The Academy of Law of the Ministry for State Security (JHS), 1965 to 1990

The “Academy of the Ministry for State Security” was created on June 20, 1965, taking over the former “School of the Ministry for State Security” that had existed near Potsdam in Eiche since 1955. It was called the “Academy of Law in Potsdam” (Juristische Hochschule Potsdam, or JHS for short) and reported directly to the Minister for State Security. Its teaching and research operations were restructured and expanded while retaining the basic on-site and distance learning curricula. Measures such as the establishment of a Senate and the appointment of a rector and vice-rectors were meant to adapt the JHS to the GDR’s university system.

These reforms, however, could not conceal the fact that the Academy of Law never officially belonged to the GDR university system. This was not only due to its subordination to, and dependency on, the Stasi. There were also strict secrecy requirements. This stood in diametric opposition to the scholarly exchange with other academic institutions as well as the verifiability of the JHS’s own research results, which are essential criteria for scholarly practice.

Furthermore, the JHS was never listed in a register of universities in the GDR. It therefore did not exist in the public domain. Test certificates, documents and communications only identified the institution as the “Academy of Law in Potsdam.” This was meant to conceal its affiliation with the Ministry for State Security.

JHS degree programs for both on-site and distance-learning students concluded with a law degree. This formally put legal studies in Eiche on equal footing with other GDR universities. On June 18, 1968, the Academy was granted the right to award the academic degree of doctor, or “Doctor of Laws,” or “Doctor iurus,” which corresponded to an “A” level doctoral degree according to the university laws of the GDR. On June 1, 1981, the Academy was also granted the right to award “B” level doctoral degrees and thereby the academic degree of “Doctor of the Science of Law,” or “Doctor scientia iurum/iurisprudentiarum.”

In the 1980s, the Academy of Law was constantly expanded and oriented above all to the qualification of junior staff. One of the most important measures was the establishment of direct university studies in law primarily for high school graduates (with the Abitur) in 1984. The old direct study programs for experienced MfS cadres expired. Furthermore, the Academy of Law for the MfS was subordinated to the leadership of the Main Department for Cadres and Training. This primarily affected participation in the development of teaching programs, the admissions procedure, and staffing affairs at the Academy.

Despite insufficient sources, we can assume that teaching operations at the JHS in direct study programs remained isolated until the autumn of 1989 and proceeded unaffected by everyday affairs. It was only when the Ministry for State Security was transformed into the Office for National Security (Amt für Nationale Sicherheit, or AfNS) in November 1989, and the organization was dissolved under the new government of Hans Modrow, that the JHS was pulled into the whirl of events. At this time, there were still four degree programs operating in the direct university study program and the distance learning program. One more class of students was already engaged in the process of preparing for their studies in their service units, and they were planning to start their studies in the summer of 1990. Those classes that were almost finished with their studies were allowed to complete their degrees by January 1990 with abbreviated diploma examinations. The last doctoral examination procedure was completed on December 15, 1989. The students who were enrolled in their first or second year of studies were sent back to their service units effective January 1, 1990. The dismantling of the teaching staff began in December 1989. Older teaching staff went into early retirement, while younger instructors received employment references as employees of the Ministry of the Interior.

March 31, 1990, was the official day on which the JHS was dissolved, the same day on which all former MfS employees were dismissed. In reality, though, teaching and research had already ceased in late January. The site was almost completely vacated by late February 1990. Ownership of the property was transferred to the “Karl Liebknecht” College of Education on March 1, 1990. While all of the scientific and teaching staff left the site, the majority of the technical personnel were also transferred to the College of Education.