Docs show Stasi order to fire on fleeing Germans
12 August 2007, BERLIN _ The agency that manages the records of former East Germany's dreaded secret police has uncovered an order for border guards to fire on escaping citizens that is far more explicit than others on record, an official said in remarks published Saturday.
12 August 2007
BERLIN _ The agency that manages the records of former East Germany's dreaded secret police has uncovered an order for border guards to fire on escaping citizens that is far more explicit than others on record, an official said in remarks published Saturday.
Though the official East German border regulations said use of a firearm was to be considered an "extreme measure in the use of force," the Oct. 1, 1973 order to border guards from the Ministry for State Security, or Stasi, is much less reserved, Magdeburg's Volksstimme newspaper reported.
"Do not hesitate with the use of a firearm, including when the border breakouts involve women and children, which the traitors have already frequently taken advantage of," the order reads.
Before the 1990 reunification of Germany, more than 1,000 people were killed on the eastern side of the highly fortified border as they tried to escape to the West, including more than 125 at the Berlin Wall, which was erected Aug. 13, 1961.
"The find of this order to shoot demonstrates in a horrific way how inhuman this system was," said Ronald Pofalla, general secretary of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats, in an interview with Berlin's B-Z newspaper.
"On the eve of the anniversary of the construction of the wall, it is a lesson to all of those who want to let the barbarity of the communist regime be consigned to the annals of history."
The written order from the Stasi was found among the papers of an East German border guard identified only as Sgt. Manfred L., according to Joerg Stoye, head of the Magedeburg office of the Stasi Records Office, the Volksstimme newspaper said.
Other such orders contained more limitations on the use of force, making its discovery an "exciting and highly important find for the study of the history of the Stasi," Stoye was quoted as saying.
He did not immediately return calls to his office seeking more details.
Germany had been divided after the end of World War II in 1945 into communist East Germany and democratic West Germany.
The Stasi, founded in the 1950s, had 91,000 full-time employees and 180,000 undercover informers. They kept the population of 18 million under blanket surveillance while the regime built the Berlin Wall and a border bristling with mines, barbed wire, dogs and self-activating machine guns.
After the Soviet Union collapsed, the border came down, the Stasi was disbanded and East and West Germany were united in 1990.
Hundreds of former East German border guards and officials have since been convicted for border shootings. Most received suspended sentences, though a few former leaders went to jail.
Meanwhile, new research shows that at least 1,245 people lost their lives under the communist East German regime, according to a disputed new figure released on Friday by a pressure group.
"The figure of 1,245 victims is, unfortunately, not definitive," said Alexandra Hildebrandt, who also runs the museum at the Berlin landmark Checkpoint Charlie.
Forty-six people have been added to the total given last year, as a result of new research.
Of the victims, 768 died after August 13, 1961, when construction began on the Berlin Wall that was to divide the city and embody the Cold War until it was toppled amid joyous scenes on November 9, 1989.
Seventy of the victims were women and 40 were under the age of 18.
The figures compiled by the group, an independent body called the August 13 Association, are higher than those calculated by historians and some official bodies.
Hildebrandt said the difference could be explained by the fact that her group concentrated on a longer period than most historians, who tend to focus only on the period from 1961.
The total also includes the suicides of East German soldiers and a man who died of a heart attack after being stopped and searched by guards, both areas discounted by historians.
Subject: German news