Unique Dossier.- “Propaganda; British Frontier Service / 511. Vol. II: Opened 30-2-65, Closed 18 Jun 69.” 
In the mid 1960s, a heated barrage of artillery over the inner German border (separating the Soviet and Western occupation zones) delivered neither explosives nor shrapnel, but aerial propaganda leaflets. This was, after all, the cold war, and neither side wanted to risk an incident that could lead to World War III. From Lübeck and Schmidekopf, British Frontier Service operatives deployed to monitor and ameliorate tensions between the two sides kept a tidy, no-nonsense record of the exchange, thereby documenting its remarkable absurdities.
F.A. Bernett Books has recently obtained a dossier marked “Propaganda; British Frontier Service / 511. Vol. II: Opened 30-2-65, Closed 18 Jun 69,” containing examples of leaflets fired in large and small “propaganda rockets” and “metal coconuts” into Federal territory from the DDR, paired with “occurrence reports” documenting the time and place of ordinance. Other instances of cross-border incursions, including Nationale Volksarmee (NVA) defections and propaganda broadcasts delivered by vehicles equipped with loudspeakers are also duly noted.
In a 1966 article entitled “Britons Who Help to Keep Frontier Peace,” the Times of London noted that “with its fleet of patrol cars, carrying built-in radio telephones and Union Jack badges, and its military language (“That’s the drill, Arthur”), the BFS brings to mind some imperial field force of the 1880s, nearer-flung than of yore, for whose members, perhaps, the Elbe is a faint substitute for the Nile, the Zambezi or the Irrawaddy.”
The Demarcation Line itself was a viscerally ugly physical marker of the high-voltage ideological tensions in play along the border. An information card produced by the German authorities outlined the features of “the prohibited belt of the Soviet-occupied zone” and their inherent dangers for visitors.
BFS officials, who worked closely with members of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) and West German Bundesgrenzschutz (BGS) border protection officers, also kept visual identification charts to help them distinguish friendly troops and military equipment from intruders.
Although the BFS archive contains few examples, the West Germans, too, fired propaganda rockets and directed balloon launches with aerial leaflets into the East. One apparent BRD propaganda leaflet compares the smiling visage of champion figure skater Gaby Seyfert, whose Olympic performance was a P.R. victory for East German socialism, with its menacing opposite, a scowling bulldog named Hilde Benjamin, East German Minister of Justice and principle architect of its Stalinist penal system.
The BFS made careful note of East German military protests concerning the Western propaganda balloons, as well its in-kind response. A report filed on 16th May 1967 documents a typical exchange across the Demarcation Line.
Perhaps most brilliantly, the DDR printed and fired massive canisters of propaganda leaflets into West Germany with the slogan “Schluβ damit!” (Enough of that!), urging citizens of the Bundesrepublik to stage protests calling for the end of Western propaganda leaflet incursions into the East.
This was a textbook case of a pot calling the kettle black, as the BFS dossier records an unbroken fussilade of DDR propaganda rockets during the same period, including the following choice examples.
One of the most striking reports on file concerns an actual firefight between two defecting NVA soldiers and gun positions in a DDR observation tower along the Eastern perimeter of the Demarcation Line. The two soldiers made it to safety, and no one was injured in the exchange of gunfire.
And among the strangest documents in the dossier are five issues of a serial named Contra, produced by the DDR in an effort to undermine BGS morale and solicit West German defections to the apparent socialist paradise which awaited them on the other side.
The tabloid was a kind of proletariat skin magazine, with breezy articles boasting of superior Soviet weapons systems, East German sports prowess, and goofy cheesecake photographs of scantily dressed women.
A regular feature also claimed to convey “warm wishes from the DDR” to current BGS troops on behalf of West German military defectors, who, judging by the photographs, were clearly enjoying the superior charms of these East German swimsuit models, along with the professional services of expert tailors and barbers.
In 1972 the two Germanys signed a treaty normalizing their relationship and recognizing each others’ autonomy, significantly reducing tensions along the Demarcation Line. England interpreted the move as a signal that its border patrol services were no longer needed and the BFS forces were dramatically reduced. Formally, the Service wound down its official monitoring operations in 1974. You can read more about its history here.
A Journey Around My Skull (Will Schofield’s excellent blog) provides extended coverage of Contra!, the DDR tabloid for the BGS border patrol pictured above. Click through for more hot socialist cheesecake, big Soviet missiles, and Brian Jones in a Nazi uniform stomping on your little dolly…
F.A. Bernett is pleased to offer this unique dossier and its extraordinary contents. Please contact us regarding price & availability. FAB Item I.D. # 46337.