Couple of questions about Berlin and East Germany

#1
Pardon me for being a bit thick, but I've got a couple of questions about East Germany and Berlin in the Cold War.

Referring to this map here:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/01/Deutschland_Besatzungszonen_1945.svg

Why did so many people risk everything trying to cross the Berlin Wall? Unless I'm missing something wouldn't it have been much easier (relatively) to enter the NATO occupied areas from outside the city? Or were the Soviet checkpoints here just as bad? If so, then how were NATO units in the City supplied, entirely by an air corridor?

Also, where were the "starting lines" for the respective formations of each side deployed? Along the border between East and West Germany? If so, then this meant that if everything had gone pete tong then the NATO formations in Berlin would have started completely surrounded. Was this actually the case or were there contingencies In place to break through to reinforce Berlin if it all kicked off? I was under the impression that if the Soviets had decided to attack, they'd pretty much steam roll their way to the channel, and the NATO forces' job was to hold out long enough to for us to send Russia some instant sunshine.

Don't really know much about this though so can anyone recommend any good books about Cold War Europe and the armies of NATO and the WP? I'm off on holiday soon and I fancy some good books to read.
 
#2
Someone will be along shortly to tell you that the reason people were being shot going over the wall was due to the Communist block not wanting the West to realise just how good a thing Socialism was and didn't want hordes of westies to come and ruin thier workers paradise.
 
#4
Actually the wall went all the way around West Berlin, so approaching it from any direction would have been the same. The border between East and West Germany was also heavily guarded as this site shows. Innerdeutsche Grenze, Grenzanlagen, Mauer Berlin, Zonengrenze, DDR, BRD, Teilung, BGS, Zoll, Grenzsoldaten, SED, NVA, Grenzsperranlagen, Grenzgebiet, Todesstreifen, Grenzfotos, Mauerfall
I didn't know that, I'd just assumed it cut through the centre of Berlin and the rest of the border was just checkpoints, watchtowers that sort of thing.
 
#5
The wall went all around West Berlin which was not occupied by NATO, but by US, UK and Fr forces of about a brigade each plus tiny air contingents, eg the RAF had one Chipmunk. All agreed under post war Quadripartite deals.

The Allied forces in West Berlin were little more than a trip-wire and we understood (in the 80s) that the Sovs would leave West Berlin for the East Germans to capture. I seem to remember that we (the Brits) expected to be able to hold our positions for several days. There was little hope of any break-through to relieve us. Our presence there was more a demonstration of political intent.

Allied forces in West Berlin were supplied by road, rail and air along authorised corridors through the Sov Occupied Zone (or DDR as it was also known). The Berlin airlift in the late 40s was required when the Sovs closed the land routes.
 
#6
There used to be a Close/Medium Recce Regiment in Wolfenbüttel that held a twice yearly exercise called Probe Ex (with the Yanks)to clear the Berlin Corridor from Helmstedt to Berlin.I think they had a snowballs chance in hell of getting through!
 
#7
As far I as was told by my parents (we were in West Berlin in the '60s), if the Soviets decided to "unify" Berlin into the socialist paradise the other side of the wall, then apparently, they would give 24 hours notice so that all non-local, non-military personnel could leave - it was expected to fall in less than seven days. West Berlin was more of political stance rather than of any real military importance. My dear old mum used to maintain that the saying was "Keep a red flag and bottle of vodka in the sideboard, just in case..."
 
#8
The wall went all around West Berlin which was not occupied by NATO, but by US, UK and Fr forces of about a brigade each plus tiny air contingents, eg the RAF had one Chipmunk. All agreed under post war Quadripartite deals.

The Allied forces in West Berlin were little more than a trip-wire and we understood (in the 80s) that the Sovs would leave West Berlin for the East Germans to capture. I seem to remember that we (the Brits) expected to be able to hold our positions for several days. There was little hope of any break-through to relieve us. Our presence there was more a demonstration of political intent.

Allied forces in West Berlin were supplied by road, rail and air along authorised corridors through the Sov Occupied Zone (or DDR as it was also known). The Berlin airlift in the late 40s was required when the Sovs closed the land routes.
Thanks for that, that's what I wanted to know.

What were your instructions? (I'm assuming you did a tour there?) Just to hold out as long as possible then surrender?
 
#9
I didn't know that, I'd just assumed it cut through the centre of Berlin and the rest of the border was just checkpoints, watchtowers that sort of thing.
No, it went all round Berlin, and along the entire border of the DDR. They weren't ******* about. East Germans were also shot attempting to cross other Warsaw pact borders with the west.
 
#11
Thanks for that, that's what I wanted to know.

What were your instructions? (I'm assuming you did a tour there?) Just to hold out as long as possible then surrender?
I did about a year as OC anti-tank Pl. On crash out (practised often in Ex Rocking Horse) the Bn would occupy positions in the Spandau/Wilmersdorf area using the big canals as obstacles. It was difficult to train properly for, we could hardly kick the occupants of the flats and houses we'd be moving into for real, so exercises would often end up in the Grunewald and then we'd go back to barracks. Troops had lots of other duties, guards, border patrols and parades to keep them busy.
 
#12
Us Cold War Warriors were stood down waaaaay too early. I told 'em about Caya Blanco Del Sur, but did they listen?

My source on the Todestreifen tells me the troops are massing at the border. Oberfeldwebel Buggzenhofen is firing up the kuebel as we speak.

I still have my Active Edge kit in the loft, and await the call.
 
#13
It's all coming together. Brownie points to the first to ID the lorry.

CIMG1148e.jpg
 
#15
On the plus side when we used to nip into East Berlin for a few hours our West DM were worth about five times so you could have a good meal for next to nowt. Ive still got a genuine piece of Berlin Wall taken a few weeks after the wall came down.....its genuine I tell you and not a chunk from some ones toilet wall like the Yanks used to buy for 20DM a chunk.
 
#16
There is a new book out which I pointed up to Auld Yin as possibly worth reviewing a few weeks ago.

Trouble is it's £60 and from OU press who he says are not the easiest people to prise free stuff out of.

It's called 'Death on the Berlin Wall' by Pertti Ahonen and is pukka piece of historial research.

There were 136 people shot dead trying to cross the Wall during its 28 year history.

The first was in Spring '61, the last in Feb '89, only nine months before the Wall came down, and the youngest was just 11 years old.

There were also a few GDR guards killed in the odd shoot out with West German police.

The book explores the mindset of the East German authorities - who burned the bodies of the failed escapers and disposed of them as 'scientific waste' - as well as the political fun and games that were played around each incident.

Too much money for me, I'm afraid, but if I'd served in Berlin during the relevant period I'd probably splash out.

Do any Arrsers recall any of the killings during their time there?
 
P

PrinceAlbert

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#17
I heard that the East Berliners made the trip across the wall hoping to be shot, as they knew that David Hasselhof would be singing when it came down. Unfortunatley some made it.
 
#18
There is a new book out which I pointed up to Auld Yin as possibly worth reviewing a few weeks ago.

Trouble is it's £60 and from OU press who he says are not the easiest people to prise free stuff out of.

It's called 'Death on the Berlin Wall' by Pertti Ahonen and is pukka piece of historial research.

There were 136 people shot dead trying to cross the Wall during its 28 year history.

The first was in Spring '61, the last in Feb '89, only nine months before the Wall came down, and the youngest was just 11 years old.

There were also a few GDR guards killed in the odd shoot out with West German police.

The book explores the mindset of the East German authorities - who burned the bodies of the failed escapers and disposed of them as 'scientific waste' - as well as the political fun and games that were played around each incident.

Too much money for me, I'm afraid, but if I'd served in Berlin during the relevant period I'd probably splash out.

Do any Arrsers recall any of the killings during their time there?
Of course that figure is disputed, depending on your own perception of a death at the wall. Some died of heart attacks whilst passing though checkpoints, others committed suicide following failed attempts, others died at Hohenschoenhausen following sentencing for Republikflucht. A fascinating subject. Christopher Hilton has an interesting take on things, amongst others.

There were a few incidents of Grenztruppen taking out their own in order to escape from what I understand
 
#19
As I say, I haven't read the book, but I read the review of it on the History Today website it's probably still there somewhere.

I think it's in line for a history book prize of some sort so I'm sure it makes it all clear inside, I get the impression it's been meticulously researched.

What I've said is therefore probably no more reliable than a Wkki entry!
 

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