military training
Military training for the little ones








How does a hand grenade work?
How does a hand grenade work?

School magazine "Goethicus", Goethe-Gymnasium in Ludwigsburg, June 1982 edition

"GDR: A children's book"

by Michael von Aichberger


"Keeping at the revolutionary class consciousness is our internationalistic duty. There is peace because we are strong and equipped with a great amount of weapons."

This comment by Erich Honecker, chairman of the GDR's council of state, is the foreword of a "picture book" published by Berlin's publishing company for children's books.

Title: "Our national people's army".

I'm sure it is worth having a look at it in so far as it shows how devotedly the GDR-regime looks after the military education of its little ones. The book does not only describe weapons, tanks, uniforms and medals, to be precise. It already imparts to the children all the wisdom necessary in order to defend their "socialist fatherland".

a kalashnikov
A kalashnikov, graphically described for GDR children

Of course, an antagonist is also provided - his name is presented to the young readers in the first chapter already. After pointing out eloquently East Germany's and Berlin's rescue by the Red Army in 1945, the following opinion is spread under the title "The enemy is back again":

"After Hitler's Germany had capitulated, three occupied zones developed on the west side of the river Elbe and the Thuringian Forest, the British, the American and the French zone. This is where all the war criminals found refuge..., as well as - and above all - Hitler's generals."

Furthermore, basically what he writes is that those war criminals had evaded just punishment and had been given jobs in administrations or public groups.

"Communists and anti-Fascists at the head of the West German authorities were replaced by representatives of German imperialism. The most famous one was Dr. Konrad Adenauer, who was to be German Chancellor for several years later on." ... "In the early fifties the German armed forces were set up in the FRG. Today they are West Europe's numerically largest army of aggression and a member of the imperialist war package called NATO."

After that they briefly outline the history of the origins of the National People's Army, at the same time adulating themselves. The heading "13th of August 1961" shall be more interesting for us.

Quote: "Spring 1961 was the height of the cold war against the socialist countries, stirred up by imperialism... The West German militarists behaved especially aggressive. They prepared the military attack on the GDR. ...
The GDR struck at once, thus preventing World War III. On 13th of August 1961, the anti-Fascist safety bulwark to West Berlin was built in the GDR's capital Berlin. ... Since that day, our borders to West Berlin and the FRG do not permit an attack whatsoever." End of quote.

That is, the little GDR citizens learn that the wall prevents somebody coming in. But they do not learn that plenty of GDR citizens had fled to the free West before the wall was built. More than 100,000 already in the first half of the year 1961. As a result, there was a lack of urgently needed manpower.

Several sectors of the economy collapsed, in some cases a good half of the personnel had fled to the West within a couple of months. While in the morning of 13th of August 1961 GDR citizens and East Berliners weren't allowed to go to West Berlin any more, West Berliners could still go to East Berlin. This is not surprising, for the wall was supposed to let nobody "out".

Today, the GDR's border protection system consists of about 45,000 automatic firing devices with expanding bullet technology - a severe breach of human rights. The GDR children's book comments on that:

"The border guards' duty is supported by an obstruction system and a large number of technical devices like helicopters, radiodetection, signaling systems etc."

We learn the following about the man who has to protect the border:

"Working as a border security guard for the GDR is a varied and interesting job. It requires a high degree of morale, political consciousness, vigilance, discipline, courage and determination. It goes without saying that the border guard needs to have excellent skills in respect to his weapon and technique. Furthermore he needs to know how to pick up a trail and he needs to keep a sharp eye and ear." ... "The close relation of our people to its soldiers is one of the things that give us strength and superiority to our enemies." ...

A dream job, that is? The order to fire is not mentioned in the book. Border guards who had fled to the West stated that they had been obliged to the following:

"Your duty is to prevent border crossing in both directions, tracking down, arresting or eliminating border violators, as well as making out provocations in time and prevent their extension to the GDR."

It goes on as follows:

If the first border barrier, which mostly looks like a normal fence, is cleared, the border guard is urged to call out: "Stop, border guard, hands up!". If the fugitive doesn't do so and doesn't stop either, a warning shot has to be fired. If he still doesn't stop, he has to be shot at, no matter how many barriers are still to be cleared.

In case the border violater is so close to the border that a call or a warning shot would gain him enough time to cross the border entirely, he has to be shot at immediately. In case he has climbed the wall already, there's no need to fear that he could fall down at the other side of the wall, for one usually falls to the opposite direction of fire.

The order of shooting parallel to the border is only valid if the success - that is "arresting or eliminating the border violator" - is ensured. In case the fugitive has already climbed the last barrier, the soldier is urged to fire indivdual shots in a lying position, wich enhances accuracy and the ascending trajectory prevents that missing projectiles can be found.

Injured border violators have to be treated as follows: If the wounded person lies in front of the first barriers, he is to be brought to a safe area. Before giving immediate medical assistance, the injured person has to be searched. If the soldier can't reach him without clearing a barrier, he is not allowed to rescue him immediately. This is to be left to the emergency squad, who arrived 20 to 50 minutes later, according to eye-witness accounts. Under no circumstances is the soldier allowed to clear or destroy border protection devices in order to render first aid. With the weapon in firing position he has to ensure that no rescue or help be attempted by the West.

There's something about the border guards that the children's book kept secret. It is mentioned, however, in the section about the Federal Border Guard:

"The Federal Border Guard serves as a military power on a national (within the FRG) and international (against us) basis. Within the FRG its duty is oppressing those workers and citizens who fight against exploitation, and its exterior function is safeguarding the deployment zone for the German armed forces and other military associations of NATO in the case of an aggression against the GDR .

After that there are further chapters about West Berlin, the "haven of sabotage and espionage", where "spy rings, smear broadcasting companies like RIAS, and body trade organizations have their headquarters."

Apart from that, the book describes down to the last detail the different kinds of firearms and how to use them. The children get a proper weapon and battle training. The book is recommended "for readers from
12 years onwards", and unfortunately this is no fairytale.