Spying on NATO from a Cold War East German Army radio monitoring base Part 1 (312)

Cold War Conversations

Born in 1968 in East Germany Thomas had a “normal socialist” but happy childhood in a small town near Dresden. His family was viewed as exotic at that time as his mother had Hungarian citizenship which allowed her to travel to West Berlin.

He was conscripted into the East German Army and signed up for 3 years as an Unteroffizier (NCO) instead of one and a half years of compulsory service.

After training he is posted to a radio reconnaissance battalion based on the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere near the inner German border. The unit was tasked with monitoring NATO surface-to-air missile batteries such as Patriots, and Nike Hercules, tracking NATO air traffic in Western Europe, and listening to air-to-ground transmissions.

Thomas describes the isolated life on the mountain and harsh winters with lots of snow. The base was protected with a high-voltage double fence and sentries. With good visibility, Thomas could see the enemy in a similar mountaintop monitoring station on the other side of the border.

Extra episode information here https://coldwarconversations.com/episode312/

0:00 Introduction and background of Thomas

7:21 Thomas’ schooling and impact of politics on education

16:23 Thomas’s decision to join the army and experiences in Hungary

24:21 Living close to West Berlin and parents’ experiences in West Germany

32:35 Experiences at the border and considering escape from East Germany

38:16 Thomas’ drafting into the East German army

44:47 The drafting process and training in East Germany

50:42 Life at the outpost and working with the Czech Army

1:01:41 Social life, restrictions, and interactions with locals

1:09:15 The struggle to access Western media and relationship with officers

1:13:15 Acknowledgement of financial supporters

1:13:33 Closing remarks and teaser for next week’s episode

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