The Death Strip
The 27-mile portion of the barrier separating Berlin into east and west consisted of two concrete walls between which was a “death strip” up to 160 yards wide that contained hundreds of watchtowers, miles of anti-vehicle trenches, guard dog runs, floodlights and trip-wire machine guns.In 1946, the Soviet Union formed the Grenzschutz Polizei or Border Police. They were in charge of guarding 1,378 kilometers of East German Border and also responsible for patrolling 165 kilometers of the Berlin Wall. At the end of their first year of forming there were over 3,000 soldiers comprising the entire unit. In 1951, their name changes to Deutsches Grenz Polizei. And again in 1974 the name is changed to Grenztruppen or border troops. Usually 100-160 dogs were assigned to each Grenztruppen battalion.
The Diensthundefuehrer ( Dog Team Leader ) was in charge of the overall care and training for the border patrol dogs and their handlers. 50% of their training was spent during the night for night maneuver exercises. The K9 leader had to have basic veterinary knowledge and background in animal handling. They were also non-commissioned officers. The handlers had 3 different skill levels. Level -1 the highest and level-3 being a basic skilled handler. They wore qualification badges or patches on their uniforms.
The Grenztruppen and their dogs watched over minefields, border fences; many people will remember Check Point Charlie and the watch towers. Many dog runs or fenced pens also were set up throughout the border. These runs or pens measured about 5 kilometers. Dog runs covered 97 kilometers of the border deploying approximately 1,000 sentry dogs. The area fluctuated between 90- 120 kilometers. 200-250 dog runs or pens were in Berlin alone! The dog run comprised of dogs being leashed to a suspended line. The dogs in the runs or pens were fed only once in a 10 day period to retain their ferociousness.
More than just a sentry dog, they served as tracking dogs, and attack dogs. The border patrol also deployed a special dog pack to find deserters of their “cause” in large area searches such as buildings, timber / woods, or fields.
In 1989, the border was opened. Germany begins it’s initial stages of becoming a unified nation once more. No longer needed, many of the DDR border patrol dogs were sold, put to sleep, and many abandoned. The Grenztruppen were officially disbanded on July1,1990.
There are only a handful of DDR breeders left in the world today. It would be a shame to see this incredible breed of the working German Shepherd Dogs disappear. With the closed breeding, it has given us the opportunity to preserve the DDR GSDs in it’s most closest form to the standards set forth by the GSD founding father; with their natural defense drive, tracking abilities, temperament and structure. The DDR border patrol dogs no longer exists, but their great courage, loyalty, working abilities, and devotion to their owner or handler survive throughout their lineage.