German Propaganda Archive Calvin University

Background: This is a chapter from an East German History textbook justifying the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961. The Berlin Wall is presented as a measure that prevented a planned military assault on East Germany.

History books make interesting reading. Another one from the GDR in my collection covers World War II. It mentions Churchill once in passing, ignores Franklin Roosevelt, fails to mention the Normandy invasion, and greatly downplays the contributions American aid made to the Soviet war effort.

The source: Lehrbuch für Geschichte 10. Klasse Teil 1 (Berlin: Volk und Wissen Volkseigener Verlag, 1970), pp. 215-218.

7. Securing Peace through the Protective Measures of the GDR on 13 August 1961

book coverDespite the numerous efforts of the GDR to reach an understanding in Germany and ignoring the growing demands of the international public for lessing tensions and disarmament, the West German militarists continued their war preparations, particularly after fall 1960. Everything indicated that they intended to implement their plans for a violent overthrow of the GDR.

Provocations on the state border of the GDR increased, caused by or supported by the whole forces of the [West German] Federal Border Protection Agency. In a think piece published in August 1960, the leadership of the Bundeswehr called for control over atomic and rocket weapons.

At the same time, the ruling circles of West Germany strengthened their efforts to disrupt the planned economic growth in the GDR. The federal government called for a boycott of the Leipzig fall fair and canceled without reason on 30 September 1960 the agreement on trade between the two German states that had existed since 1951.

The activity of revanchist organizations in West Germany increased greatly.

The reactionary circles in West Germany were encouraged in their aggressive preparations by the attitude of some Social Democratic leaders.

During the Bundestag debate on 30 June 1960, Social Democratic vice chairs Wehner and Erler openly affirmed NATO. They thus affirmed their agreement with revanchist West German imperialism.

During the spring and summer of 1961, the West German militarist plans for a forceful conquest of the GDR took on ever more threatening forms. They increased their efforts to undermine the GDR. They worked to organize provocations in the GDR to provide a pretext for intervention by the Bundeswehr.

Proof of systematic preparations for an attack on the GDR

7-9 July1961: The 5th general meeting of the Bundeswehr in Stuttgart decided to ensure the full war readiness of the 18 West German NATO divisions by fall 1961.

13 June 1961: The American magazine “News Week“ revealed the six-point plan of the USA war ministry for cooperation by American forces in an attack on the GDR.

24 June 1961: The paper of then war minister and CDU chair Strauß, the Münchner Merkur, called for preparing an “explosion” in the GDR. That would require “corresponding political, economic, propagandistic, as well as organizational and subversive preparations by the West.”

6 July 1961: The “Research Council” of the Bonn spy agency published plans for a “revision on property conditions” in the GDR that above all would turn over publicly-owned companies to large [West German] concerns.

28 July 1961: Bonn Bishop Lilje on television called on the “brothers in the East” to keep their weapons handy and to prepare for armed acts of resistance.

1 August 1961: Strauß said during a visit to the USA that the West must be “prepared for a kind of civil war.” At the same time, Bonn’s propaganda attempted to spread the idea that there was a “crisis” in the GDR and that the population was waiting “to be freed.”

7 August 1961: Arson in the VEB Großberliner Vieh- und Schlachthöfe.

8 August 1961: Maneuvers by the West German navy in the Baltic.

9 August 1961: The West German War Ministry calls up 20,000 reservists and plans to bring all divisions up to war readiness.

11 August 1961: Incendiary devices ignited at the Humboldt University in Berlin

In this situation, the DDR once again appealed to the Federal Government. On 6 July 1961 the Volkskammer approved a “German Peace Plan,”  a comprehensive plan to secure peace and promote understanding between the two German states.

From the “German Peace Plan” approved by the Volkskammer of the GDR on 6 July 1961

The concord of good will, to be prepared by the German Peace Commission and to be recommended to the two German governments and parliaments for conclusion, may have the following contents:

1. That both German states agree on a renunciation of the nuclear armament of their armed forces and on an immediate end to armament.

2. That both German states agree to conclude a disarmament agreement on the strength, equipment, and stationing of their armed forces.

3. That both German states agree to prohibit war or revanchist propaganda on their territory.

4. That both German states consider a decision in regard to the social order an act of self-determination of the population of the GDR and of the German Federal Republic. They shoulder the commitment to abstain from interference on questions concerning the social order of the other German state.

5. That both German states advocate the conclusion of an agreement of nonaggression between the states of the Warsaw Pact and the states of NATO as well as the establishment of a denuclearized zone in central Europe.

6. That both German states commit themselves to undertake measures serving the expansion of trade between them. They agree on a widening of cultural and sports relations among their citizens and institutions, and in taking steps to alleviate and improve travel between them.

The principle is to be sure that neither side exerts its will upon the other, but rather that a step-by-step understanding is reached.

Misunderstanding the balance of power in Germany, the West German militarists rejected this proposal.

As the West German business magazine Industriekurier wrote later, in September 1961, the ruling circles in West Germany hoped for a rapid “reunification with garlands and waving banners, along with the victorious march of the Bundeswehr through the Brandenburg Gate.”

From 3-5 August 1961 the first secretaries of the Communist and labor parties of the countries belonging to the Warsaw Pact met in Moscow. They discussed the securing of peace in Germany and related problems. The allies agreed that the German Democratic Republic should take the necessary security measures along the border with West Berlin in order to finally put an end to subversive measures against the countries of the socialist camp.

Early on the morning of 13 August 1961, armed units of the GDR together with fighting groups of Berlin workers placed the border to West Berlin under firm control. That ended the reckless imperialist provocations. Before the planned aggression by West German militarists could even begin, it was shattered. This decisive action by the GDR rescued peace in Germany and the world, since a military confrontation in the heart of Europe could easily have led to atomic war.

13 August 1961 reveled the bankruptcy of the “German policy” of the ruling circles of West Germany. All imperialist attempts to undermine the socialist order in the GDR faced barriers that could not be overcome. The real balance of power in Germany was clear. The GDR thus made an important contribution that was necessary for a normalization of relations between the two German states.

Last edited: 21 March 2024

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