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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Deutschland 83 & Reality

One of the best sources about GDR (DDR) elite units and a cuff title for "Dzerzhinsky".

There is a lot of praise out there for the German television series "Deutschland 83" about a 24-year-old native of East Germany (GDR/DDR) who in 1983 is sent to the West as a spy for the Stasi, the East German KGB. The series has been exported to several countries and is now being shown in my native Sweden.

Evidently, a lot of people find the series very entertaining, see e.g. the Wikipedia page about it. Yes, the series does bring back a lot of 80s atmosphere - it has the "perfect" look and soundtrack. However, yours truly just can´t help thinking that here a major opportunity was missed to do better than just entertain, because I find it to be mainly amusement. It contains so many deviations from what happened in 1983 that I don´t know where to start pointing out unrealistic or simply wrong details. In short, I would say that what has been accomplished is a German series too inspired by "The Americans", the US show about undercover KGB spies, and pure fiction like "Mission Impossible".

Of course, a "Deutschland 83" more based on reality would have risked not being as commercially successful. But, I imagine that with another script and/or director we could have seen something like the excellent Stasi drama "The Lives of Others".

Anyway, if "Deutschland 83" has sparked your interest in the Stasi (officially Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, MfS) and its elite soldiers - then I have a source for you. Alas in German, but if you are really interested then you probably understand German. The source is Die Garde des Erich Mielke (The Guard of Erich Mielke) by Hagen Koch & Peter Joachim Lapp. It mainly tells the story - with many photographs - of the Stasi´s Guards Regiment "Feliks E. Dzierzynski", named after the founder of the Soviet Cheka/KGB, Felix Dzerzhinsky. But also shows how this large regiment (actually more of a brigade) was connected to East German SOF units like the ultra-secret AGM/S.

BTW, one of the under-reported news stories in 2014 was how the prestige formation of the Russian VV-troops (Internal Troops) got back its name and is thus since September 2014 again officially known as the Dzherzhinsky Division.

I warmly welcome tips from readers re books about East German elite units in other languages than German.


  1. The best work on the East German Military in English; Thomas Forster's The East German Army:


  2. I would like to mentions some more sources on GDR elite-units in german
    For Wachregiment Feliks Dzierzynski there is also:

    Rebohle, Eberhard: Rote Spiegel. Wachsoldaten in der DDR. Berlin 2009.

    Tyb'l, Lothar: Auf Posten. Zum Charakter und zu den Aufgaben des Wachregiments Berlin "Feliks Dzierżyński". Berlin 2010.

    Alike the book of Hagen Koch both written by former members of the Wachregiment. Although I'm not sure if the Wachregiment Feliks Dzierzynski could be called elite as Koch does.

    Stephan Fingerle und Jens Gieseke: Partisanen
    des Kalten Krieges. Die Untergrundtruppe
    der Nationalen Volksarmee 1957 bis 1962 und ihre
    Übernahme durch die Staatssicherheit
    (BF informiert 14/1996). Hg. BStU. Berlin 1996.

    Heinze, Dieter: Mielkes Alphateam. Terrorabwehr und militärische Sondereinheiten des MfS. Leipzig 2006.

  3. Dear Mr Mirarchi and Hüther,

    Thank you for your tips. Much appreciated.