Criminal Code (GDR)

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Basic data
Title: Criminal Code of the German Democratic Republic
Short title: Criminal Code of the GDR
Previous title: Reich Criminal Code
Abbreviation: StGB
Type: National law
Scope: German Democratic Republic
Issued on the basis of: Introductory Act to the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure in the GDR
Legal matter: Sanction law
Original version from: January 12, 1968
Entry into force on: July 1, 1968
New announcement from: October 27, 1983
Expiry: 3rd October 1990
Please note the note on the applicable legal version.

The Criminal Code (Criminal Code, to delimit also StGB-DDR ) of the GDR nuclear matter of the regulated criminal law in the GDR. While it determined the prerequisites and legal consequences of criminal action, the procedure for enforcing its norms, the criminal procedure, was regulated by a separate code of law ( code of criminal procedure ).

In addition to many regulations that are also common in constitutional states , the GDR's StGB contains norms that served to secure the rule of the SED and to persecute those who think differently politically . Like the entire GDR judiciary , criminal law and the administration of criminal justice were bound by the party's claim to power.

The application of the Criminal Code in cases of great political importance, in which a constitutional criminal procedure was not guaranteed, was also in contradiction to the rule of law.


In the GDR - as in all of Germany - the Reich Criminal Code of 1871 continued to apply without the state protection paragraphs that had been repealed by the Allied Control Council . The loophole was initially filled by a broad application of Article 6 of the 1949 Constitution , until the Criminal Law Amendment Act in 1957 established new state protection provisions and types of penalties.

The GDR Criminal Code was passed and promulgated on January 12, 1968 and came into force on July 1, 1968.

The penal code was amended several times, most recently in 1977, 1979, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988. It also provided for the death penalty for the most serious offenses , which was only deleted by the law of December 18, 1987. The last death sentences in the GDR were imposed and carried out in 1981.

The treaty on the creation of a monetary, economic and social union between the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany of May 18, 1990 stipulated in Article 4. Legal amendment that the provisions specified in Annex III are to be repealed. There it was stated under 19. Amendments and supplements to the Criminal Code that the Criminal Code of the German Democratic Republic would be amended by repealing […] Sections 90, 99, 105, 106, 108, 213, 219, 249 . As a result, a number of political acts and behaviors could no longer be prosecuted as criminal offenses.

The rest of the penal code was dealt with with reunification .


The GDR Criminal Code was structured as follows:


In the preamble it said u. a. ... The socialist law of the German Democratic Republic embodies the will of the people, serves to protect civil rights and confirms the German Democratic Republic as the true German constitutional state. ... Socialist criminal law requires that everyone be held accountable who is guilty of a crime or misdemeanor.

general part

The general part of the GDR Criminal Code contained the legal definitions of crimes and their legal consequences, as well as general provisions for judging criminal offenses.

  1. Principles of the socialist criminal law of the German Democratic Republic
  2. Conditions of criminal liability
  3. Measures of criminal liability
  4. Particularities of the criminal liability of young people
  5. Scope of the criminal laws and statute of limitations for criminal prosecution

special part

This part contained the individual criminal offenses , arranged according to protected legal interests (so-called legal interests ), namely

  1. Crimes against the sovereignty of the German Democratic Republic, peace, humanity and human rights
  2. Crimes against the German Democratic Republic
  3. Crimes against personality
  4. Crimes against youth and family
  5. Crimes against socialist property and the economy
  6. Offenses against personal and private property
  7. General Security Offenses
  8. Crimes against the state order
  9. Military crimes

The GDR penal code did not cover all criminal offenses. Some offenses were also included in other laws as administrative penal provisions, such as B.

Criminal law norms for the prosecution of politically dissenters

A large number of criminal law norms were instrumentalized for the persecution of politically dissenters or to secure the rule of the SED or the border regime . The basis for the political criminal law was mainly Article 6 of the GDR Constitution and the Control Council Directive No. 38 .

Although these criminal provisions pursued an objective protective purpose, the formulation as a general clause allowed almost any expansion to include any reasonably appropriate offense. A restrictive interpretation of general clauses, as required in the Federal Republic by the principle of legal certainty , was not expressly provided for in the criminal justice system of the GDR. Rather, the principles laid down in Chapter 1 transformed an interpretation into the political objective, for example in Art. 2

... The criminal responsibility is realized through the explicit state and social influence on the violator as well as through his probation and reparation. ...

After all, a general legal reservation was made in Art 4

... in strict accordance with the law ...

as well as the non-retroactivity standard. However, the classification in Art 4 results in a certain subordination to the politically shaped principles formulated in Art 1 to 3. Accordingly, the term does not strictly stand for a narrow legal interpretation, but for a narrow socialist interpretation.

In the course of the systematic criminalization of opposition activists carried out by the MfS , relatively certain offenses such as foreign exchange offenses or damage to property were instrumentalized.

Offenses against the state and public order

The “criminal offenses against the state and public order ” (special part, chapter 8, 2nd section) were used in practice, among other things, to persecute opposition members. These mainly included:

Illegal border crossing

The illegal crossing of the border was a criminal offense in the GDR under Section 213 (2) of the GDR StGB, as amended on June 28, 1979. The offense applied to the illegal crossing of the state border of the GDR or the illegal or not or late return to the German Democratic Republic. The criminal liability was in contradiction to international law , in particular Article 13 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights , which guarantees freedom of travel .


Section 215 in particular (" hooliganism ") was so vague that it was often used for political convictions.

"Anyone who takes part in a group that, out of disregard for public order or the rules of socialist community life, commits acts of violence, threats or gross harassment against people or malicious damage to property or facilities, is punished with imprisonment for up to five years or with imprisonment."

Unlawful connection

Section 219 (“Illegal contact establishment”) was used to pursue contacts in non-socialist countries (in particular with the eastern offices of parties in the Federal Republic of Germany). Specifically, the following was punished: “1. Anyone who has news that is likely to harm the interests of the GDR to be distributed or distributed abroad or who makes or has records made for this purpose, 2. whoever writes, manuscripts or other materials that are likely to harm the interests of the GDR , by circumventing legal provisions, hands over to organizations, institutions or persons abroad or has them handed over ”.

Section 245 (“betrayal of secrets”) also had a comparable function.

Crimes against the German Democratic Republic

A number of instruments for political justice can be found under the chapter heading "Crimes against the German Democratic Republic":

  • Treason (§ 96), treason (§§ 97 ff.) And terrorism (§ 101 et seq.) Were not only against resistance fighters used
  • Links hostile to the state (Section 100) made contacts to West Germany or to “capitalist foreign countries” a punishable offense
  • Diversion (§ 103), sabotage (§ 104) "protected" "the national economy, the socialist state power or the defensive power of the German Democratic Republic" against damage of any kind
  • Help to escape could be prosecuted as "anti-state human trafficking" (§ 105)
  • the attempt to express dissenting opinions could be punished as " anti-state agitation " (§ 106)
  • The formation of oppositional organizations or parties according to Section 107 ("Formation of groups against the state") was also a criminal offense.

Ineffective criminal law norms

A number of criminal law norms had a purely declaratory character and were systematically broken by the regime without prosecution being conceivable. Despite the formal guarantee of the confidentiality of letters (StGB (GDR) § 153), the Ministry for State Security controlled all postal traffic within the GDR as well as from or to the West.

Criminal law norms that deviated from federal German law

A number of criminal law norms in the GDR differed from those in the Federal Republic of Germany. Examples are:

Regulation of deadlines for abortions

Since 1972 the law on the interruption of pregnancy in connection with StGB § 153 ff. Has regulated the impunity of abortion in the first three months of pregnancy in the form of a time limit regulation .

Criminal liability of homosexuality

Regarding the criminal liability of homosexuality : See Section 175 (GDR penal provisions repealed before the fall of the Wall)


The Law on the Rehabilitation and Compensation of Victims of Unlawful Prosecution Measures in the Accession Area ( Criminal Law Rehabilitation Act - StrRehaG) lists a number of norms of GDR criminal law that were generally used for political persecution. This presumption of rule is rebuttable. Further norms of the GDR criminal law may have served political persecution. The catalog of rules includes from the GDR Criminal Code:

  • Section 96 - "High treason"
  • Section 97 - "Espionage"
  • Section 98 - "Illegal collection of messages"
  • Section 99 - "Treasonous communications"
  • Section 100 - "Links hostile to the state"
  • Section 105 - "Anti-state trafficking in human beings"
  • Section 106 - "Agitation against the state"
  • Section 213 - "Illegal border crossing"
  • § 219 - "Illegal connection establishment"
  • § 220 - "Public degradation of the state order"
  • §§ 245, 246 - "betrayal of secrets"
  • Section 256 - "Evasion / Refusal of Military Service"

People who have been convicted under Section 249 of the GDR StGB ( endangering public order through anti-social behavior ) can be rehabilitated under certain conditions.


  • Moritz Vormbaum: The criminal law of the German Democratic Republic. Tübingen 2015, ISBN 978-3-16-153778-3 .
  • Johannes Beleites: Schwerin, Demmlerplatz. The remand prison of the Ministry for State Security in Schwerin. (Ed. by the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania State Commissioner for the Stasi Records and by the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records ), Schwerin 2001, ISBN 3-933255-12-0 .
  • Gerhard Finn, Karl Wilhelm Fricke : Political prison system in the GDR. Verlag Wissenschaft und Politik, Cologne 1981, ISBN 380468582X .
  • Johannes Raschka: Judicial Policy in the SED State. Böhlau, Cologne 2000, ISBN 3412067008 .
  • Ludwig A. Rehlinger: Buying free. The GDR's business with politically persecuted people. Ullstein Verlag, Frankfurt / M. & Berlin, 1991. ISBN 3-550-07503-0 .
  • Falco Werkentin : Political criminal justice in the Ulbricht era. Berlin 1995, ISBN 3-86153-069-4 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Final provision of the Criminal Code-GDR
  2. § 1 Paragraph 1 EGStGB-DDR
  3. Criminal Code of the German Democratic Republic at, accessed on January 1, 2018.
  4. Torsten Diedrich, Rüdiger Wenzke : The camouflaged army. Military History Research Office , Ch. Links Verlag , 2001, p. 492.
  5. See also Joachim Kallinich, Sylvia de Pasquale (ed.): An open secret. Post and telephone control in the GDR. Edition Braus, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunications, Heidelberg 2002, ISBN 3-89904-015-5 and here: the announcement of the associated exhibition by the Berlin-Tempelhof stamp collecting association
  6. § 1 No. 1 StrRehaG of October 29, 1992
  7. See Thuringian Higher Regional Court, Senate for Rehabilitation Matters, decision of September 28, 2004 - 1 Ws-Reha 13/04.