The NVA was the military fighting force of the GDR. It was established in 1956 as a reaction to the remilitarization of the Western part of Germany in one of the extreme phases of the Cold War as a result of a resolution by the People's Chamber. Politically and militarily firmly under the leadership of the SED, the NVA was incorporated in the Eastern military alliance under the leadership of the Soviet Union.
Its numbers during peacetime was approx. 120 000. Until the introduction of general national service in 1962, the NVA was an army of volunteers. The basic national service was 18 months long. There was no civil alternative service for conscientious objectors, but from 1964 everyone had the option of refusing armed service and to serve in special information departments within the NVA (with the so-called "construction soldiers").
In 1968, the NVA - although not sending out its own forces onto Czechoslovakian territory - participated in the logistic operations of the smashing of the "Prague Spring" by troops of the Warsaw Pact. In comparison to other parts of the society, the political indoctrination and a marked orientation toward enemy images resulted in a time delay regarding the reforms in the year of the "Wende" 1989/90. The NVA was dissolved on 2/10/1990, its personnel in part taken over by the Federal German army.