BONN, Germany - East German and Soviet planning for a military offensive against West Germany was so detailed and advanced that the communists had already made street signs for West German cities, printed cash for their occupation government and built equipment to run eastern trains on western tracks, according to documents found by the German military.
Documents covering the period from the 1960s to the mid-1980s - as well as assault equipment found in the East German communist regime's huge underground storage facilities - have persuaded German military planners and historians that the Soviet bloc not only seriously considered an assault but had achieved a far higher level of readiness than Western intelligence had assumed.
"We have found that the National Peoples Army (East German military) made every necessary preparation to conquer and occupy the west, and especially West Germany," Vice Admiral Ulrich Weisser, chief of the planning staff for the German Bundeswehr, or armed forces, said. "Our officers were deeply impressed."
The preparations, which were regularly updated over the years, ranged from the trivial to the terrifying. East Germany's military and the Stasi secret police had printed up new street maps and signs for West German cities. Koenigsallee, Duesseldorf's tony avenue of furs, jewels and designer fashions, was to be dubbed Karl Marx Allee.
When western officers took over eastern bases after East and West Germany reunited in 1990, they found more ammunition for the 160,000-man East German force than the Bundeswehr had for its 500,000 troops.
In the eastern town of Lehnin, less than 30 miles from West Berlin, the East German military had erected a mock western city in which East German and Soviet troops practiced for the invasion and street battles that would never happen. Now a collection of abandoned, shell-pocked buildings, the "city" of Scholzenslust included a school, bank, courthouse, bar, hotel, rail station and subway entrances. Until the Bundeswehr took control of the area, neo-Nazi teenagers would sneak into the town for training shootups.
The East German documents now being studied by the German military and historians indicate that Western analysis of Soviet and East German military planning may have underestimated the bloc's capabilities. Not only did the bloc have elaborate plans for taking over West Germany, but they had logistical resources well beyond what Western intelligence had reported.
If a combined East German and Soviet force had moved to conquer West Berlin and West Germany according to plan, the West would have been initially "outmanned, outarmed and overwhelmed," Weisser said. "The operational planning was far more advanced than anything our intelligence had envisioned. The National Peoples Army was designed to invade within hours of a political decision."
Although historians have been inclined to take the blueprints for the takeover of the West with a considerable portion of salt, the East German stockpiles and other physical evidence indicate a capacity well beyond anything the West had expected.
"We found cellars full of cash that they had printed up for immediate distribution in a West Germany controlled by an occupation government," said Heinrich Weisse, the Bundeswehr's deputy planning chief. "They had already made up medals, complete with designations for their officers who performed well in the conquering of the west."
In vast cellars previously unknown to the west, according to officials, the East Germans kept huge arsenals, including weapons, vehicles and railroad equipment that would have allowed East German rolling stock to be used immediately on West German rails, which were built to different standards.
As late as 1985, according to Stasi documents examined by Berlin historian Otto Wenzel, the East German secret police prepared a detailed plan for the takeover of West Berlin. The plan described the creation of 12 neighborhood administrative offices for West Berlin and laid out a battle plan for the Soviet forces and East German army, border police and local police who would storm through the Berlin Wall.
On "Day X," as the plan called the day of invasion, specific units were assigned to tasks such as capturing U.S., British and French military bases in West Berlin, shutting down airports and taking over the city's radio and TV stations, newspapers, museums, telephone switching stations, churches and universities.
In all, the plan envisioned 32,000 communist troops invading a West Berlin that would be defended by 12,000 Allied forces and local police.