The peace groups spoke out against the militarisation of East German society, the international arms race and the threat of nuclear war. In the early 1980s the slogan "swords to ploughshares" became the most important symbol of the peace movement in the GDR.
The GDR government denied the problems of smog and damage to forests and nature through acid rain. The obvious destruction of the natural world prompted more and more people to take action towards preserving the environment.
Peace and environmental groups held public campaigns to draw attention to these issues. The state used police violence and secret service methods to keep them in check. Members of the groups had to anticipate not only disadvantages in their working and social lives, but also arrests and raids on their homes. Nevertheless, the number of opposition groups grew throughout the 1980s.