Welcome to DECODED, a blog site for those interested in the period of history between the end of the Second World War and the final reunification of Berlin, Germany. This site is maintained by a Cold War history enthusiast, for other Cold War history enthusiasts and will be a source of information from both sides of the Cold War for history enthusiasts, political science fans, researchers, military history collectors and military veterans alike. Please visit the site regularly for updates. This site by no means is to represent or endorse any political agenda or ideology, information contained within is strictly used for the purpose of education and preservation of history for future generations. Thank you for visiting my blog, and welcome to the brink...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Defenders of the West: The Bundesgrenzschutz

The Bundesgrenzschutz or Federal Border Guard was the first federal police organization in West Germany after the end of hostilities during the World War II permitted by the postwar Allied occupation authorities. The Bundesgrenzschutz's initial primary task was enforcing the security of the Inner German Border with the German Democratic Republic. In the years prior to 1955, Germany was barred from maintaining an armed force by Allied administrations, however concerns soon began to rise regarding the idea of creating an indigenous defense organization in the form of police and border security agencies on a federal level. The Western Allies soon permitted Germany to maintain a force for riot control and maintaining order during periods of civil unrest as well as conducting armed intervention in the event of war.

The origins of the Bundesgrenzschutz can be traced back to a statement made by the Allied Joint Chiefs of Staff on 2 May and 17 May 1950 in regards to a proposed rearmament of West Germany.

"The Joint Chiefs of Staff are of the firm belief that from a military point of view, adequate and early West German rearmament is of fundamental importance for the defense of Western Europe against the Soviet Union and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have agreed to recommend to the Council of Foreign Ministers that West Germany should be permitted to have a 5,000 troop strong federal police, state security agency called a Republican Guard. The Joint Chiefs of Staff insist that the foreign ministers approve the recommended action, since such a force could very well be the first step to a later rearmament of Germany. "

Further steps towards the construction of the security service was taken on 23 January 1951, when German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer approved the reinstatement of former members of the Wehrmacht to Commander of NATO forces General Dwight D. Eisenhower. The reason given behind the inclusion was that apart from a few exceptions there were no experienced officers available for Federal service.

The Bundesgrenzschutz  was established as a specialized federal police force on 16 March 1951 with a force of 10,000 men under the command of the Ministry of the Interior. In these years there were frequent incidents along the borders with East Germany and Czechoslovakia, and the occupation authorities became convinced of the need for a competent border security service.  Initially only tasked with border security, during its existence its role would grow to include protective policing duties as well as criminal investigations. The first Border Detachment known as a Grenzschutzabeitlung was presented before the West German public on 28 May 1951 at Lübeck. A former Wehrmacht infantry General named Anton Grasser was instated as the Inspector General and Commander of the Southern Border Protection Command.

On 1 July 1951, the first Seegrenzschutzverbanden or Naval Protection Groups were established and the first Bundespasskontrolldienst or 'Federal Passport Control Service' were turned over to the Bundesgrenzschutz on 19 September 1951. The Bundespasskontrolldienst would also encompass the Grenzschutzeinzdienst, or Individual Border Security Service later on 1 April 1961. The Bundespasskontrolldienst would from then on be employed along the entire length of the Inner German Border with the German Democratic Republic. On 1 July 1956, 700 members of the Seegrenzschutz were transfered to the newly established Bundesmarine. Many members of the Bundesgrenzschutz based on land would also volunteer for the Bundesmarine taking nearly 872 members from its ranks. Alternately, 142 members of the Seegrenzschutz opted for service in the land based units of the Bundesgrenzschutz. Their equipment was effectively transferred over to the Bundesmarine and the Seegrenzschutz was dissolved.

In the early years, the Bundesgrenzschutz was effectively a paramilitary police force organized along military lines with its members being organized into units equivalent to battalions, companies, and platoons. With the establishment of the Bundeswehr in 1955, the Bundesgrenzschutz continued to play a major role in defending West Germany during the Cold War. Its members were trained similar to light infantry and were accordingly armed with light and medium infantry weapons. In 1953, the authorized strength of the Bundesgrenzschutz was expanded from 10,000 men to a force of 20,000. Initial requirements stated that Bundespolizeibeamtengesetz or Federal Police Officers must be 27 years of age and only after six years of service were they allowed to be married. After protests were made against this policy, it was revised on 28 September 1953 and the restrictions were loosened and authorization to be married was granted. 

Officers joining the ranks of the Bundesgrenzschutz were required to take an oath similar to that of the Bundeswehr but varied to suit Federal employees. It stated:

" I swear to defend the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany and all applicable laws of the Federal Republic and to fulfill my official duties conscientiously, so help me God!"

The final statement "so help me God" was voluntary upon oath of service, able to be omitted or used in affirmation of the swearee's religious affiliation.

In 1956, the Bundesgrenzschutz maintained a force of 16,414 men. With the founding of the Bundeswehr, it was decided on 1 July 1956, that the Bundesgrenzschutz be retained and converted partially into an armed force so long as it did not contradict or hinder the mission of the Bundeswehr. The Bundesgrenzschutz helped with the organization of the Bundeswehr and established a new sea task force the BGS Seeverband in 1964 to replace the Seegrenzschutz absorbed into the Bundesmarine.

With the passage of Emergency Laws in 1968, the role of the Bundesgrenzschutz was adapted to retain its quasi-military role and could be deployed in the event of national emergency or civil unrest. Under the new legislation it now added large scale police operations such as containing unruly demonstrations to its list of duties. This was the first step taken towards cementing the BGS as a Federal police service. In 1976, the Bundesgrenzschutz training and personnel structure was changed from military style to a federal service equivalent however military style training and competence was still taught. However, Bundesgrenzschutz officials did not carry military ranks rather a system of titles mirroring those used by official state level police organizations. In 1972 the BGS became responsible for the security of the Federal Constitutional Court, the Bundespräsidenten or Federal President, the Bundeskanzler 'Federal Chancellor', the German Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry of the Interior.

The BGS soon found itself guarding airports and foreign embassies with several highly trained detachments available for special crisis situations requiring varying equipment ranging from demolition equipment or helicopters to combat vehicles.

After shortcomings in local police procedures and training were revealed by the unsuspected terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics on 5 September 1972, the West German government soon turned to the BGS to establish an elite counter-terrorist unit to cope with the ever growing dangers of international terrorism. The resulting organiztion would be established and commanded by a federal police officer named Ulrich Wegener. This task force would come to be known as Grenzschutzgruppe 9 or Special Group 9 commonly referred to as GSG-9. GSG-9 was formed specifically for dealing with terrorist incidents, especially hostage situations. The GSG-9 won world attention when it rescued eighty-six passengers on a Lufthansa flight,  when Flight 181 an airliner was was hijacked and taken to Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1977.

On 1 January 1974, the Bundesgrenzschutz was reorganized to became an all volunteer force and subsequently in 1987 recruitment into the Bundesgrenzschutz was opened to include women.

The BGS was equipped with an impressive arsenal comprised of armored cars, machine guns, automatic rifles, tear gas, hand grenades, rifle grenades, and antitank weapons. All personnel on border and security duty wore sidearms. Five units had light aircraft and helicopters to facilitate rapid access to remote border areas and for patrol and rescue missions.

On 1 July 1990, with the impending dissolution of East Germany, West German official had already begun planning for the dissolution of the Grenztruppen der DDR and the absorbing of its assets into the Bundesgrenzschutz. At midnight on 3 October 1990, the East German border was effectively disbanded and responsibility for Germany's eastern border was turned over to the Bundesgrenzschutz. The Bundesgrenzschutz utilized Grenztruppen der DDR personnel absorbed into its ranks for the removal of barriers and dismantling of obstacles and obstructions along the former Inner German Border area. In total 3,000 members of the Grenztruppen der DDR were transferred into the Bundesgrenzschutz organized into three new border security departments.

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