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GDR Order to Fire on Would-be Escapees (c. 1962)

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e) in order to break armed resistance;

f) in order to take persons into custody, when:
- armed persons do not follow orders to drop weapons or attempt to evade arrest by making threats with weapons or by using them,
- persons do not follow the call or order of the border guard and who obviously try to break through the state border of the German Democratic Republic, and when all other means and opportunities for arrest or prevention of flight have been exhausted,
- persons with means of transportation disregard stop signs, and have broken through, pushed aside, or driven around road blocks, and when they clearly attempt to break through the state border.

The use of a firearm should in principle be announced with “Stop! Border guard! Hands up!” If the order is not followed, a warning shot is to be fired. If this warning remains unheeded, aimed shots are to be fired.

A firearm is to be aimed and used without calls and without a warning shot when:
- it is required to ward off a sudden violent attack or to break armed resistance;
- a present attack on facilities of the armed forces and on other state, social, or economic institutions, on themselves, or on other persons cannot otherwise be hindered or averted.

When firearms are used, human lives should be spared as far as possible. The wounded are to be given first aid, with due consideration to security measures, provided that it allows for the execution of tasks that are urgent and permit no delay. [ . . . ]

Mortally wounded persons are to be placed in areas not visible to the adversary. The scene is to be marked and secured. In other cases, the position of the deceased is not to be altered. Further actions should be carried out in accordance with the decision of the military prosecutor.

If the firearm was used against border violators, the territory of the adjoining state or of West Berlin should not be fired at.

Source: DDR-Schießbefehl [GDR Order to Fire] (c. 1962); original German text reprinted in Bernhard Pollmann, ed., Lesebuch zur deutschen Geschichte [German History Reader], vol. 3, Vom deutschen Reich bis zur Gegenwart [From the German Reich to the Present]. Dortmund, 1984, pp. 245-46.

Translation: Jeremiah Riemer

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