Observation tower of the border troops of the GDR

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Observation tower (BR), cylindrical (11 meters)

An observation tower , or B tower for short, was a watchtower used by the GDR border troops on the Inner German border and on the Baltic coast.


Death strip with different observation towers on the Schlesischer Busch in Berlin , shortly after the wall opened in November 1989

With the construction and expansion of the barriers on the inner German border, observation towers or border towers were an important part of the border security system. The towers of this type were mainly used in the GDR to prevent the escape of GDR citizens and were mostly located directly behind the foremost border installations (border fence or border wall). The observation towers originally made of wood were replaced by concrete towers from around 1969. These towers consisted of prefabricated concrete elements and an observation pulpit. Staggered metal ladders led upwards over two to three intermediate levels of corrugated sheet steel floors. The pulpit offered space for four to five soldiers, who usually formed the alarm group. In addition to the seating and weapon racks, the equipment included an air filter system, signaling equipment , service book and maps, as well as the BGS license plate index . A dedicated telecommunication line to the border network and the electric heating as well as emergency and rescue equipment were available for connection and supply. A rappelling aid was available for special cases. The roof terrace was secured by a tubular steel railing and could be entered through a lockable and airtight sheet steel hatch. On the roof terrace there was a swiveling and remote-controlled searchlight ( elevation ± 90 degrees, azimuth 360 degrees).

Also at the sea border of the GDR at the Baltic Sea were by the Border Brigade Coast observation towers erected. With the headlights on, it was possible to search the entire coastline and the Baltic Sea near the coast for refugees at night and under appropriate weather conditions.

After the border was opened in autumn 1989 and the border installations were subsequently dismantled, most of the observation towers were also torn down. Today you can still find some towers along the former border, which can also be visited as part of border museums. Some towers are also privately owned.


Observation tower (BR), rectangular (9 meters)
Head of Behrungen in Thuringia


The first towers consisted of circular concrete parts and an octagonal observation pulpit. Because of the average height of eleven meters, they were called BT-11. Depending on the geographical features, they could also have a lower height and then had a different type designation (e.g. BT-6). These first towers usually did not yet have any special features, but mostly had a power connection and a headlight. The pulpit could be reached via an inner ladder. These towers could no longer be entered in special weather conditions. Some of these towers were designed as a command post and were also provided with an underground bunker. The communications systems for the border section were housed in these bunkers, as well as space for an alarm group that was quickly ready for action in the event of an alarm.


From the 1970s, towers with a square cross-section were built for safety reasons and were usually nine meters high. These towers had an external dimension of two meters and were also referred to as BT 2 × 2. The observation pulpit was integrated into the tower and a spotlight was installed on the roof as well as an antenna system. The tower was connected to the electricity and border reporting network. The steel doors to enter were always oriented towards the territory of the GDR so that they could not be seen.

BT 4 × 4

From around 1980, larger observation towers were built to replace the old underground command posts. With the square external dimensions of around four meters, they were around nine meters high. These towers had several floors. The upper floor was not only an observation post, but also equipped with appropriately equipped signaling and communication systems. Always manned, a certain section of the border could be monitored from here. There was space for an alarm group on the middle floor . Further technical systems were located in the basement and on the basement level. There was also a searchlight on the roof.

Alternative observation posts

This observation post was in Blankenstein an der Saale

Observation centers that deviated from the norm were set up in places with special conditions. An observation post was integrated into the border wall in Mödlareuth . In Wahlhausen there was a larger LPG building directly on the banks of the Werra . Since no border fortifications could be built here, an observation post, the so-called swallow's nest, was built into the outer wall of the building. In Blankenstein an der Saale, an observation point was also built on top of the building due to the proximity of a factory building to the border.

Management position

In general, every border company had a command post (FÜSt), which served to coordinate and guide a specific section of the border along the inner-German border. At first, border troop buildings were also used as a command post, but they were relocated here when the concrete towers near the border were erected. BT-11 towers were also equipped with an underground bunker (FB 3) due to the small size of the tower's observation pulpit. From the end of the 1970s, the BT 4x4 were built as a command post. This is where the signaling system of the border section came together (among other things for the border signal fence, the gates, water passages), the border reporting network and the company's communication and message system. The border gates through which the border strip could be entered or driven through were monitored from here. In the case of certain incidents, the alarm was triggered from here and the alarm group was able to move immediately to the affected border section.

In contrast to the normal border towers, the command posts were constantly manned, with a border security commander and one or more posts. Such a command post also included a vehicle parking space that was directly connected to the Kolonnenweg .

Further observation towers on the inner-German border

American Forces Observation Tower at Point Alpha

At the inner-German border, not only were the border towers located directly at the border fence, but also at the border crossing points for monitoring border traffic. In the restricted area in front of the actual border, further observation towers were built at greater intervals. However, they were not subordinate to the border troops, but to the People's Police with their border group posts . These towers were not permanently manned and were used to monitor traffic and special occurrences in the restricted area.

On the German side, too, US troops set up observation bases at larger distances on the border, such as Point Alpha in the Rhön . These bases were also provided with an observation tower. For groups of visitors, so-called border information points have been set up at certain locations along the inner-German border, on which observation platforms or smaller towers have also been erected.

List of still existing border towers

See also

Web links

Commons : observation towers of the border troops of the GDR  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files