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 The Zivilverteidigung (Civil Defense) of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR)

The The Zivilverteidigung (Civil Defense) of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR) traced its roots to the mid-1950s with the establishment of the Organisation des zivilen Luftschutzes (Organization of Civilian Air Defense). In mid-1958, the organization evolved into the Kommando Luftschutz (Air Defense Command) and was subordinated to the Ministry of the Interior. In the late-1960s it was reorganized as the Luftschutzes zur Zivilverteidigung (Air Defense for Civil Defense) and continued to function under the direction of the Minister of the Interior.

Concerned with the catastrophic effects that nuclear weapons would inflict on its population centers in the event of war, the defense ministers of the Warsaw Pact deemed their protection to be of vital strategic importance. To this end, the Warsaw Pact member states agreed to strengthen and coordinate the efforts of their respective civil defense organizations. With a renewed sense of relevance, the Civil Defense of the German Democratic Republic transferred to the authority of the Ministry for National Defense effective 1 June 1976. The responsibility for its management and development lay henceforth with the Minister for National Defense. Shortly thereafter, the Hauptverwaltung Zivilverteidigung (HVZV) (Civil Defense Main Administration) was established in Berlin. Further structural changes became effective starting from June 1978. In addition to controlling wartime civil defense, the organization coordinated response measures for catastrophes and other dangers threatening the civil population. Of note, the Civil Defense did not belong to the Nationale Volksarmee.

The Zivilverteidigung (ZV) der DDR was part of the national defense in the German Democratic Republic (DDR). Although not one of the "armed organs", it was militarily organized and trained and responsible to the Ministry of National Defense (MfNV). Its main tasks included civil protection and the protection of the population, the national economy and vital institutions from the consequences of military conflicts or weapons of mass destruction. The civil defense service was voluntary, but not exclusively honorary: the civil defense organization consisted of uniformed task forces, staffed full-time. Only in case of emergency were they be supported by a large number of volunteers, who were prepared for these in civil defense exercises. During such exercises, measures of NBC protection and of radioactive contamination procedures were rehearsed repeatedly. It was also possible to do military service in civil defense.

For civil service, civil defense predominantly involved women, similar to how men were utilized in the other "armed bodies, e.g. the working-class combat groups. Part of the general military education, as taught at the Polytechnic High Schools (POS) and Extended High Schools (EOS), colleges and technical colleges, and during vocational training, was the recruitment and training of civil defense workers. During ZV training, it was mostly women participating in civil defense exercises and first aid training courses. Female students had to complete a several-week ZV course in the training camp.


The beginnings of civil defense in Germany go back to considerations after the First World War, that the democratic constitutional state must already be defended in peacetime, and should include the non-military part of the defense. It was possible to build on experience in civil protection. In addition, the insights gained during the Second World War from air raid, fire, medical service, etc. flowed.


In conjunction with other measures to protect the people of the DDR, facilities and command structures for combating disasters were established in the 1950s. Thus, special units and squads were formed at fire stations, but in 1956 were removed from the fire units.

At the ministerial level, the Active Fire Protection Administration was created in the Ministry of the Interior (MdI). Workgroups were set up at the council level. The senior officials were trained at USSR air defense training facilities. On February 11, 1958, the People's Chamber of the DDR adopted the air protection law as a basis for later civil defense. Subsequently, the ministries, district councils, counties, municipalities, the economically important companies and institutions formed members and operational units of air protection. The objectives were to set up a warning system, to set up air-raid shelters, to create reserves for the supply of the population and to create shelters.

The Civil Defense Law of 16 September 1970 was intended to meet the growing demands of protecting the population and securing vital areas, even in the event of war. Accordingly, the following civil defense teams were established:

  • rescue,

  • salvage,

  •  decontamination,

  • medical,

  • fire,

  • supply,

  • reconnaissance and equipment formations,

  • as well as specialized sanitation and deactivation facilities.

These formations were divided into units, groups, divisions and readiness.


All basic state measures of civil defense were formally decided by the Council of Ministers of the DDR. These were usually drafted and submitted by the National Defense Council. The central leadership of the civil defense was carried out by the headquarters Zivilverteidigung der DDR based in Berlin.

The heads of civil defense in the districts, Bezirken, and municipalities had appropriate staff. The management structure was very complex, had overlaps and was rather confusing (see management structure of ZV 1980).



The Civil Defense personnel consisted of active servicemen, NCOs and officers, whose rank up to Colonel had the suffix "ZV"; Heads and employees of state and economic organs, companies and institutions as well as volunteer citizens. Those in active service wore on their uniform a sleeve strip with the inscription "Zivilverteidigung der DDR".

Leadership of Zivilverteidigung der DDR

  • Colonel General Fritz Peter 1976-1990 Head of Zivilverteidigung der DDR

  • Major General Rudi Schütz 1978-1986 Deputy Chief and Chief of Staff

  • Major General Werner Zaroba 1986-1990 Deputy Head and Chief of Staff

  • Major General Rolf Fischer 1976-1990 deputy head and chief of population and national protection

  • Major General Klaus Rude 1978-1990 Deputy Head and Chief Training

  • Major General Kurt Sommer 1977-1990 Deputy Chief and Head of Political Administration

Other generals of the Zivilverteidigung der DDR (1976-1990)

  • Major General (a.D.) Dipl.-Staats-Wiss. Hugo Harwardt

  • Major General Dipl.-Mil. Albert Pankau


The training of the members of the Zivilverteidigung der DDR took place at corresponding "district schools ZV". In addition, in Beeskow, the Institute of Zivilverteidigung der DDR as the highest teaching facility of the DDR Zivilverteidigung. In 1979, the institute received the status of a university. The last commander of the institute was Major General Albert Pankau.


At colleges and technical colleges of the DDR, knowledge and skills for the performance of civil defense tasks were imparted within the framework of vocational training. At the polytechnic and advanced secondary schools civil defense was part of the military training.

Orders and Decorations

On 16 September 1970, the Medal of Merit of Zivilverteidigung was donated in three stages. On October 25, 1977, the foundation of the medal for faithful services in the ZV followed in four stages and the medal for faithful fulfillment of duty in the ZV in three stages.

Medal for faithful services

Medal for Loyal Duty Fulfillment

In addition, there were a variety of badges and decorations including: Medal of Merit - Gold and the Best badge of the ZV

Medal of Merit - Gold

Best badge of the ZV

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