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

In contrast to the standard use of weapons to deter attacks on a state’s border from the outside, the GDR government authorized the use of weapons against citizens who were attempting to escape from within its own territory. The killing of would-be escapees was not only considered justifiable; GDR border guards were actually rewarded with medals and publicity for their actions.

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A firearm may only be used by order of a superior or by independent decision by forces deployed for border service:

a) in order to prevent the imminent execution or continuation of an act that, according to the circumstances, represents:
- a crime against the sovereignty of the German Democratic Republic, against peace, humanity, and human rights,
- a crime against the German Democratic Republic, against public safety, or against the state order,
- a crime against a human being,
- another crime, especially one meant to be carried out or being carried out with the use of firearms or explosives;

b) to prevent the flight of persons or to recapture persons:
- who are urgently suspected of a crime or have been taken into custody on account of a crime,
- who are suspected of other criminal offences or have been taken into custody or sentenced to prison for those acts; when there is evidence that firearms or explosives will be put to use or that the flight will be undertaken in some other manner by means of force or violent attack against those responsible for carrying out arrests, surveillance, or inspection, or when [there is evidence] that the flight is being made jointly;

c) against persons who use force to try to free, or help free, persons who were taken into custody on account of a criminal offence or persons who were sentenced to punishment in the form a prison term;

d) if other means no longer suffice to succeed in hindering or preventing an imminent or present attack on facilities of the armed forces, or on other state, social, or economic institutions, on themselves, or on other persons;

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