February 19th, 2011

Oath Keeping at the Fall of the Berlin Wall – Video

tx_interviewEast German Army Officer (and now American Oath Keeper!) Tells How the East German Military Refused Unlawful Orders to Crush Protests, Stood Down, and Led to the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

In this remarkable interview, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes speaks with Gunter Spens, now a member of Texas Oath Keepers, who was a Lieutenant Colonel in the East German Army when communism collapsed and the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.  LTC Spens tells how the East German military refused unlawful orders given by the Communist Party to crush peaceful mass protests and simply stood down, staying on the base.  Without the support of the military, the communist party and their Stasi secret police were powerless and could no longer oppress the people. As we have always said, no government on earth can oppress the people without the support of the military, and a government’s secret police, however feared they had been in the past, cannot stand against the mass of the people when the military withdraws its support.  In East Germany, once the military refused orders to stop the mass protests on November 7, 1989, Stasi secret police knew the gig was up and stripped off their uniforms, trying to melt into crowds or pretending to be normal soldiers.  Two days later, the Berlin Wall fell.  LTC Spens describes what it was like to live under Communism, where they had a constitution on paper, but not in reality because the communist party ran everything and through its secret police, the Stasi, kept everyone under its thumb.

He describes how back in 1968, during the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prague_Spring) , some East German military officers refused to invade Czechoslovakia because it violated their oath, which was to defend the Constitution and the people of East Germany, and their Army regulations also prohibited violations of the international laws of war, and they were convinced that invading Czechoslovakia was not in defense of the nation, and was in violation of international law.  Unfortunately, at that time the Communist Party was so strong, and had such a lock down on the military and all of society, that those brave officers were simply “disappeared” as happened to millions under Communism.

But, by 1989, the power of the Communist Party had begun to weaken, and as economic hardship spread, and as the East German people saw the sharp contrast of freedom in West Germany, the government lost legitimacy in the eyes of the great mass of the people (including in the military, who came from the people).   The loss of legitimacy was already a fact in the hearts and minds of the people, and all that was needed was a spark to lead to the routing of the party.  In some places, like in Romania, that spark was sudden, leading to a rapid collapse within the span of ten days (and in Romania, the Army also stood down and refused orders to fire on the people).  But in East Germany, it started in January 1989 as a quiet, small peaceful march of a few people, simply walking through town.  Every Monday, after church, marchers would leave the church and walk through town. Since there was no free speech in a communist country, they didn’t even carry signs, shout slogans, or say anything at all (making it harder for the communist party to have them arrested for being “subversive”).  They simply walked.

At first, it was 150 people “just walking” through town.  Then as more joined in, the weekly marches grew in size throughout 1989 until on November 7, 1989, on the anniversary of the founding of the “German Democratic Republic” (East Germany) the marchers numbered 150,000.  On that day, the Communist Party ordered the military to deploy and stop the protests.  The commander of the Army refused, and ordered that all troops were to stay in the Army base.  Because the Communist Party did not trust the local troops to oppress their own people, they had brought in young paratroopers from the northern part of East Germany.  But when the orders came down to crush the protests, the base commander made it clear that not only would none of his troops leave the base, but none of the paratroopers would be leaving the base either – and none did.  The East German Army simply stood down.  And that was that.  The Communist Party, without military support, was truly a paper tiger and could do nothing to stop the marches, and two days later the Wall of Shame finally came crumbling down and the people of East Germany were free of their communist oppressors.

The lessons here are many, but the central lesson is that when a government loses legitimacy in the eyes of enough of the people, and when the military simply stands down, there can indeed be a peaceful revolution.  There have been many who have presumed that such a peaceful overthrow of dictatorships cannot happen, that violence is the only way. But what happened in East Germany shows that a peaceful revolution is possible when enough of the people, and enough in the military, simply withdraw their consent and begin to act like free people.  Certainly if there is not enough who feel the same way and are willing to stand up, then those few who do stand will be arrested and “disappeared,” as happened in 1968.  or a nation may have to suffer through a violent revolution or civil war.   But it is clearly possible that there can come a tipping point, a point of no return, where the government loses legitimacy in the eyes of so many of the people, that the great mass withdraws consent and support.  When that happens, the emperor truly has no cloths.

What the military does is key.  In fact, what the military does is always key to what happens in a country – whether the government becomes oppressive in the first place is dependent on the consent and cooperation of the military, and whether it remains in power is also entirely dependent on the consent and cooperation of the military.  And when the military withdraws that consent, cooperation, and support, no matter how ruthless the dictator, he is powerless.   Whenever a government attempts to oppress the people, the military will largely determine the course of events.  Will they do the right thing and refuse to obey unlawful orders?  If so, it can be a bloodless, peaceful rooting out of oppressive government.  But if the military obeys those unlawful orders and oppresses the people, then it can lead to a bloody civil war, to the people having no choice but to fight a desperate revolution against their own military, or to a murderous tyranny, as we have seen in so many examples from the sad history of the 20th Century.  All the barbaric mass murder of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. was only possible because the military of each of those nations gave its support and consent by simply following orders.  And likewise for the oppression of East Germany, Romania, and all of the Eastern Block nations under communism.

We Americans are fortunate enough to have the chance to avoid such a dark tyranny in the first place if our military and police simply keep the oath they all took to defend the Constitution.  Note how LTC Spens tells us that the oath in the East German Army was similarly to the constitution of that country, but because of the monopoly of power the communist party held, where every officer had to belong to the party, and every judge, that oath meant little because the party was always right, and everyone knew better than to say no, or else.  We Americans are not yet at such a point, and the way to prevent this nation ever going down that road is to remind all of our current serving of their oath, and encourage them to refuse unlawful orders, big and small.  If they do that, it does not take a majority, but as our Founders said, a tireless minority can light brushfires in the minds of men.  By setting examples now, by being courageous now, they can prevent this nation from ever having to experience what other people have been unfortunate to have to endure.

And another key point is that the East German Military did not pull a military coup against the communist party.  They did not overthrow the government and take over.  They simply stood down and let the people handle it.  And as LTC Spens says in the interview, in the transition government set up by the people, a priest wound up being the new Secretary of the Army.  That was a people’s peaceful revolution, not a military coup.

Our military should be expected to do AT LEAST as well as the military of East Germany when/if orders come down to oppress the American people.  That is what we should expect of them, and what we should demand of them.   If they simply remember their oath, and refuse unlawful orders, tyranny cannot come to America.  And if, God forbid, an American President were tempted to try to “suspend the Constitution” and declare “martial law” (which is nowhere in our Constitution), our military should simply stand down and, regardless of how unlawful the commands, resist the temptation of military coup in response, which has been the bane of many a Republic.  Such a coup would be as unconstitutional as anything a President could do, and would likewise be a destruction of our Constitution.  In fact, we can think of no more diabolical way to destroy our Constitution than to trick the American people into thinking the only way to stop an usurping President is to jump into the arms of a cabal of Generals who lead a military coup.   That would be a false choice, and would be jumping from the frying pan into the fire.  There must be no American Franco or Pinoche.  If such orders ever come in America, the military should do as the East German Army did and simply stand down, stay on base, and refuse to deploy against the people, and let we the people and our states handle it.  We will take care of the situation just as the people of East Germany did, finally, in November of 1989.

Members of the American Armed Forces, heed the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, who mandated that you take an oath to defend the Constitution, and put that oath requirement in the Constitution itself.  You defend the Constitution, first and foremost, by refusing ALL unlawful orders, and especially orders that are contrary to our Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land.   So long as you do so, tyranny cannot come to America in the first place, and the American people will never have to resort to taking up arms in defense of liberty, as our forefathers had to.   But even if, in the worst case scenario, they ever are compelled to do so, again, you hold in your hands the destiny of this nation and by your standing down, you can ensure that any such last resort to arms in defense of liberty is short and relatively bloodless.  Simply withdraw your consent and support, and no matter how ruthless, blood-thirsty, and unlawful those who hold office may want to be, it cannot be done without you.   We sincerely hope no such events ever occur here in the United States, and by keeping your oaths now, you can make sure of it.   First, we hope no American President is so foolish, ignorant, or so willfully violates his or her own oath.  But if that should ever happen, we hope that you do what is right, stand down, and leave the would-be emperor with no cloths – no power to oppress the people.  Withdraw your consent.  Stand down. Keep your oath.

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19 Responses to “Oath Keeping at the Fall of the Berlin Wall – Video”

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  1. 1
    Herrmann Glockler Says:

    Great article, especially touching for me since I was borne in Germany, but learned of the liberation only for the TV screen.

    However you should not put Chiles’ General Pinochet in the same sentence as Spains Franco.

    I was traveling in Chile during Allende’s presidincy, and was absolutely shocked about the lawlessness he had brought to this once prospering democracy.
    Roving bands of Allende supporters were taking over well run farms and ranches in the South of Chile, killed the life stock, destroyed the buildings, and when nothing was left, moved on to the next ranch or farm.
    Ironically I had become friend with an escapee from East Germany, he told me his story of arriving in the south of Chile, building his own farm and promoting cooperatives where he showed local farmers how to improve their own farms.
    When these bands tried to take over his farm, he went to see these farmers to bid them good bye, but these farmers used pitch forks to restore him to his farm again.
    Pinochet was the General that saved Chile from the ruins, is despised by the communists as the spoiler of their plan to bring communism to all of South America, as now Venezuelan’s Hugo Chavez does
    In fact I was surprised it took so long for somebody from the Chilean Army to intervene, and since he was the top military commander in Chhile it was his role to do so.

    I truly wished the current Joined Chief of Staff, Admiral Mullen, had the moral courage Gereralissimo Pinochet showed when he save his nation from ruin.
    Instead this man is more concerned with the ongoing integration of the military with Islamic Extremists after Major Hassan 13 murdered service men in Fort Hood, or with Lt.Col. Terrence Lakin, incarcerated by the military for having followed his Constitutional Duty to Challenge the legitimate qualification of Obama, which the military court never did.

  2. 2
    john barker Says:

    Hopefully, your outreach to American servicemen and law enforcement will pay off..

    I watched your conference with the API and contacted my local Oathkeepers to start some groups as you suggested..
    Thank you..

    May God be with us all..and all who formerly served under tyranny such as this gentelman

  3. 3
    donald rutledge, sgt Says:


  4. 4
    Wallbanger Says:

    What part of “just KEEP your Oath” don’t people understand??

    Our military, law enforcement, and ELECTED OFFICIALS need to HONOR THEIR OATH TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION!!!


  5. 5
    bob Says:

    i watched a video of a hillary clinton speech. a 71 yr old veteran who was a member of veterans for peace decided to do a silent protest. this old man stood up and turned his back on hillary and never said a word. he was blindsided by security thugs,roughed up, bruised,and bleeding and was arrested. It was an outrage. she has not apologized. wake up america……..

  6. 6
    Jim Says:

    This brings some memories. I was in Prague in 1968, as the saying goes, prepare for
    the worst, hope for the best.

  7. 7
    Papa George Says:

    Our military will not fight the American people. It might put down a riot in a neighborhood, but it will never again cordon off and isolate a town. New Orleans after Katrina assured that.

    Oath Keepers is a great organization. It reminds us that our allegiance is to the Constitution, not to the people in Washington who may or may not be working to uphold it. It’s now painfully obvious that we can’t tell where politicians stand on that issue by the “R” or “D” after their name…

  8. 8
    Thomas Dixon (SMSgt USAF - Ret) Says:

    We are grateful to Lt Col Spens (GDR) for sharing his perspective on his action during the “Fall of the Wall” in 1989. I,too, was stationed in West Germany (Zweibrucken AB 1988-1991) during reunification in November 1989. There earlier (1980-1984) in the Eifel (Spangdahlem and Ramstein ABs) preparing for onslaught by Eastern Bloc forces through the Fulda Gap, daily toil was flight and ground operations, along with week-long and yearly exercises (Reforger). Taught the tactics of Eastern forces (SpetsNaz infiltration and overpowering saturation by European domination), we readied ourselves to “hold the fort” as incoming units reinforced the bastion Europe (OPLAN 4102) to defeat the combination of forces from Eastern Bloc nations’ military forces.

    As events transpired mid- and late 1989 in East Germany, we prepared for NATO assistance in the event East German citizens rose up against their Communist oppressors. As Senior Noncommissioned Officer responsible for base security and protection, portions of my force were readied to reinforce those in Berlin and along West/GDR border to engage the military should citizens resolve to fracture that barrier between countrymen. I cannot relate my feeling of relief and happiness when watching East and West German citizens unite on top of the Wall, which had been in place since my childhood in 1961. To hear testimony by counterparts (Lt Col Spens) as to their action which paralelled the same by my forces should situation arise, was both enlightening and heartwarming.

    Needless to say, reaffirmation of the oath taken in 1968 to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States is unnecessary. Having freely given 26 years of my life to defense of my country, I could not act otherwise in remaining years. I commend my compatriot for acting upon values and morals shared by Oathkeepers. Though my wish is that our action is unnecessary in this unique Republic, I rest assured that my brothers in arms will rise to the occasion for which we dedicated our lives, liberty, and pursuit of happiness to defense of this great nation. God bless America and godspeed to fellow Oathkeepers.

  9. 9
    CorbinKale Says:


    I was stationed in Mainz (Lee Barracks)from ‘86-’88. I got to travel to Berlin and venture on a small tour into East Germany through Checkpoint Charlie, after a ‘Combat in Cities’ training exercise in Doughboy City. I felt the oppression and can’t imagine the courage it took for the citizens to join the march, not to mention the courage of the military commanders to stand down and refuse unconstitutional orders in that environment. I hope our military and police will have that same courage, otherwise, liberty will die.

    My apologies for the “shaky-cam”. In my defense, it was 3am and my back was killing me. :) I am proud that you have joined Oath Keepers, and even prouder that you chose Texas as your home. You are a man of principle, and I am honored to know you. My deepest gratitude for your fascinating history lesson. You filled in details that are never taught in any school lessons.


  10. 10
    Wayne Edward Clarke Says:

    If the Oath Keepers do exactly what they swear to do and no more, then I support them wholeheartedly. While I like President Obama and think that the chances of him declaring martial law in America are almost zero, I also think the Patriot Act went too far, and he hasn’t repealed it. Now with the Republican gains he can’t.

    I think that forcing us all to endure naked scans or pat-downs at airports is surrendering to terrorism and a crime against us all. I’m 47 and a Canadian, and IF a lot of other middle-aged Canadian males start committing acts of terrorism, then I’ll gladly undergo a scan and a pat-down without bitching about racial profiling or forcing everyone else to undergo the same indignities. So long as young Muslims continue to carry out the vast majority of international terrorist attacks, the rest of the young Muslims have to either convince them to stop doing it or be willing to undergo the indignity of scans and pat-downs, without forcing it on the rest of us. The Isreali system works well that way.

    The Oath Keepers need to do a better job of stating what they’re NOT, as well as what they are, and they need to do a better job of denouncing dangerously radical right-wing groups and of denying memberships to those people.

    On the other hand, if every soldier and police officer in the world felt the same as The Oath Keepers do, there would be no need for the present revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen etc., and a lot of dead and injured people there would still be well. Furthermore, if every soldier and police officer in the world felt the same as The Oath Keepers do, there would be freedom in China, North Korea, and everywhere else. No repressive regime can function without the co-operation of the solders and the police, and that’s what The Oath Keepers’ stated aims are designed to prevent.

    I think every gun-owner in America should be forced to join a lawful militia with open and transparent policies and practices, because the constitution only says you can own a gun as part of a militia. The National Guard is probably the best choice of militia for most people to join. We should institute the same system here in Canada and make gun owners here join The Canadian Forces Reserves, or another lawful militia. There’s a lot to be said for the Swiss military and gun law system.

    And while I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I know that the global economy almost fell, and could have fallen completely, just because of a few greedy and stupid people in the financial industry. I know that if anything really major happens that affects any major financial center; be it a major war, epidemic, or natural disaster, all the speculators are going to panic and the whole damn global economy will fall like a house of cards. And while I try to do what I can to prevent that by encouraging people to invest for the long-term dividends and not speculate, among other things, I’m also enough of a survivalist to prepare for the worst and to encourage everyone else to do the same. The global economy is a very delicate thing and it will be for decades to come, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.

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