Given the two nations used to be one (and many people probably had relatives/friends on one side or the other), is there any evidence that this was ever a strategic concern for either side? Were there contingencies in place for such events?

A widespread refusal. I'm basically wondering if any general or organization ever considered the west German or east German armies to be "unreliable". And if there were ever contingencies put in place for such an eventuality. (especially if led by governments).

  • 1
    There are examples of civil wars where family members fought on opposing sides, so I don't think there would have been any special concern in this case.
    – Steve Bird
    Jun 19, 2023 at 9:17
  • 4
    Given that East German border guards shot and killed East Germans…
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 19, 2023 at 13:58
  • 3
    I disagree that the question is speculative. The title is, but the body is a valid history question IMHO.
    – Jan
    Jun 19, 2023 at 18:43
  • For the East German army, some answers are apparently in "Kriegsschauplatz Deutschland" by Siegfried Lautsch
    – Jan
    Jun 19, 2023 at 18:44
  • Are you talking about a widespread. organized refusal, possibly led by the governments, or about individual acts of refusal?
    – o.m.
    Jun 20, 2023 at 4:43

2 Answers 2


Quite aside from how you would picture a people not defending their country, there seems to be a significant misunderstanding here.

"The Cold War going hot" would not have been a war of West Germany vs. East Germany in which NATO / Warsaw Pact "might" have gotten involved.

Both NATO and Warsaw Pact had their forces stationed right there in Germany. So many, in fact, that the German forces were a minority. Significant, yes, but outnumbered by their respective allies.

The West German frontline was divided in to sections, which were defended by, in order from north to south, the West German / Danish Corps, Dutch I Corps, West German I Corps, British I Corps, Belgian I Corps, West German III Corps, US V Corps, US VII Corps, and West German II Corps.

Facing them from across the border was, likewise, not just the East German NVA, but formidable Soviet forces.

Neither West Germany nor East Germany would have been the ones to escalate things into a shooting World War III, which would have taken place on German ground, turning German cities into rubble.

But if things would have escalated into a shooting war, it would be difficult to imagine either Bundeswehr or NVA sitting it out while their allied armies would fight in their country. It would change nothing at all, the war would take place regardless.

  • So it was not a concern at all?
    – Barbaldo
    Jun 20, 2023 at 16:09
  • TBF, a shooting war starting there would have been quite likely end with the reduction every major city in the northern hemisphere to rubble.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 20, 2023 at 17:44
  • Re "So many, in fact, that the German forces were a minority" Could a reference be cited for this? Between 1975 and 1989 the German Bundeswehr had a strength of 500,000 while the number of US troops stationed in West Germany was 250,000. I do not know how many troops from other NATO countries were stationed in West Germany but am somewhat doubtful that the total outnumbered the Bundeswehr. I am not at all familiar with the numbers on the NVA / Warsaw Pact side.
    – njuffa
    Jun 20, 2023 at 19:28
  • @njuffa In the 1980s it was about 180,000 NVA troops (probably includes border troops, but not totally sure) and 360,000 Soviet troops (GSSD)
    – Jan
    Jun 20, 2023 at 19:51
  • @njuffa NORTHAG and CENTAG. I haven't hand-counted them, as it is hard to compare e.g. conscript forces including territorial units (Bundeswehr) with all-voluteer crack forces (USA), various mixed units (Danish / German / Dutch / French) etc.
    – DevSolar
    Jun 20, 2023 at 22:10

The Stasi considered large parts of the officer corps of the KVP/NVA unreliable (basically those who had already served in higher positions in the Wehrmacht), which is why they were sidelined in 1957. Note the proximity to the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. Case in point.

East German border troops were basically always suspected to be ready to go AWOL on the other side of the border. Which is why they were never allowed to be alone at the border and would also usually serve far from their hometowns (e.g. people from Berlin would serve at the inner-German border). Examples of border troops going AWOL and source for border troops being required to never separate from the other guy on duty.

  • Okay so it was somewhat a concern. Was NATO also suspicious of the west german equivalents?
    – Barbaldo
    Jun 21, 2023 at 9:18

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