The electrician Heiko Klöß, from Magdeburg, was part of the last generation that served as soldiers in the National People's Army of the German Democratic Republic. His military service at the missile defence system in Stralsund ended in 1990, three months earlier than originally planned. A trained electrical engineer, Heiko was called up for military service in November, 1988; with that, his plans for university in Berlin were put on indefinite hold. Lacking any definite concept of an "enemy", the 20-year-old was stationed at the missile defence system in Stralsund and assigned as driver to the commander. He received news about "die Wende" primarily from letters. After the border opened on November 9th, 1989, the National People's Army was supposed to take up position against the country's own citizens, something that was impossible to get across to the soldiers. Klöß's unit remained at their station until January, 1990. Finally, three months before the official end of his term of duty, he was given an early discharge. Klöß then went to study in Berlin, where he now lives with his family.
- Baltic Sea
- The Baltic Sea was a popular vacation destination in the GDR. It is therefore no wonder that the image stands in contradiction to Heiko's personal situation.
- Historic Seal
- Saddler's seal of the City of Mühlhausen (Thuringia), 1565.
- Heiko Klöß grew up in the village of Farsleben, near Magdeburg.
- "Heiko here, sending greetings from Zingst on the Baltic Sea. When I went swimming in the Baltic for the first time on Thursday, the weather was a fabulous 28° Celsius, the water a refreshing 16°. It was simply wonderful. Afterwards, I went to an ice-cream parlour and had a lovely time eating ice cream. Then we went to do some of our duties as well. I've gotten really tan, because the weather's been good for some days, and I've also had enough chances to face the first rays of the sun (this time with some good sun screen, without any reddening). Next week I'll be coming home for 5 or 6 days. A letter will follow! Bye-bye says Heiko."
With his basic training now behind him, Heiko sends greetings to his parents from Sanitz, near Rostock, where he is beginning his courses. To Heiko's relief, two of his friends from basic training are there, too. Even the drill sergeant from "back then" is in Sanitz. So the coming days really shouldn't be "such a bad three weeks". But the prospect of holidays at home is more exciting!
Leaving the People's Army. While finishing up his last remaining tasks, Heiko also tries to apply for a place at univeristy in Berlin. There are only a few duties that Heiko has to deal with first. He asks his parents to send a telegram to get the university application process going. Referring to the army, he sarcastically writes: "You don't need to think here, they do it for you." This shows that Heiko wasn’t particularly worried about his letters being read by cansors.
Heiko Klöß sends greetings to his parents from Zingst on a weekend when a military exercise was planned. The loving son focuses on the sunny side of his stay on the Baltic. Heiko Klöß writes about a pending weekend with a military exercise. In these lines to his parents, he emphasizes the positive aspects of his stay on the Baltic and dreams of holidays on Lake Balaton, a popular holiday area near Zingst that was probably familiar to his parents. His father, a staff of the armature (armament ? weapons ? “armature factory me parait bizarre…) factory in Magdeburg, was entitled to family vacations at the local holiday accommodation facilities there.
The pointlessness comes to an end: an early discharge is imminent. "A possible breeze of democratization in the army as well." You can literally hear the heaviness dropping from Heiko's heart: after weeks of frustration sitting around as a soldier without a mission, his discharge is finally there. He writes "It's a fabulous day for me today" and, "A possible breeze of democratization in the army as well" to his parents, signing off as "Human-citizen Heiko".
So much has happened!!! In his letter to his parents shortly after the opening of the border, Heiko Klöß is really optimistic that times will improve in the GDR. Right after it opens, during the first wave of travelling, Heiko Klöß is optimistic. He thinks the new freedoms are "really great" – especially the 100 Deutschmarks of “Welcome Money” that is handed to every East German citizen upon arrival in West Germany. Among the long-desired acquisitions: a safety razor from Gillette. Everyone has high hopes for the upcoming meeting between Kohl and Krenz.
The day before the border opens, Heiko Klöß writes his parents. He hopes that the upcoming freedom to travel will mean that old automobiles from the West can be bought at a reasonable price. In his letter to his parents written the day before the border opens, Heiko makes an eager but realistic reference to the political changes: "I can only hope that results will be put on the table!" Points that he finds important are those like the possibility of getting affordable cars from the West – older models – as well as the thought that cars from the East will probably rapidly lose their value.
The weeks following the fall of the Wall feel like a frustrating waste of time to Heiko, who isn’t doing anything: "On the one hand, all this talk of a new beginning; on the other, everything's the same as always." A few weeks before his early discharge from the People's Army, Heiko Klöß's frustration with the slow-moving gears of GDR bureaucracy is rising. In a letter to his parents, he writes: "I'll just sit out my pointless time here helping to drive the crappy cart straight ahead, instead of helping to turn the steering wheel." As always, he looks forward to seeing his family again soon.
Everyday life in basic training is tough. Heiko says that he is reaching the limits of his physical endurance. Work ends late at night, and even layers of warm underwear are of little help against the winter cold and snow. The only pleasant distraction from the combat training and kitchen duty is the film program – he’s happy to watch anything, from E.T. to the DEFA production With Body and Soul.
Heiko tells his parents of the path lying ahead of him in the army: following his training as a military driver, he is going to be deployed as a paramedic at the medical base in Abtshagen, near Stralsund. A certain excitement can be read between the lines. He repeats his invitation for them to come to the swearing-in ceremony the following week.
A snapshot of Heiko in front of the blue skies of Hiddensee Island. Behind him, the popular restaurant "Fischerklause" can be seen: it is one of the few old, established venues of the vacation resort. Heiko’s sceptical expression fits the location, which Heiko knows well since he worked as a lifeguard on Hiddensee Island. The atmosphere there is brusque and not always welcoming – unless you win the owners over to you.
Heiko just returned to base after a few days at home. He notices that the his returning comrades’ mood is always subdued in comparison to the excited atmosphere on their journeys home. Shortly before International Women's Day, he sends special greetings to his Mother. He chooses a folded card typical of those sold for the holiday.
Heiko, on sick leave, tells his parents about an injury to his facial bones that he probably sustained from a fall. Initially, the fine fracture was not taken very seriously; only after he caught a cold and his face swelled up was Heiko taken to the military hospital in Greifswald for treatment.