Trisha Shetty (Editor)

Construction soldier

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A construction soldier (German: Bausoldat, abbreviation: BS) was a non-fighting member of the units of the National People's Army (NVA) of the German Democratic Republic. The Bausoldat service offered GDR citizens a possibility to refuse military service with weapons. However, it was not a civilian alternative to military service. Service as a Bausoldat could have adverse effects on future training and career development opportunities.

Before the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, military service in the GDR was voluntary, though the Free German Youth and public schools mounted intensive recruitment drives and service in the NVA was often a prerequisite for career advancement. Compulsory service had been introduced earlier in West Germany (1956)—one year after the Federal Armed Forces were established—but the GDR held back from this step until 1962. The reason was partly that the authorities feared that conscription would swell the ranks of GDR citizens fleeing to the West. The situation changed when the border was sealed in August 1961, and five months later the government announced a mandatory service term of 18 months for men.

There was, at first, no alternative service for conscientious objectors. This changed in 1964 when, under pressure from the national Protestant church, the GDR's National Defense Council authorized the formation of Baueinheiten (construction units) for men of draft age who "refuse military service with weapons on the grounds of religious viewpoints or for similar reasons".

The "construction soldiers" wore uniforms and lived in barracks under military discipline, but were not required to bear arms and received no combat training. In theory, they were to be used only for civilian construction projects. The GDR therefore became the only Warsaw Pact country to provide a non-combat alternative for conscientious objectors. However, fearing that other soldiers would be contaminated by pacifist ideas, the government took care to segregate the construction units from regular conscripts. Moreover, conscripts who chose the alternative service option often faced discrimination later in life, including denial of opportunities for higher education.

Prominent former construction soldiers

  • Rudolf Albrecht – Protestant minister and representative of the Church's peace movement in the GDR
  • Andreas Amende Member of the Bundestag
  • Christfried Berger – Protestant theologian in the GDR in the field of ecumenism
  • Wolfgang Birthler – veterinarian; Minister. D. of Agriculture, Environment and Spatial Planning of Brandenburg (1999-2004)
  • Martin Böttger – physicist, civil rights activist and politician, 1990–1994 Member of the Saxon State Parliament, 2001–2010 Head of the Chemnitz office of the BStU, the federal agency of Germany that preserves and protects the archives and investigates the past actions of the former Stasi
  • Harald Bretschneider – Protestant minister and representatives of the ecclesiastical peace, environmental and human rights movement in the GDR
  • Stephan Dorgerloh – theologian and politician (Saxony-Anhalt), Minister of Education
  • Bernd Eisenfeld – historian and GDR opposition figure
  • Rainer Eppelmann – minister and politician (the only Minister of the Ministry of Disarmament and Defense of the GDR)
  • Gunter Fritsch – politician; Minister D. of Food, Agriculture and Forestry of the State of Brandenburg. President of the Brandenburg Landtag
  • Andreas Grapatin – politician, member of the Saxon Parliament
  • Frank Hempel – politician
  • Ralf Hirsch – GDR dissident and human rights activist
  • Günter Holwas – Blues musician
  • Johann-Georg Jaeger – politician (Alliance '90 / The Greens), MP
  • Karl-August Kamilli – politician, Deputy Chairman of the SPD
  • John Kimme – lawyer
  • Thomas Kretschmer – civil rights activist and a political prisoner in East Germany
  • Hendrik Liersch – publisher of the Corvinus Press
  • Heiko Lietz – civil rights activist, former politician (New Forum, Alliance '90 / The Greens)
  • Frank-Wolf Matthies – writer
  • Gerhard Miesterfeldt – politician, Vice President of the Landtag of Saxony-Anhalt
  • Martin Morgner – poet, playwright and historian
  • Andreas Otto – politician (The Greens)
  • Bert Papenfuß-Gorek – poet
  • Gerd Poppe – physicist, civil rights activist and politician; Human Rights Commissioner of the Federal Government (1998–2003)
  • Jürgen Rennert – writer
  • Frank Richter – theologian, founder of the Group of 20 in Dresden, director of the Saxon State Agency for Civic Education
  • Gerhard Schöne – songwriter
  • Reinhard Schult – civil and political activist and leader
  • Werner Schulz – civil rights activist and politician, Member of the Bundestag
  • Georg Seidel – playwright
  • Wolfgang Tiefensee – 1998–2005 Lord Mayor of Leipzig ; 2005–2009 Federal Minister of Transport, Building and Urban Development
  • Mathias Tietke – journalist and author
  • Rudolf Tschäpe – astrophysicist and civil rights activist
  • Nicholas Voss – political official
  • Gunter Weißgerber – politician
  • Ingo Zimmermann – journalist and art historian
  • References

    Construction soldier Wikipedia