The source: Da schlug’s 13 (Berlin: Kreisleitung Berlin-Mitte der SED, Abteilung Agitation und Propaganda, 1963).
On the 13th
On 13 August 1961 peace-loving Berliners won a battle for peace. The battle groups of Berlin’s working class, along with comrades in the National People’s Army and comrades of the German police of the capital of the GDR, put an end to subversive activity against the GDR by spies, slave-traders, and Revanchist organizations based in West Berlin
The Socialist Unity Party of Germany thanks all the comrades in the battle groups, the Society for Sport and Technology, and the German Red Cross for the readiness, the determination, the courage and discipline, with which these comrades and friends protected peace. We thank comrades of the National People’s Army and the German police who by their determination demonstrated that our young workers’ and farmers’ state is willing and able to guarantee peace in Germany, and that it has the necessary means to do so.
Above all, we thank the wives of our comrade fighters, whose hearts always stood by their men and gave them strength. They knew that their husbands were fighting for peace, which is the foundation for all our happiness, and that of our children.
The party thanks all those in our district of the city who supported the measures taken by the government of the German Democratic Republic, which helped us to rapidly and securely guarantee our borders, giving no possibility of provocation, and who supported and cared for our armed forces.
13 August was a victory for the forces of peace and socialism. The forces of war and reaction were defeated. The victory was achieved by peace-loving Germans, by good Germans, over the Bonn ultras and their agents in West Berlin. The USA’s war policy failed. We say: “Ami go home!”
This pamphlet was put together by comrades in the Fighting Group Berlin-Mitte and several comrades from Berlin publishing houses. It is written to thank the fighting comrades, to help them remember the day on which they gave West Berlin militarism a decisive blow. The pamphlet is an admonition for all those who defend peace with their own hands to increase their watchfulness.
Everyone could see on 13 August that the militarists are not the ones controlling developments, but rather the strong people in whom Germany’s future rests. These are all Germany’s peace-loving forces, who have a firm and reliable foundation in the GDR.
13 August made clear once again that our people has but one future, a future of peace and socialism. Both are inseparable, and their homeland in Germany is the German Democratic Republic, the first workers’ and farmers’ state. To strengthen it is the patriotic duty of every good German.
We strengthen the GDR by our contributions to socialist construction, through the readiness of the youth to defend our socialist homeland with weapons, through the persuasive demonstration of the political and moral unity of our people in the election of 17 September 1961.
We will vote for the candidates of the National Front, for they are the candidates of peace and socialism.
Dear comrades and friends,
We are standing guard for peace. Militarism still exists in West Germany. That is why the conclusion of a peace treaty and the transformation of West Berlin into a demilitarized, free, and neutral city is absolutely necessary. Let us do everything to strengthen the power of the workers and farmers. Let us do all we can for peace and socialism.
The Bonn ultras and their masters will not succeed. Be ready to fight for peace and socialism for the happiness of the German nation.
1. Secretary of the Kreis headquarters of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, Berlin-Mitte (Thieme)
This page shows headlines the Nazis used in 1939 to justify the invasion of Poland, followed by headlines on the stream of people leaving East Germany in 1961. “Hitler and Himmler were able to unleash war and throw the world into a bloodbath. Their successors had their mouth slapped and their finger burned on 13 August 1961.”
There will not be another 1 September 1939!
The 13th came! We acted! The night of 12 to 13 August came. During this night...
... the lights burned in all Berlin SED party offices.
... The minister for transportation, Kramer, ordered that at midnight the S-Bahn trains between the Western sector of Berlin and the DDR are to be halted.
... Doorbells rang, there were knocks on windows, telephones rang: Alarm comrade! Report immediately!
During this night...
... artillery and tanks moved to the borders of democratic Berlin.
... Reinhard Gehlen of the Federal Intelligence Service raged because once again, he did not know anything.
... two dozen border-crossers stood at the Friedrichstraße train station and yelled about their economic freedom.
During this night...
... the transportation system for all inhabitants of the boundaries of Berlin had to be reorganized.
... tens of thousands of border-crosses who had sold themselves to the class enemies for a few Western marks had to turn around and go back home.
... In alarm, the head of the West Berlin subway system, Rosenecker, asked our comrade Malik, director of the BVG” “How long will this go on?” “That depends on you,” said Malik.
As the morning dawned, the border was sealed. As Sunday came, the government’s measures were completed. The morning newspapers reported: “The governments of the Warsaw Pact states call upon the Volkskammer and the government of the GDR, and all workers of the German Democratic Republic, to establish order along the border with West Berlin, in order to prevent subversive activity against the nations of the socialist bloc, and to establish effective control of the entire border with West Berlin, including its border with democratic Berlin.”
Our Council of Ministers therefore decided:
“To prevent enemy activity by the Revanchist and militarist forces of West Germany and West Berlin, controls will be established along the borders of the German Democratic Republic, including the border to the Western sectors of Greater Berlin, as is customary for sovereign states. Reliable supervision and effective controls are to be established along the West Berlin border to prevent subversive activity. The border may be crossed only by citizens of the German Democratic Republic with special permission. Until West Berlin is transformed into a demilitarized and neutral free city, citizens of the capital of the German Democratic Republic may cross the border to West Berlin only with a special document. Peaceful visitors from West Berlin may visit the capital of the German Democratic Republic (democratic Berlin) by presenting their West Berlin identity card. Revanchist politicians and agents of West German militarism are prohibited from entering the capital of the GDR (democratic Berlin). The previous regulations continue to apply to citizens of the West German Federal Republic who wish to visit democratic Berlin. Travel by citizens of other states to the capital of the German Democratic Republic are not affected by these regulations.”
We Carried the Weapons
Who implemented these measures?
Those in whose interest they were: Men of the people. Never was that as clear as on 13 August 1961. Reactionary forces could never do what we did as a matter of course. We armed our citizens. And everywhere, next to the green uniforms of the police and the gray of the People’s Army was the simple clothing of the fighters, making it clear who is the master of this house — and who has the greater power in this Germany.
Alarm Level II
We had difficult days as we worked to defuse the atomic bomb of West Berlin. Particularly in the first two days, the opponent attempted provocations in his blind rage, called for strikes, and attempted by force to keep open the border he himself had drawn. Burglars do not like locked doors. But the border, once closed, remained closed, no one went on strike, and the provocations were cut off as soon as they started.
We who carried the weapons the people gave to us drew closer together, and it was not only the live ammunition that made us conscious of our strength. We saw the impotence of the class enemy in the face of our weapons; we saw how they shrank to raging mobs of dwarves. We, the comrades in our fighting groups, stood day and night, in wind and rain, with little sleep. We helped to secure the border, we went on patrols, we gave the enemy no room. In our free time, we studied tactics, practiced using our weapons. And sometimes we sat together, always ready for action, and talked about what we had experienced. And here it is written down — not a chronological recounting of all the events, but still a chronicle of our time.
A number of West Berlin rowdies made provocative remarks on Sunday, the 13th, along Unter den Linden about the “Maxims” of the 2nd Motorized Battalion. “What do you want to do with those things?” they said. “Did you get them out of some old museum?”
“Little friend,” said a fighter, “Russian workers used these machine guns to win victory in 1917! They will be good enough for you guys if you get insolent!”
A Smart Aleck
While the comrades of the 4th Motorized Battalion moved into their positions by the Brandenburg Gate on Sunday, 13 August, West Berlin rowdies insulted them. One clever chap muttered: “Hey, Berlin isn’t Budapest!” “True,” replied a comrade quietly, “we’ve learned something since then!”
The Wrong Place
While an Englishman was being checked in his car at the Brunnenstrasse, he asked: “What kind of democracy do you have here?” The comrade in charge answered in fluent English: “You might better ask that question in your colonies.”
The 4th brigade of the 10th battalion was on duty at Heinrich-Heine Straße on Tuesday, 15 August. At about 10 a.m. a shiny Mercedes approached the border at the prescribed 10 kph. Somewhat pale, but otherwise trying to look relaxed, the man who had made a name for himself as “Texas Willi” stepped out: Willi Kreßmann, mayor of the Kreuzberg district, and a prominent representative of the front city policy. Herr Kreßmann, who apparently had heard of the determination of the fighting groups, hoped for better treatment from an officer of the People’s Police. However, he was disappointed in his hopes that the various armed units had not yet worked things out together. The prominent Mr. Kreßmann underwent the same careful identity check as any other citizen of West Berlin. He did perhaps had to stand there a little longer than necessary, but everything else went quickly.
“Herr Kreßmann, you have had years to negotiate with us. What do you want to do now in democratic Berlin?”
“I just want to look around,” Herr Kreßmannn said.
“There are but two options for you: Either you head straight to Comrade Ebert in the Red City Hall — or you turn around!”
Herr Kreßmann turned around this time.
Foreign Languages Made Easy
Comrades from the Ministry for Trade and Commerce were on guard. An Englander went a bit too far and crossed the border. The guard told him to go back for safety reasons. The Englishman went. The commander asked the guard: “Can you speak English?” — “No.” — “Well, how did you get it across?” — “Simple! I said ‘Dawai, go home!’” [“Dawai” is Russian for “go away.”]
[Another eleven stories of similar quality follow.]
Spitting against the Wind
By Monday evening, it was clear that the midget mayor Brandt, in attempting to spit against the wind that was blowing through the Brandenburg Gate, was only having it land on his face. In desperation, he cried for help to his uncle and aunt in Washington and London.
His stepmother Adenauer used the situation to get rid of the illegitimate child. Adenauer dropped his support for Brandt and used the situation that lovely Willi had maneuvered himself into to gain advantage in the election campaign. When he was asked at a press conference on 22.8. what he [Brandt] had done for West Berlin, he listed the following: one conversation, a speech, an information session, two meetings, and a lame government statement. In all, nothing at all.
The Western Powers reacted in an equally cool manner, being apparently unwilling to admit a reckless louse into their pelt. Their newspapers were even relieved that our government’s measures took the burning torch out of the hands of this adventurer.
Currency Exchange 1:0
The shares of West Berlin armaments companies fell on every stock exchange. The exchange rate [between the East and West German marks], always unreal, took a dive, since the money exchange owners were stuck with their supply of “East marks.”The writer Bruno Apitz, visiting our units at the Brandenburg Gate, accurately said: “The exchange rate is now 1:0.”
There were, however, attempts to continue currency speculation. At about 9 p.m. on the evening of 19.8, The West Berlin engineer Ingeborg Illichmann was arrested at the Chauseestraße. The list of foodstuffs she had bought by us and was carrying home filled half a typewritten page. It mostly include butter and sausage.
Visitors from West Berlin, border inspections demonstrated, were smuggling in money. The inspections were intensified, covering nearly everyone. The main smuggled good was West German marks, in part from outstanding wages due to border crossers, sometimes being exchanged at a rate of 1:20, used to buy illegal jewelry, furs, and other valuable goods from us. Cigarettes were also smuggled. All sorts of ways of concealment were used: diapers, hip supporters, collars, shoe soles, sealed cigarette packages, etc. During the week after 13 August, customs seized 106,216.70 West German marks and 12,000 Western cigarettes.
Harry Pietzner, SW 61, Ritterstraße 124, taped 120 marks to his son’s back. He was fined 300 Western marks.
Ilse Leutscher, SO 36, Lausitzer Straße 25, carried 100 West German marks over the border, the remaining salary for her brother Günter. She was fined 75 West German marks.
Otto Lehmann from Köpenick, Jarnitzkystraße 11, wanted to bring 1700 West German marks that he had earned from his border crossing job with the Western Senate, across the border. He did not register with us, and was convicted by a court.
A number of persons had coded letters and codes taken from them. For these and other reasons, West Berliners after 22 August had to apply for a visitor’s permit.
The moving vans of West Berlin were booked by the rich into next year; the rats were deserting the sinking pirate ship.
The S-Bahn Continues to Operate
In a last attempt to save his prestige, Brandt tried to hobble the S-Bahn trains traveling through West Berlin [as a result of the division of assets after World War II, the East Germans owned the S-Bahn system of public transportation that also serviced West Berlin]. His hirelings vandalized numerous trains, broke their windows, slit the upholstery, and insulted passengers. These attacks were extended to the railway. Engineer Lange from Magdeburg, who works for the Reichsbahn office Berlin, reported on 16 August that a signal at the Wannsee station had been forced opened. He noticed it in time and was able to prevent an accident. The S-Bahn continued to run through Berlin, despite all provocations.
Baptism by Fire
During this period, units of the fighting groups finished securing the borders. They built a wall through Berlin that kept all enemies from entering. The readiness of the fighting groups and other armed forces was enough to keep back all provocations. These days were, however, university-level training for our battalions.
These days tested us. They demanded the utmost. During the first days, comrades slept on tables and on the floor; they worked for twelve hours and more without a break, rested for two hours, and were then called back to duty. It poured, and it was cold. Yet when volunteers were needed, the whole company stepped forward. Often, the fighters went to dinner, but had to leave it sit, because there was an alarm. Or they never got to dinner, since their posts were constantly changing.
But such difficulties did not diminish the fighting spirit of our battalions. The opposite: with each new action, their cohesion, their readiness, their class consciousness grew. Sometimes, they had to be ordered to attend to their needs. And they kept their good humor, a sign of their optimism, their superiority. They learned a great deal about military behavior. One day of duty taught them more than ten days of training. That hopefully was a lesson to certain people.
On 19.8, the second battalion took over guarding the registration point at Charlottenstraße 66. About ten minutes later, an older colleague (the cleaning woman for the office) came along with a big pot of strong coffee. As the colleagues tried to pay for the coffee, to our great surprise, she also provided a big batch of pancakes.
The fighters left with a big bag of sweets that they hardly wanted to accept, given their friendly modesty.
[41 brief stories follow. I give three examples.]
Difficulties in Filming
At about 5 p.m. on 18.8, West Berlin television tried to film our comrades at Postdamer Platz. The guards took care of them easily enough. Using a mirror, they reflected the sun directly into the camera lens so that, after 15 minutes, the SFB crew packed up their equipment and left.
Several plump ladies came up to the guards of the 2nd Motorized Battalion at Chauseestraße. They said: “Let us through, we want to buy a few potatoes over there.”
“The fighters had no intention of letting them get away with that. Instead, they gave them excellent advice: “Let’s make it more productive, ladies. Volunteer to help with the harvest at an LPG [collective farm]. There you can work with others to harvest your own potatoes.”
After a Lot of Thinking
During the exciting days of 13 and 14 August, the 3rd battalion received two contradictory orders.
Order # 1: Each free minute is to be used to sleep.
Order # 2: Each free minute is to be used for instruction.
Question on the battalion bulletin board: “What does one do in this complicated situation?”
Answer: “One sleeps during the lecture.”
Adenauer inspects the border
[I’m omitting a section on how the various groups worked together, some songs in praise of building the wall, four letters from East Berlin party organizations thanking those who built the Wall.]
A Veteran Remembers
August 2061 promised to be particularly hot. The German capital prepared for the one hundredth anniversary of the conclusion of a peace treaty with Germany and the solution to the West Berlin question.
The old Opera Cafe (built in the 60s of the previous century) had been renovated, the east wing of Humbolt University was nearing completion. In the “bathtub,” one had set up a memorial aquarium, filled with the tears of Brandt, Anrehm [a West German politician], and similar reptiles. There various swamp and parasitic plants were being grown, a reminder of the swamp that had begun to be drained in that memorable summer of 1961. Adenauer’s old coat was on display in the fur department of the KddB (Department Store of Democratic Berlin). The Unity Stadium (formerly the Olympic Stadium) was ready for an intimate gathering of the veterans of the fighting groups.
Comrade K. X., now 128 years old, cast a significant look at his old uniform, hanging in an honored spot in his closet.
“Were the speculators and warmongers that you fought against back them from the earth, or another star?” asked his grandson.
“It was a little complicated, my boy. They tried to grab the red star, but we brought them back to earth, and they were left gazing at the moon.”
—Christiane Stulze, nurse with the 8th battalion, 3rd company.
[Next are twelve brief quotations from Western newspapers somewhat sympathetic to the East German position.]
The Parade of the Fighting Groups
By Wednesday, 23 August, the West Berlin situation was under control. The borders were secured, and life in the democratic sector of the city was entirely normal. That afternoon, while part of the fighting groups stood by on alert in case any fools tried something stupid, the larger portion of the armed worker battalions of Berlin marched between the big buildings in the new section of Stalin Allee to a meeting. The First Secretary of District Greater Berlin of the Socialist Unity Party of Berlin, Paul Verner, and the First Secretary of the Central Committee and Chairman of the Council of State, Walter Ulbricht, expressed the thanks of the party, the government, and the population to the fighters for their splendid achievements.
Walter Ulbricht said: “If we continue to stand guard, we will preserve peace! This is the first step toward a peace treaty [The victorious nations of World War II had not yet agreed on a peace treaty officially ending the war.].” The next step is to work together with our friends to build socialism in our republic, and to make all of Germany a land of peace. Before returning to their factories and families, the worker battalions of Berlin marched in long columns past Walter Ulbricht and the party leadership. The red flags of the units fluttered on Stalin Allee, among them the blood red traditional banners of the Red Front Fighters Federation. The guns and machine guns were covered with flowers, there were red carnations atop the flag poles, flowers in the barrels of grenade throwers, anti-tank guns, and other heavy weapons, which for the first time in the history of our fighting groups were part of a parade. The population lined the street, flowers in hand, and cheered and waved. The choruses shouted: “Three cheers for our fighting groups!” and thousands of voices from the battalions and units replied “Ready for battle!”
With firm, confident, determined steps, the columns marched along Berlin’s Stalin Allee. They all knew that during these decisive days they had helped to determine the central question of the German nation, which is also the central question in the election of 17 September — the question of war or peace. And just as with the Kapp Putsch in 1920, or the general strike against Cuno’s government in 1923, these August days of 1961 once again proved that, with weapons in hand, the united working class cannot be defeated, and that peace is in good hands.
The population of Berlin joined the party in thanking the armed worker battalions. The fighters were handed flowers over and over again during the impressive parade. People shook their hands and joined in chorus to praise their exemplary preparedness.
The back cover: West German militarism has been frustrated by the building of the Berlin Wall
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