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The issuing of East German awards officially began on 2 October 1958, when the Council of Ministers passed a decree formally establishing a system of state awards for the DDR to include orders, medals, prizes and honor titles, even though several awards preexisted this by a number of years. The “Medal for Loyal Service in the Garrisoned (or Barracked”) People’s Police” (Medaille fur Treue Dienste in der Kasernierten Volkspolizei) the “Proficiency Badge of the Garrisoned Peoples Police” (Leistungsabzeichen der Kasernierten Volkspolizei) and the Proficiency Badge of the German Border Police” (Leistungsabzeichen der Deutschen Grenzpolizei) were all created on 28 May 1954. These had the character of non-state awards, which meant that only members of the Garrisoned People’s Police or German Border Police could earn them. State awards as established in October 1958 on the other hand, would be available to any qualified person (for example, a member of the Army serving with the Grenztruppen would be eligible for the “Medal for Exemplary Border Service’ (Medaille fur vorbildlichen Grenzdienst) which, although an award one would normally associate with the Grenztruppen, was a State award and therefore available to any person performing border duty and fulfilling the award criteria.


Eventually, the East German government became very prolific in decorating its people with awards. To quote Herr Bartel in his foreword to the DDR-Spezialkatalog Band I, the collapse of the former DDR left behind “. . . an outrageous quantity and variety of awards”, In fact, the DDR had close to 300 State level orders, decorations, and medals covering every field of endeavor imaginable including agriculture, the arts, construction, economics, fisheries, forestry, population planning, science, sport and transportation, to name just a few. This number does not include non-State awards, awards bestowed by Party and Social organizations, and general sports awards


East German armed forces personnel display rank insignia on shoulder boards or shoulder loops on service, semi-dress, and parade uniforms, and subdued sleeve insignia midway between the shoulder and elbow on the left sleeve of the field uniform, coveralls, or other special uniforms. General officer rank is denoted by five-pointed silver stars mounted on a gold and silver braided shoulder cord set on a bright red base. All other officers and NCOs wear a four-pointed star. Like many of the other Warsaw Pact countries, NVA rank insignia followed the Soviet pattern in the arrangement of stars.

The Volksmarine followed similar shoulder insignia for the naval officers (who also used sleeve insignia) and enlisted ratings except that these were blue and white or yellow (in the case of naval ratings).

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