Congress of Construction Soldiers, 2014
The "Matthias Domaschk" Thuringian Archive of Contemporary History has been collecting materials relating to the history of construction soldiers in the GDR for a relatively long time. In June of 2011, a portable exhibition was created which can be loaned. In 2014, the Archive was one of the organizations present at a conference held at the Evangelical Academy in Wittenberg titled „Unarmed/Nonguaranteed Testament to Peace“ ("Friedenszeugnis ohne Gew(a)ehr"). The conference marked the 50 year anniversary of the conscription of construction soldiers. The GDR introduced conscription for all males in 1962. Apart from complete refusal to partake in military service, opting to become a construction soldier offered the only other possibility for unarmed service. Construction soldiers were distinguished by a small shovel on their uniforms and built military facilities, served as orderlies in hospitals, but also later as gardeners, kitchen assistants and finally, as laborers. Construction soldiers were often subject to harassment and their social prospects upon completing their military service were dismal. The informal network of former construction soldiers offered an important and reliable basis for the peace movement, as well as a bloc which advocated for civil service (instead of military service) and peace education initiatives. Between 1964 and 1989, nearly 15,000 men had served in the National People’s Army as construction soldiers.
Lutherstadt Wittenberg Schlossplatz 1D, Germany 06886
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- Sonnenberg, Uwe