Yesterday had a special and chilling significance for the people of Berlin. Forty-six years ago, the East German government started construction on the barrier that would become the Berlin Wall, a structure that stood for decades to keep communism's victims inside the Soviet-sponsored prison that was East Berlin. That characterization appears especially apt with the discovery yesterday of a seven page order that shows for the first time that the regime gave explicit shoot-to-kill orders to its guards -- and included women and children in the directive:
Now, coinciding with the 46th anniversary of the start of construction of the Berlin Wall on August 13, 1961, a seven-page document has surfaced in an archive of Stasi files that contains an explicit firing order. It was issued to a special team of Stasi agents tasked with infiltrating regular units of border guards to prevent their colleagues from defecting.
"It is your duty to use your combat ... skills in such a way as to overcome the cunning of the border breacher, to challenge or liquidate him in order to thwart the planned border breach," says the order dated October 1, 1973. "Don't hesitate to use your weapon even when border breaches happen with women and children, which traitors have often exploited in the past."
As Der Spiegel notes, the order had been discovered before, and even published on one occasion in 1997. It escaped general notice, however, and former leaders of the defunct regime insisted that no such order ever existed. Its rediscovery has generated calls for new trials for the old Communists who maintained and obeyed those orders. Other directives called for warning shots or shouted calls to stop, but this order doesn't mention any other procedure except to kill people whose only crime was to try to leave the prison the Communists made for Germans in East Berlin.
Ironically, the rediscovery may have come at just the right time. A wave of entertainment has hit Germany that paints the regime in a rosy light. The Left Party, which descends from the Communists who ruled East Germany, have been delighted to see films like Goodby Lenin! (see update) arrive on the scene, as they weave nostalgia for the old days around failing memories of the brutality of the actual nature of their rule.
The note clears away the fog that the Left Party and clueless artistes have created in Germany. Nothing shows the nature of oppressive communism than an order to shoot women and children who rejected it.
UPDATE: The reference to Goodbye Lenin as a nostalgia trip for communism came from the Der Spiegel article. CQ commenters say that's a micharacterization and that the film does not paint East Germany in a good light, and that it's rather good.