Cracks Widen: East Germany D+16 (25 July, 1987) Part III

0400– In East Berlin at the State Council Building , a meeting of the National Defense Council is hastily called for 6 AM. General Secretary Honecker, after separate deliberations with Defense Minister Heinz Kessler and Minister of State Security Erich Mielke, orders both men to remain in the building. Party guards loyal to Honecker take both men and place them in separate rooms without communications. As it stands, however, the two men are able to get messages out through their aides, and separately plans are put into motion.

0427– In Ahrensdorf, northeast of Berlin, Kommando 5 of the Felix Dzerzhinsky Regiment, the military unit of the Stasi, is ordered to move into the city. Its commander is informed that Plan Nachtfalke is now in effect.

0430– Minutes later in Teupitz, south of Berlin, Kommando 3 of the same regiment receives similar orders. Before the commander can react, however, two companies of paratroopers from Luftsturmregiment 40 arrive at the kaserne to take the command staff into custody. This is done without incident. Shortly thereafter, Kommando 3 is ordered to return to their barracks.

0600– In a stormy session of the National Defense Council, charges and counter charges of coup planning are exchanged. The NDC splits into pro-Kessler and pro-Mielke factions, unable to render a decision about which minister’s version of events to accept. Both men are now in custody of SED guards as the NDC deliberates.

0740– Plan Nachtfalke is executed. Troops from Kommando 5, a unit entirely loyal to the Stasi, launches an assault against the Ministry of Defense headquarters in Strausberg. Following brief firefights, the building and surrounding complex are secured.

0900– The National Defense Council meeting ends with no decision reached. The next meeting is set to begin early in the afternoon. Reports continue to come in describing clashes between state security and military forces around Berlin. Mielke is questioned about the attack on the Ministry of Defense and he admits authorizing it to ‘prevent the enemies of the GDR and socialism from completing their overthrow of our government.’

1255- Since seizing the Ministry of Defense, state security troops shut down communications between the ministry and GDR combat units operating within and beyond the national borders. Later in the day troops loyal to Kessler manage to set up an alternate communications center at Geltow but the amount of false information being spread prevents many units from receiving their orders or learning just what is going on.

1315– The National Defense Council starts the afternoon session. It does not take long for gridlock to set in once again. The council is evenly split between pro-Kessler and pro-Mielke members. When the general secretary refuses to adopt a decisive position, confidence in his ability to lead is seriously eroded. The focus is now directed on Honecker.

Author’s Note: I’m stopping at 1315 in this entry because the events of the later afternoon will be more appropriate to discuss in the Central Front D+16

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