garrisoned and trained in battalion-size units, they were capable of carrying out police tasks and other security functions. They have been used in major disturbances or in civil disasters affecting public order and safety.

Differentiation between the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior was still in progress in the 1960s. On issue in this process was the subordination of the Border Police. On September 15, 1961, by order of the National Defense Council, the entire Border Police was transferred to the NVA and redesignated the Border Troops of the NVA. Various explanations for this shift have been offered by different authorities. The official reason stressed improvement in the level of training through closer relationship with the NVA and provision for reinforcement of the Border Troops with other NVA assets. The actual reason probably had more to do with standardization within the Warsaw Pact since similar reorganizations occurred in roughly the same time period in all the non-Soviet Warsaw Pact armies.


The organization of the East German Ministry of Defense, which closely follows the pattern of the Soviet Ministry of Defense, comprises several administrations and departments, among which there appeared to be a certain amount of overlapping authority. The chiefs of the major administrations and commands concurrently served as deputies to the defense minister.

In the mid-1980s, its complement of about 4,200 personnel had a military-to-civilian ratio of approximately three to one, in contrast to comparable Western ministries or departments that generally have a much higher proportion of civilian employees.

Approximately 100 Soviet liaison officers also were assigned to the East German ministry.

The Ministry of National Defense had the following subordinate executive bodies:


The Headquarters (German: Hauptstab), was led by the Chief of Staff (German: Chefs des Hauptstabes).

No. Chief of Staff Took office Left office Time in office
1Müller, VincenzGeneralleutnant
Vincenz Müller
1 March 19561 March 19582 years, 0 days
2Hoffmann, HeinzGeneralleutnant
Heinz Hoffmann
1 March 19581 July 19602 years, 122 days
3Riedel, SigfridGeneralmajor
Sigfrid Riedel [de]
1 July 196015 March 19676 years, 257 days
4Kessler, HeinzGeneraloberst
Heinz Kessler
15 March 196710 January 197911 years, 301 days
5Streletz, FritzGeneraloberst
Fritz Streletz [de]
(born 1926)
10 January 197931 December 198910 years, 355 days
6Grätz, ManfredGeneralleutnant
Manfred Grätz [de]
(born 1935)
1 January 199015 September 1990257 days

Land Forces CommandEdit

The Land Forces Command (German: Kommando Landstreitkräfte) was established on 1 December 1972 as a management body created for the land forces. The seat was in Wildpark-West. The Friedrich Engels Guard Regiment provide security and guard services for the Land Forces Command headquarters.

No. Name Took office Left office Time in office
1Stechbarth, HorstColonel general
Horst Stechbarth
1 December 197231 December 198917 years, 30 days
2Skerra, HorstLieutenant general
Horst Skerra [de]
(born 1930)
1 January 199014 September 1990256 days
3Reiche, Hans-ChristianMajor general
Hans-Christian Reiche [de]
(born 1944)
15 September 19902 October 199017 days

Air Forces / Air Defense CommandEdit

The Air Force / Air Defense Command (German: Kommando Luftstreitkräfte&Luftverteidigung) (LSK / LV) was created in 1956 for government air force and air defense. A year later, the administrations for the joint command LSK / LV-based Eggersdorf was established. It was led by the Chief of the Air Force Command / Air Defense (German: Chefs des Kommandos Luftstreitkräfte/Luftverteidigung).

No. Name Took office Left office Time in office
1Zorn, Heinz-BernhardGeneralmajor
Heinz-Bernhard Zorn [de]
1 March 195630 August 1956182 days
2Kessler, HeinzGeneralmajor
Heinz Kessler
1 September 195614 March 196710 years, 194 days
3Scheibe, HerbertGeneralleutnant
Herbert Scheibe
15 March 196714 March 19724 years, 365 days
4Reinhold, WolfgangGeneralmajor
Wolfgang Reinhold
15 March 197230 November 198917 years, 260 days
5Berger, RolfGeneralleutnant
Rolf Berger [de]
1 December 19892 October 1990306 days

People's Navy CommandEdit

People's Navy Command (German: Kommando Volksmarine) was based in Rostock-Gehlsdorf emerged from the administration of the naval forces. It was created in spring 1957. Following the award of the title "Volksmarine (People's Navy) on 3 November 1960 and was later renamed the People's Navy Command. It was led by the Chief of the Naval Forces Command/Marine People (German: Chefs des Kommandos Seestreitkräfte/ Volksmarine).

No. Name Took office Left office Time in office
Commander of naval forces (Kommandeur Seestreitkräfte)
1Scheffler, FelixKonteradmiral
Felix Scheffler
1 March 195631 December 1956305 days
2Verner, WaldemarVizeadmiral
Waldemar Verner
1 January 195731 July 19592 years, 211 days
Chief of the Volksmarine (Chefs des Volksmarine)
3Ehm, WilhelmKonteradmiral
Wilhelm Ehm
1 August 195931 July 19611 year, 364 days
4Neukirchen, HeinzKonteradmiral
Heinz Neukirchen
1 August 196124 February 19631 year, 207 days
(3)Ehm, WilhelmKonteradmiral
Wilhelm Ehm
25 February 196330 November 198724 years, 278 days
5Hoffmann, TheodorVizeadmiral
Theodor Hoffmann
1 December 198717 November 19891 year, 351 days
5Born, HendrikVizeadmiral
Hendrik Born
(born 1944)
11 December 19892 October 1990295 days

Command GDR border troopsEdit

After the subordination of the German Border Police (German: Deutschen Grenzpolizei) under the Ministry of National Defense on 15 September 1961, the units were designated as the NVA (Border Troops of the NVA). Once separated, the border troops of the army units were designated as the Border Troops of the GDR (German: Grenztruppen aus der DDR). The Command GDR border troops (German: Kommando Grenztruppen der DDR) was based in Pätz. It was led by the Chief of the GDR border troops command (German: Chefs des Kommandos Grenztruppen der DDR).

No. Name Took office Left office Time in office
1Peter, ErichGeneraloberst
Erich Peter
15 September 196131 July 197917 years, 319 days
2Baumgarten, Klaus-DieterGeneraloberst
Klaus-Dieter Baumgarten [de]
1 August 197931 December 198910 years, 152 days
3Teichmann, DieterGeneralmajor
Dieter Teichmann
1 January 199030 September 1990272 days

Civil Defense HeadquartersEdit

The Civil Defense Headquarters (German: Hauptverwaltung Zivilverteidigung), was led by the Head of the Civil Defense Headquarters (German: Chef der Hauptverwaltung Zivilverteidigung).

No. Name Took office Left office Time in office
1Peter, FritzGeneraloberst
Fritz Peter [de]
(born 1927)
1 December 197630 April 199013 years, 150 days

The governing bodies still belonged to the Ministry Headquarters, the political headquarters and the areas of Bereiche Rückwärtige Dienste (Rear services) and Technik und Bewaffnung (equipment and armament).

Political HeadquartersEdit

The Political Headquarters (German: Politische Hauptverwaltung), was led by the Chief of the Political Administration (German: Chefs der Politischen Hauptverwaltung).

Technology and Armament DepartmentEdit

The Technology and Armament Department (German: Bereich Technik und Bewaffnung), was led by the Chief of the range equipment and armament (German: Chefs des Bereiches Technik und Bewaffnung).

Rear Area ServicesEdit

The Rear Area Services (German: Bereich Rückwärtige Dienste), was led by the Chiefs of the area Rear Services (German: Chefs des Bereiches Rückwärtigen Dienste).

The heads of the commands and the other governing bodies were usually also titled Deputy Minister of National Defense.

The MfNV has concluded agreements with almost all other ministries of the so-called GDR secret agreements. This agreement marked the prominent position of the NVA. Content of these agreements was the preferred treatment of the army in the food issue, to entering and use of forests and open spaces in the GDR.

See alsoEdit


  This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website

  • Klaus Naumann (Hrsg.): NVA - Anspruch und Wirklichkeit. (NVA - and reality). Mittler, Hamburg / Berlin / Bonn 1996, ISBN 3-8132-0506-1.
  • Klaus Froh, Rüdiger Wenzke : Die Generale und Admirale der NVA. (The generals and admirals of the NVA). A Biographical Guide 4. Reprint. Ch. Links, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-86153-209-3
  • Bundesministerium für innerdeutsche Beziehungen (Hrsg.): DDR-Handbuch, Bd. (Federal Ministry for Intra-German Relations (ed.): DDR-Handbuch, 2nd Bd 3.Aufl. 3rd ed. Köln, 1985. Cologne, 1985. (S. 908) (P. 908)
  • Hans-Werner Deim, Hans-Georg Kampe, Joachim Kampe, Wolfgang Schubert - Sachbuch „ Die militärische Sicherheit der DDR im Kalten Krieg“, Projekt+Verlag "The military security of the GDR during the Cold War", Project + Verlag Dr.Erwin Meißler, Hönow 2008, ISBN 978-3-932566-80-6

External linksEdit