Forced to fight in the Cold War

Once a year, Gunnar Lahne, an East German engineer, gets together with a group of  friends. This fall they’ll meet again, but with a trace of sadness. Not because they miss East Germany, but because they witnessed its collapse as conscripts holed up in army barracks.

“Of course we complained about the military service,” explains Lahne, who joined the army as a 19-year-old conscript in 1987. “We were basically locked in.”

Young men who wanted to go to university had to demonstrate worthiness by completing  three years of military service.

“We had training until 5 p.m., and then we spent the evening playing cards and making music together,” says Lahne. “Looking back, I did my military service for nothing. But because we had to spend every evening together, we soldiers became very close friends.”

Another part of the barracks housed construction soldiers — men who were planning to study theology. The regime made good use of the future pastors, dispatching them to build roads and factories. “There were huge tensions between the officers and us,” says Sebastian Schurig, who served in a pipelayer brigade in the late 1980s. “They always scheduled exercises on Sundays so we couldn’t go to church.”

In 1989, the world anticipated a crackdown of East Germany’s demonstrations. “We knew we might be sent in to quell them,” explains Frank Dunker, whose military service began in 1988. “We had long  discussions among ourselves about how we’d react if we were ordered to shoot at people.”

The conscripts in his brigade decided to refuse such an order. But instead, the army faded quietly.

“In 1990, the officers didn’t know what to do with us,” recalls Dunker. “And they were afraid that they  were going to be put in front of a people’s tribunal.”

In early 1990, the soldiers in Dunker’s brigade were released. Now, 20 years later, they still share a kinship.

Redder than red

The Nationale Volksarmee (National People’s Army) supported other Communist regimes, helping suppress the 1968 Prague Spring and sending military advisors to Africa. But at home, the NVA had a bigger brother: the Red Army. Some 350,000 Soviet soldiers — with 8,000 tanks, 4,000 panzers and over 1,200 helicopters and jets — were permanently stationed in the GDR. It was considered a plum assignment. When East Germany collapsed, the Red Army refused to leave.

Soviet troops were idle in Germany until they finally returned to Russia in 1994.

Keeping jets, not generals

With its 180,000 troops and superior equipment, East Germany’s National People’s Army was one of the Warsaw Pact’s most formidable military forces. After German reunification, most of the equipment was sold to other countries or discarded. But the West German military kept some of the GDR’s very best equipment; for example, the Soviet MiG 29 fighter planes.

According to the West German Army’s own figures, it took on 51,000 East German officers of the NVA on Oct. 3, 1990. But none of the generals were accepted into the Bundeswehr.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Drive charged in fatal hit and run, police…

The NYPD has arrested a man they say is responsible for a fatal hit and run in Manhattan last weekend. Doohee Cho, 33, was hit…

Local

Mayor de Blasio raises minimum wage for some…

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order Tuesday morning that will raise the minimum wage for workers employed by private companies that receive more…

National

3 myths about the working poor

Linda Tirado works to debunk some common stereotypes about the working poor in her new book, "Hand to Mouth."

Money

Lawsuit funding advances: friend or foe?

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article Many plaintiffs awaiting resolution of their lawsuit or legal claim often find themselves in a tricky financial…

Going Out

Which NYC restaurant lost its three-star Michelin rating?

A record 73 restaurants in New York City collected coveted Michelin stars on Tuesday as a mix of trendy spots and fine-dining stalwarts underscored the…

Entertainment

Interview: Metro chats with filmmaker Meir Kalmanson, man…

A New York filmmaker hands out smiles to its residents.

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, Sept. 30: 'Selfie,' 'Utopia'…

'Selfie' This modern day take on the "My Fair Lady" story stars John Cho in the Henry Higgins role. Perhaps instead of "the rain in…

Music

Can't-miss weekend events continue to attract the masses

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article Earlier this summer, the Firefly Music Festival drew crowds of tens of thousands of people to Dover, Delaware.…

MLB

Mets 2014 report card

The Mets wrapped up their eight straight season without a playoff appearance last weekend. Needless to say, they fell a bit short of general manager…

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Cowboys, Packers, Ravens, Chargers climb

NFL Power Rankings: Cowboys, Packers, Ravens, Chargers climb

NFL

Ryan Quigley making a big impact for Jets…

Ryan Quigley, now in his second year as the Jets punter, had an exceptional afternoon with six punts for an average of 51.7 yards per punt.

NFL

3 positives to take from Jets loss to…

The Jets suffered another loss Sunday — 24-17 to the Lions — but the reason why it hurts so much for Jets fans is that…

Style

Products that support breast cancer awareness and research

Asics GT-1000, $100 Asics’ third pink collection in collaboration with Christina Applegate’s Right Action for Women includes this pink-accented version of its best-selling GT-1000 3…

Wellbeing

Dr. Marisa Weiss: Where we stand on breast…

As an oncologist and a survivor herself, Dr. Marisa Weiss knows the urgency felt by those diagnosed with breast cancer. Genetic testing has accelerated the…

Wellbeing

Bees' stingers hold new hope for cancer cure

A promising new lead in the search for a cancer cure has turned up in a place that most people naturally avoid. A team from…

Home

Emily Henderson on small space design

Design expert Emily Henderson shows us how to upgrade our cramped quarters.