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Inner German Border

The Inner German Border (IGB) was the dividing line which cut Germany in two and which separated the Germans in the German Democratic Republic from their fellow-country-men in the Federal Republic. Its origin dates back to 12 September 1944. It was on that day, that in London the representatives of the United States, the Soviet Union and Great Britain agreed upon the course of the Demarca­tion Line between the future zones of occupation of the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, thus laying the foundations of the present border between the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Re­public. This dividing line was established irrespective of geographical, historical and economic facts and with­out the expression of the free wil1 of German people living on both sides of the dividing line.


The length of the Border between the Federal Republic of Germany and the GDR amounted to 1393 kilometres. It was interspersed with extensive barrier systems and other devices intended to prevent citizens of the German De­mocratic Republic from crossing into the Federal Re­public of Germany. In 1983 these barrier systems included:


1283 kilometres of mesh fencing

45 kilometres of double barbed wire fencing

154 kilometres of anti-personnel minefields - approx 3,000 mines per kilometre

385 kilometres of automatic firing devices - SM70 totalling approx 37,200 explosive charges - see note below

795 kilometres of vehicle hazards - ditch/dragons teeth

1283 kilometres of 6 metre wide ploughed and harrowed strip

1283 kilometres of vehicle track

148 kilometres of arc lamps in front of villages

1393 kilometres of border communications system 721 approx prefabricated pili boxes

134 Earth bunkers

721 Concrete observation towers

60 Command Posts attached to observation towers

84 kilometres approx. dog runs; approx. 250 dog runs with approx. 1029 dogs

1160 kilometres Hinterland security fence

16 kilometres of walls in front of villages· opposite Niedersachsen only.


In flagrant contradiction to the 'Charter of Human Rights', severe penalties were imposed under the law of the German Democratic Republic for the illegal leaving of the country or for aiding such efforts.


Between August 13, 1961 - the date when the Berlin Wall was constructed and the blocking of the Border intensified· and 1983 a total of 172 people have been killed attempting to escape. Despite this situation citizens of the German Democratic Republic again and again succeed in escaping to the Federal Republic of Germany. The average between 1974 and 1983 had been 28 per year.


Between 1949 and 1983 over 3 million persons escaped from the German Democratic Republic. Natu­rally the number of refugees fell considerably after the Border intensification of August 1961. The total number of refugees and expellees from the German Democratic Republic and former East German territories now living in the Federal Republic of Germany amounts to more than 13 millions. This number is equivalent to the population of Denmark, Norway and Switzerland. The border disrupted:

32 railway lines
27 Federal Highways

140 Secondary roads
and numerous local-community roads and trails. 

In 1983 the border was only passable at:
8 railway crossings (including 2 for goods traffic only) 10 highway crossings
2 waterway crossings (River Elbe and Mittellandkanall).


Although these factors and other procedures impaired travel to the German Democratic Republic, many citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany frequently visited the other German State for business or personal reasons. Large regions of the Federal Republic of Germany adjoining the 1393 km of this border lost the major part of their natural 'hinterland'. These regions, which prior to 1945 were located in the centre of the Reich, now find them­selves on the fringe of the economic area of the Federal Republic of Germany and the European Community. The resulting damage necessitates thorough relief meas­ures. For this reason the Federal Government and the Lander Governments annually subsidised these border regions with substantial funds, in order to strengthen their economy, improve the general traffic conditions and social structure, and promote cultural facilities.
In accordance with the political policy of the Federal Government, viz to consolidate peace in Europe and the world, the Treaty on the Basis of Relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Demo­cratic Republic was concluded on December 21, 1972. This treaty formed the basis for the normalisation of relations between the two German states. On the same day the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany informed the Government of the German Democratic Republic by letter that the conclusion of the Treaty on the Basis of Relations was consistent with the political objective of the Federal Republic of Germany to endea­vour to obtain a state of peace in Europe which would enable the German people to regain unity by application of the right of free self-determination.


1.   IGB Marker Stone
2.   Federal German 'Border Warning' sign on or close to IGB.
3.   DDR State Boundary Marker Post in National colours Black-Red-Gold with DDR emblem fitted to top of post.
4.   Dead Ground between 2-2000 metres in depth between IGB and first fencing.
5.   Double barbed wire fencing approx. 2 metres high with 3 rows of anti-personnel mines inside.
6.   Double metal mesh fencing approx. 2.2 metres high with 3 rows of anti-personnel mines inside.
7.   High single metal mesh fence 3.2 metres high with, in places, SM70 automatic firing devices attached.
8.   Anti-vehicle ditch 1.5 metres deep.
9.   Ploughed and harrowed 6 metre strip.
10. Vehicle track - mostly paved.
11.  Observation tower.
12.  Observation tower and Command Post.
13.  Pre-fabricated observation pill boxes.
14.  Arc lights - mainly near villages.
15.  Border communications systems.
16.  Dogs on running lines.
17.  Check point.
18.  Concrete wall - in front of village and approx. 3.3 metres high.
19.  Hinterland security fence with visual and acoustic alarm systems 500 metres eastwards of IGB.
Courtesy of Ordnance Services Viersen, BFPO 40. PS/84/0118/1 OM/7 .84
Patrolling the Border
From what I can remember our "Patrol" lasted around 3 or 4 nights. It seemed more like a guided tour than an
actual patrol. But we did carry weapons and webbing whilst out of the Land Rovers. We were always accompanied by a member of the British Frontier Service (BFS). These guys wore a uniform and knew everything about their sectors. I think some of them had been there since the 1950/60's (but don't quote me on it), as they knew EVERYTHING including the best viewing points and all the little facts that made the patrol really interesting and exciting.
We lived in a converted railway station not far away from Uelzen whilst on patrol (can't remember exact location), and each day we would meet up with the BFS at a pre-arranged location. We were encouraged to take photos of the East German Border Guards and while we were at the viewing areas they took plenty of photos of us. We were also told not to make any gestures or prat around in front of them due to the fact that they doctored pictures of us making them useful for propaganda purposes. At some times we were only around 10 feet away from them with only a few small wires on the ground marking the line of the border stopping them.
There's lots of info about the pros and cons of escaping (for them) in the Book about BFG "Try Not To Laugh Sergeant Major" and what they did to prevent their guards from stepping over the wire.
I remember we started in the North of the Border area and worked our way south as the days went by. There was a bridge over the River Elbe that was cut in half where we went. Various villages where the Inner German Border (IGB) went straight through farms and buildings! And we ended it somewhere not far from the listening station/Royal Sigs place I think.
I have included a few links at the bottom of this email so you can get a bit of an idea about some of the stuff. The Bundesgrenschutz also patrolled the IGB and I remember us coming across them on the actual fence one time. They were hovering round to pick up any escapees coming across - well, that's what they told us!
Courtesy of Steven Hope