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Military Instruction and the Protestant Churches (June 14, 1978)

The introduction of military instruction for ninth- and tenth-graders in polytechnic secondary schools reflected the ideological orientation of the East German education system. Such blatant indoctrination engendered public criticism, which was echoed, in turn, by church groups. The following statement, which was issued by the office of the Federation of Protestant Churches [Bund der Evangelischen Kirchen], summarizes the talks held between the Church and East German political leaders.

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Guidelines for the Conference of Protestant Church Leaders in the GDR [on the introduction of military instruction], June 14, 1978

Berlin, June 14, 1978

Federation of Protestant Churches [Bund der evangelischen Kirchen]

Increasing worries have been spreading in our congregations over the last few months about a government measure that first became known through hearsay: The introduction of military instruction in the ninth grade of general education schools. Congregation members turned to church officials with a pressing desire for information and advice, and with a definitive request that we speak out to prevent such a plan from being implemented. A number of petitions in this regard were also received by the Conference of Protestant Church Leaders in the GDR.

I. In this situation, the Conference of Protestant Church Leaders turned to the government of the GDR, requested specific information on the matter, expressed reservations and objections, and asked that state authorities abandon the plan, should such a plan in fact exist.

On June 1, 1978, the undersecretary for church matters then gave an extensive, verbal account to the chairman of the conference and his deputies, along with the secretaries, informing them of the existing plans to introduce military instruction. According to that account, the following is planned:

– Introduction of “military instruction” as a subject in the ninth grade of general education schools starting on September 1, 1978. Four two-hour class sessions per year, in addition to the regular class schedule up to now. Instruction is obligatory for boys and girls; no grading is planned.
– Continuation of the theoretical instruction to the same extent in the tenth grade.
– Implementation of a complete course on civil defense starting on September 1, 1978, in the ninth grade, also obligatory for girls and boys. The duration is two weeks for five hours daily, at the end of the school year. No instruction with weapons.
– Parallel to these civil defense courses, implementation of pre-military camp for a duration of two weeks on a voluntary basis; only for boys; training also includes handling weapons (small caliber).
– In the tenth grade starting in 1979, obligatory three-day final examination during the winter vacation.

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