Berlin Wall border troops, German Democratic Republic, National People’s Army.
After the defeat of the Nazi regime in 1945,
Germany was put under the control
of the Allied forces with the U.S. British,
美 英 法 苏联军的控制之下
French, and Soviets, each having their own zone of occupation.
As the iron curtain fell on Eastern European countries
under the influence of the Soviet Union, Germany
ended up divided into West and East Germany.
The city of Berlin as the capital of the country,
was also divided into two zones.
East Berlin remained part of the Communist German Democratic Republic
and West Berlin became part of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Gradually as the Cold War was developing,
the ideological barrier became a physical one.
In 1961, East Germany’s communist leaders decided that
a wall should be built around West Berlin to prevent
the intrusion of possible agents and spies.
And to prevent their citizens fleeing to the west.
Until 1961, the control of the border was
under the jurisdiction of the German border police.
The Grenzpolizei, but from that point on
It began to be considered as a military matter.
Border troops of the army:
The Grenztruppen were formed to protect the inner border
为了保卫西德 波兰 捷克斯洛伐克
with Western Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia,
and the wall surrounding West Berlin.
Since it was part of the army,
border troops were organized on the same basis as the rest of the army.
Men were recruited from the population between ages 18 to 26,
and their service lasted for 18 months.
Those who wanted to, could prolong their engagement in order to be promoted
into NCO’s or noncommissioned officers.
One of the things that attracted young men from East Germany to the border troops,
was that they were promised a better
education and help in seeking a good civilian job once their service was over.
Even though the role of border troops was a popular one,
recruiting criteria was very strict.
Future soldiers had to be politically correct,
as they were to protect the border against
the capitalist enemy literally on their doorstep.
Those who had even the smallest record of political descent
or even those whose closest relatives had showed these traits,
were not allowed to join the border troops.
Religiousness was also a big drawback in qualification.
Another important criteria, was that the potential Bordermen were not residents
of areas near the border with West Germany.
These criteria were set up
because the government didn’t want former Bordermen to help escapees.
Those who had close relatives
in West Germany were also not considered for the job.
The basic training of the border troops was identical to those
in the rest of the army.
Bordermen were however additionally taught various inspection and patrol skills, observing,
dog handling, and even laying mines!
Intense training was conducted
in order to take their shooting skills to a high level.
Every Borderman was obliged to shoot two moving targets
at a distance of 200 meters using only four rounds.
Such skills prepared them for the task of taking down real-life escapee targets.
The main field of training was however political
indoctrination as the army didn’t want to
have any hesitant shooters in their ranks.
More than half of the entire training process
was dedicated to the political shaping of the Bordermen.
The uniforms and equipment
of the border troops were also the same as the rest of the army.
Bordermen wore standard stone gray uniforms,
with dark green collar signs, and shoulder stripes.
On their heads they wore caps
or standard East German wide helmets,
Which were worn in situations of high alertness.
For the equipment, border troops used weapons
of Soviet origin made in East Germany.
From the rise of the Berlin Wall in 1961,
The East German army started to receive modern weapons to replace the old weapons
from the World War II era.
The standard sidearm of the Bordermen was the nine-millimeter Soviet Makarov,
while the main weapon was the MPI-K
assault rifle, a copy of the Soviet AK-47 Kalashnikov.
Every soldier carried one of these with two magazines of ammunition.
There were also IMG-K and IMG-D light machine guns,
which were copies of the Soviet RPK and RPD.
All of these weapons were in the standard Soviet caliber,
7.62 millimeter, even though the new caliber of 5.45 millimeter appeared later,
border troops continued to use old ammunition.
Border troops were also equipped with heavy machine guns and RPGs.
As an addition to this arsenal of weapons,
Border Patrols had German Shepherd dogs specialized
in searching for people that were hiding.
Observing the borderline, as well as the class enemy on the other side,
was achieved with the use of
binoculars which were a standard piece of equipment for Bordermen on patrol.
Portable radios were also supplied for faster communication.
Soldiers on duty on watchtowers had static, more powerful binoculars.
These binoculars allowed Bordermen to have a better overview and a secure control
over a huge area of the border region.
The duties of border troops within the Berlin Wall zone were quite simple.
They had to patrol the area around the Berlin ring,
and to watch out for any attempt of an illegal
crossing from the west, and especially from the east.
They also performed the same tasks from the watchtowers.
If someone was caught making a violation of the border line,
Bordermen were allowed to shoot them down without orders.
For this reason many Bordermen were trialed and sentenced after the German unification.
Although the pay of border troops was a little bit better
than the rest of the army,
it was still very low compared to West German standards.
Many dissatisfied soldiers planned escape attempts to West Germany.
Since the division of Berlin, many were attempted.
the most famous being the crossing of soldier Conrad Schumann
on August 15th, 1961.
Conrad was serving at the border troops,
and was on his sentry duty at the line that day.
At the time, East Germany just began to build the wall.
As he was standing at his sentry post watching his comrades
on the patrol walking away from the line.
He took the opportunity and ran across the barbed wire to West Berlin.
In order to prevent such future incidents from happening,
the army established a special protocol. Patrols,
and watchtowers were always manned by two or three soldiers.
In this way
if one decided to run to the west, the other could shoot him.
Guard shifts lasted for eight hours,
and every soldier had at least one per day.
In order to disrupt the pattern and prevent possible escapes,
shift hours and patrol paths were prone to changes.
Even the names of the soldiers on shift were kept secret.
Another way to keep the Bordermen obedient and in strict discipline,
was the use of State Police known as the Stasi.
Stasi agents in the border troops
wore the same uniforms and insignia and were used to gather information from the other side.
But also, to inspect the border troops for potential escapees.
Every tenth officer, and one in 30 soldiers was
in collusion with the Stasi.
Even though contact with West German guards was forbidden,
and control was strict, Bordermen were making
constant contact with their Western counterparts.
Exchanging insignia and newspapers.
The Berlin wall collapsed on November 9th, 1989. Earlier,
soldiers of the border troops had stood bewildered and overwhelmed
as thousands of East Germans gathered near the wall.
Demanding to get through the checkpoints, a demand,
which they soon agreed to.
The wall fell down without a single shot fired, and a year later,
The Grenztruppen would become disbanded.
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Berlin Wall border troops, German Democratic Republic, National People’s Army.