Presentation on theme: "The last victim of the Wall. The DDR’s shoot-to-kill order was a secret one, never officially acknowledged. Chris Gueffroy [inset], a 20-year-old barman,"— Presentation transcript:
The last victim of the Wall. The DDR’s shoot-to-kill order was a secret one, never officially acknowledged. Chris Gueffroy [inset], a 20-year-old barman, had heard from a young Grenzer that the order had been rescinded. He was due to be conscripted into the NVA in May 1989 (the year the Wall fell), and did not want to serve in the army of a state he despised. On the night of 5 th February, he and a friend attempted to cross the Wall. Unfortunately for them, the order was still in place. The two friends had almost reached the Western marker, when Gueffroy received ten fatal bullets in the chest. His friend was wounded, but survived. There was such an outcry in the West that Erich Honecker, then Head of State, actually did, finally, rescind the order. A simple memorial marks the place where Gueffroy died [above]. The Wall, of course, is gone. Gueffroy’s death, and its effects, was one of the events presaging to the collapse of the DDR later that year.
Death by “natural causes” – Wolf-Olaf Muszynski drowned in the cold waters of the Spree river, 1 st April 1963, while attempting to swim to freedom. His body was pulled out of the water on the Western side. He was not shot. Statistics on the number of deaths caused by the Wall range from 86 [shot] to 227, depending on the criteria used. Although the number shot seems small, these Wall deaths have the power to shock because each one was a considered individual act of cold-blooded killing. Worse, all the victims were desperate to escape the claustrophobic, oppressive country in which they lived, and were killed by their own fellow citizens for trying to do so. The consequences of Honecker’s shoot-to-kill order amply illustrate the truth of Stalin’s well-known quip: “A single death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.”
THE EAST GERMAN SOLDIER AND HIS UNIFORM From 1962, after the border had been sealed, the majority of NVA soldiers were conscripts, who could be as young as 18 years of age – very like Priory boys the year after Matric. They were forced to do 18 months’ military service. Since they had nowhere to go except the tiny, grim country in which they were trapped, most completed their service quietly and obediently, in order to get on with their lives when it was finished. The East German military retained the familiar German “jackboot”, as well as the traditional field- grey in its dress uniform, throughout its brief existence. Contrary to popular Anglo-Saxon belief, it is not a Nazi uniform, but based on a style in use in the German army for a long time. Everyday summer uniform consisted of battle-dress with a rain pattern, called Strichtarn, with a cap called a Schiffchen, “boat” [see 1 opposite]. In general, NVA conscripts despised their uniform for what it represented, or at very best felt quite indifferent to it. Another reason for this is that, unlike, for example, South Africa, NVA uniforms were not new, but issued over and over again, so that they were old and worn, even when first received. Peter Tannhoff speaks of his “far too big and worn out old boots, which two recruits [!] had already worn before me.” [18 months each] Not the “jackboot”, but the Wall, is a symbol of the totalitarian power of the East German State; the naked, brutal power that kept sixteen million people prisoner in their own country for nearly thirty years.     Step-out uniform with Schiffchen  Parade-dress uniform with Stahlhelm  Winter uniform with Fellmütze. East German boots and helmet had significant differences to World War II models. See next two slides.
World War II boots were brown, and had to be polished black. The rough side of the leather was on the outside of the lower part. Their soles were of leather, with hobnails and steel heel-rims. To save leather, the German army replaced jackboots with low boots in 1942 – bottom, right East German conscripts’ “jackboots”* [above] were black. The smooth side of the leather was on the outside. Soles were of rubber. They were of two types: sturdy, round-toed leather marching boots [above], and square-toed, patent leather [officer’s] parade boots [right]. The marching boots were everyday wear. They could be fitted with steel heel-plates to prevent wear and tear. Conscripts’ boots were unlined, and provided very little protection against the cold German winters. German Boots *The term “jackboot” does not exist in German; these boots are called Marschstiefeln [marching boots] or Knobelbecherstiefeln.
The German helmet is usually referred to as a “Stahlhelm” [steel helmet]. Its shape was originally intended to prevent the ears from being lopped off by a sword-stroke during a duel. This is the M40 helmet, in use at the time of World War II. With variations, German steel helmets up to the end of the Second World War all followed this basic design in one way or another. The East German Model 1956 steel helmet was, in fact, originally designed in 1944. Its flatter curve deflected bullets much better than did the M40. Hitler rejected its style as un- German, so that the Third Reich never used it. By 1956 it was standard NVA issue. The “double-y” chin strap fitted around the ears, and kept the helmet firmly and comfortably in place. Until the US developed the Kevlar helmet, the Model 1956 was regarded as the best of the steel helmets, though NVA soldiers had some rude names for it, the politest of which is “mushroom”. German Helmets Model 1956 Helmet
ABC Warfare The Warsaw Pact armies were all prepared for “ABC” [Atomic, Biological, Chemical] warfare, which suggests that their regimes intended to use such weapons against the West. Soldiers were trained to fight while wearing protective clothing. The key to survival was the Soviet silicon gas mask, below, known in the NVA by the sarcastic name Schnuffi, presumably because of the snuffling breathing sounds made by the wearer. In addition, soldiers were protected from contamination by Schutzanzug [protective suits], right, that covered even their boots. These were extremely unpleasant and heavy to wear, and were hated by conscripts. The conscripts at right were in the notorious top secret nuclear rocket base at Tautenhain in Thuringia, one of the harshest military units in the entire NVA. Schnuffi with filter. The bag in which it was carried was fixed to the front of the soldiers’ webbing. On command, the soldiers had to crouch down, remove the Stahlhelm, affix the mask, replace the helmet and stand to continue marching. There was a time-limit within which this had to be done.
4 A Mini-gallery of East German Conscripts, 1960s to1980s Young East German conscripts, 1962-89. Conscription was relatively new for them, have been reintroduced in 1962 for the first time since the Second World War.  New conscripts on what might be their first 15 km route march. Their exhaustion gives their status away.  More experi- enced conscripts on manoeuvres, with Russian weapons.  Conscripts from the top-secret Tautenhain nuclear rocket base on manoeuvres, covering a truck with camouflage netting. [4-5] Snapshots of  NVA conscripts during a break in field exercises and  Grenzer conscripts on patrol. Most young men who are conscripted view it as something they would prefer to avoid. But equally, confronted by the ines- capable reality of tough training and military discipline, most try to make the best of it, and to find as much enjoyment as they can. 2 1 4 3 5
 A weary young conscript dozes on parade in the rain, 1970s.  A nervous Fallschirmjäger tries to give a brave “thumbs- up” on his first jump, late 1980s  NVA motorised infantry in an armoured personnel carrier, waiting to take part in Warsaw Pact exercises, 1980.  Footsore young Grenzer on a rural border patrol, 1970s.  Grenzer on skis, Harz mountains, winter 1970s.  Ducking down out of the cold wind for a quiet smoke. As in the previous photographs, the youthfulness of these conscripts is striking. Already, at this age, Grenzer were expected to “shoot-to-kill” anyone trying to escape from the DDR. 5 3 6 A Mini-gallery of East German Conscripts, 1970s and 80s 21 4 3 6
East German infantrymen on an exercise during the 1980s. The uniforms are modern, leaf-pattern camouflage [Flecktarn] battle dress of a style used by armies world-wide. Only the Model 1956 helmet and “jackboots” give away the soldiers’ country of origin. Had Hitler never come to power, this is how modern German uniforms might have looked. The standard uniform of the NVA was a rain pattern called Strichtarn [Tarn = camouflage]. This photo is from the film An die Grenze, but the uniform is genuine NVA issue.
In any army, the paratroops are the elite force. These East German Fallschirmjäger are no exception. They look like their brother para- troopers world-wide. “Jackboots” would never provide the necessary ankle-support for landing. As such, they were issued rather with laced- and-strapped jump-boots. The helicopter is Soviet-built, with the NVA coat-of-arms on the side. This photograph was taken on 28 th Sept- ember, 1990, when they made the last NVA paratroop jump. These were all integrated into the armed forces of the United Germany.
The Militarisation of the DDRThe Militarisation of the DDR “In the everyday DDR there was much talk of ‘peace,’ but militarism was ubiquitous at every level of society.“In the everyday DDR there was much talk of ‘peace,’ but militarism was ubiquitous at every level of society. It began in Kindergarten. The little ones there already had to sing soldiers’ [marching] songs and play with toy tanks.It began in Kindergarten. The little ones there already had to sing soldiers’ [marching] songs and play with toy tanks. It continued with pre-military training in the schools, in military sports camps and the Society for Sport and Technique [GST], in Vocational Training, where one had to prepare for a career as Radio operator, [heavy-duty] driver or Sailor.It continued with pre-military training in the schools, in military sports camps and the Society for Sport and Technique [GST], in Vocational Training, where one had to prepare for a career as Radio operator, [heavy-duty] driver or Sailor. Then you went to the NVA [conscription for 18 months]. Those who studied [first] had to do 3 years! [as short-term, non-commissioned officers].Then you went to the NVA [conscription for 18 months]. Those who studied [first] had to do 3 years! [as short-term, non-commissioned officers]. After that, one became a reservist, and had to undergo Reservist training every two years.After that, one became a reservist, and had to undergo Reservist training every two years. When one became too old, or was spared Reserve service, one became a member of the Workmen’s Fighting Groups. Even here, there were monthly exercises!”When one became too old, or was spared Reserve service, one became a member of the Workmen’s Fighting Groups. Even here, there were monthly exercises!” E-mail from Thomas Wittig [transl.] The background picture shows a monthly meeting of the Kampfgruppe des Werktätiges.
I swear: to serve the German Democratic Republic, my Fatherland, truly at all times, and at the command of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government, to protect it against all enemies. I swear: as a soldier of the National Peoples’ Army, to be ready at any time, at the side of the Soviet army, and the armies of the socialist countries who are allied with us, to defend socialism against all enemies, and to lay down my life in the cause of victory. I swear: to be an honest, brave, disciplined and alert soldier, to obey military superiors with unconditional obedience, to carry out commands with determination, and to keep military and state secrets. I swear: conscientiously to keep abreast of military knowledge, to abide by military regulations, and above all and always to preserve the honour of our Republic and its National Peoples’ Army. Should I ever violate my solemn oath on this banner, may the severe punishment of the law and the contempt of the working people fall upon me. The Fahneneid From 1962, when conscription was introduced, all NVA soldiers had to swear an oath on the banner of their regiment. Although the DDR was an atheist state, this oath had an almost mystical significance. For conscripts, it was taken at the end of basic training, on the same day, country-wide. It was used as the basis for severe punishments if its provisions were broken [see last paragraph]. Desertion was described as Fahnenflucht [literally, fleeing the banner] The last soldiers to swear this oath, did so in the Autumn of 1989, only weeks before the Wall fell. The second paragraph is the key to understanding the DDR’s political concep of the NVA. Inset: Official Fanhneneid poster.
The concept of the Socialist Armed Forces The Socialist Doctrine: Models: Grossen Bauerkriege [Peasant Revolt] of 1525; War against Napoleon, 1813; Revolutions of 1848 and 1918; Spanish civil War, 1936.Models: Grossen Bauerkriege [Peasant Revolt] of 1525; War against Napoleon, 1813; Revolutions of 1848 and 1918; Spanish civil War, 1936. The Socialist “struggle for peace” against imperialist warmongering. “He who works for the victory of Socialism, works for Peace.”The Socialist “struggle for peace” against imperialist warmongering. “He who works for the victory of Socialism, works for Peace.” Armed forces of socialist countries work together for the victory of Socialism as “Waffenbrüder” [brothers-in-arms]Armed forces of socialist countries work together for the victory of Socialism as “Waffenbrüder” [brothers-in-arms] The defining moment for the NVA: the building of the Anti-Faschistische Schutzwalle, 13 th August 1961. “Walle” is a defensive rampart, e.g. a castle wall. The idea is that peace-loving Socialism is being defended against the violent assaults of Western imperialism, which seeks to destroy it.The defining moment for the NVA: the building of the Anti-Faschistische Schutzwalle, 13 th August 1961. “Walle” is a defensive rampart, e.g. a castle wall. The idea is that peace-loving Socialism is being defended against the violent assaults of Western imperialism, which seeks to destroy it. The Reality: Inconsistency: 1848 was bourgeois, yet held up as a model; 1953 [against the DDR] a true workers’ revolt against tyranny, was brutally suppressed. Surprised?Inconsistency: 1848 was bourgeois, yet held up as a model; 1953 [against the DDR] a true workers’ revolt against tyranny, was brutally suppressed. Surprised? Socialist countries kept their populations in a permanent state of war-readiness.Socialist countries kept their populations in a permanent state of war-readiness. The Warsaw Pact countries were not truly sovereign countries fighting alongside each other; they were puppets of the Soviet Union, which kept its own troops permanently stationed on their territories. “When the Soviet Union coughed, the DDR leaders caught cold.” [Georg Breuer].The Warsaw Pact countries were not truly sovereign countries fighting alongside each other; they were puppets of the Soviet Union, which kept its own troops permanently stationed on their territories. “When the Soviet Union coughed, the DDR leaders caught cold.” [Georg Breuer]. The socialist countries claimed to be fighting to free other countries from capitalist imperialism and ensure thereby world peace. In fact, the Soviet Union was itself an imperialist power, spreading its doctrine by force of arms.The socialist countries claimed to be fighting to free other countries from capitalist imperialism and ensure thereby world peace. In fact, the Soviet Union was itself an imperialist power, spreading its doctrine by force of arms. Within the Warsaw Pact countries, even their own armed forces were turned, not against their enemies, but against suppressing their own people. This made the life, for example, of NVA conscripts impossible, not to say unbearable. [See next two slides]Within the Warsaw Pact countries, even their own armed forces were turned, not against their enemies, but against suppressing their own people. This made the life, for example, of NVA conscripts impossible, not to say unbearable. [See next two slides] Waffenbrüderschaft: The Red Army [foreground] and NVA [background] parade together. This event is taking place in the DDR; nevertheless, the photograph makes it very clear who is the senior “partner.”
Behind the Wall, the lie persists. NVA soldiers march in a patriotic spectacle on Marx-Engels Platz, East Berlin’s equvalent of Red Square in Moscow. To the left of the leaders’ and dignitaries’ stand is a massive banner proclaiming “We protect the DDR”. In practice, the NVA was used by the DDR leadership for two main tasks: protecting the Soviet Union through its “membership” of the Warsaw pact, and oppressing and shooting its own citizens. Neither involves their protection to any great degree.
Members of the Young Pioneers [identifiable by their blue scarves] present flowers to conscripts who have just taken the Fahneneid. The cheerful innocence of the scene is apparently genuine, on the part of both children and soldiers. It belies the reality of the DDR regime’s purpose, for which these harmless emotions were exploited. Beyond the wholesome patriotic appearance of the parade, with its smiling young soldiers in smart uniforms, its happy children, lies the reality of the DDR: 16 million citizens trapped in a tiny, claustrophobic country, regimented into ideological straitjackets, punished for dissenting from the party line, poor, living in a polluted environment, with no appeal against a totalitarian regime that exercised practically unlimited power over them. The impression of the soldiers as protectors and friends that this occasion evokes, is an especially sad irony for both conscripts and children. The soldiers can be called upon to do almost everything except protect their fellow citizens. Should any one of the children grow up to attempt an escape from their country, similar smiling young conscripts would be required to shoot-to-kill. The cover of the Time magazine issue that reported the death of Peter Fechter, illustrating, from a West-Berlin perspective, quite how close he came to freedom.
The Wall becomes permanent Concrete and Watchtowers
Building the later Wall. This section was erected in the suburb of Neukölln in 1987, just three years before the Wall fell. The segment to be rebuilt is the stretch of wire fencing at the right of the photograph. First, Grenzer climbed over the old Wall and assembled a cage-like structure to stop the workers from escaping.The Grenzer on the left is exactly one metre from West Berlin territory, with nothing stopping him from fleeing.
Once the fencing is removed, the prefabricated concrete segments of the new Wall are put in place. Notice the broad, flat base, giving the segment an L-shape.
The spaces between the segments are now cemented in, while the segments themselves are welded together along the top edge [inset]. The workers are all young men; hence, no doubt, the fear of their escaping, and the need for the wire cage.
Broad piping is then lifted on to the top of the Wall by crane [inset], and fixed in place. The piping made it virtually impossible for escapees to gain a hand-hold on the top of the Wall.
Finally, a coat of white paint is sprayed on to the new section of Wall. It will not remain white for long.
As evening falls, work finishes, and workers and Grenzer climb back over the Wall, home into the DDR. The guard at left is last over, and takes the ladder across with him. By the next morning, the western face of the new section of Wall already bears its first graffiti message. “Is this our fault? 5-9-87” it reads. Though West Berliners learned to live with the Wall, they never accepted it as a final reality. Until its fall, it remained an offence to them.
1. Concrete flagstone with or without piping on top 2. Wire mesh fencing 3. Raked sand “deatrh strip” and inspection area 4. Lighting 5. Anti-vehicle trench; could have tank-traps 6. Outer limit of border patrol track 7. Patrol track 8. Guide wire of guard-dog track 9. Alarm 10. Observation tower 11. Fencing with built-in alarm The Berlin Wall: A Schematic Representation The Wall was all but uncrossable in its later years. It was never a single entity; its structure depended upon where each particular section was. It was expensive to operate and maintain, so the DDR leadership sought to cut costs wherever they could. It is interesting to note that even those responsible for its maintenance and operation were not entirely trusted by their leaders – due to so many of them making a break. The DDR was very careful whom it allowed to be Grenzer, since many joined the Border Police in order to seek a chance of escape. Politically suspect citizens were not even considered. This suspicion is confirmed by the layout of the Wall. Note the two tracks; an inspection track for those involved in the maintenance of the Wall , and a patrol track for the Grenzer patrolling it . The markers  were the closest that the Grepo patrols were routinely allowed to the West. Even a Grenzer could come under fire, it would seem, for crossing over to the Western side of the markers without proper authorisation. For most Westerners, the concrete barrier on which the murals were painted, was the Wall. For the DDR, it was merely the “border marker” . East Berliners never really got to see it. Beyond the “border signal fence”  was a concrete slab fence called the “hinterland wall”. From this to the border marker was about 80 metres. The area marked as “3” was known as the “death strip.” Looking at this elaborate and dangerous structure, the word “Wall”, even with an upper-case letter, can be seen to be grossly inadequate in describing the ugly reality.
The Wall sometimes divided whole streets in two; for example, the Heidelbergerstrasse, pictured here. Tank traps and ditches were designed to keep East Germans from breaking out using vehicles. The view is along no-man’s-land.