The East German border guards, the 'Grenztruppen der DDR', are amongst the most famous in the world. As the disparity between the economic opportunities of the eastern and western parts of Germany grew ever wider, and more and more people moved to the West as a result, the government of the East, under Soviet direction, sealed the border, and it was the Grenztruppen - not the army - that patrolled this. At their height there were approximately 47,000 personnel in this unit, nearly all of whom guarded the border with West Germany (with small numbers deployed on the borders with Poland and Czechoslovakia). While there were a few successful escape attempts, this force succeeded in sealing the border, along with the massive resources put into making the border almost impenetrable, and the guards were recognised as a highly efficient and professional body. With reunification in 1990 they were disbanded; suddenly an irrelevance as the border they had protected for so long was eliminated.
The six poses in this set show the guards in very typical poses. Apart from dealing with very occasional escape attempts these men spent all their time patrolling, checking passes and all the mundane activities which helped make this job fairly unpopular. There are a couple of men simply walking, one with rifle levelled and one kneeling. Also on offer is a man using binoculars and another using a phone handset (the border area had many phone points in areas of poor radio reception, so this figure makes perfect sense). Actually all the figures are fine, as are the accessories included in the set. Many German Shepherd dogs like the one modelled here were used by the patrols, and the frontier marker post was also a very familiar item. Such posts were painted in German colours, and Preiser have included a paper slip with this colour scheme printed on it so it can be cut out and glued around the post as shown on the box photo. This paper slip also includes a selection of signs appropriate to the border area, which is great although the customer will have to provide their own signposts, boards etc. As a collection of models this is a very well thought out set.
While there is little literature (at least in English) on these men there are many photographs and descriptions on the internet, so it is easy to assess accuracy, and everything here is entirely accurate. The men wear the correct uniform and carry the proper equipment of rolled rain cape, canteen magazine pouches and bayonet. Their weapon looks to be one of the many variants from the AK-47 (AKM) and AK-74 family, which is perfectly correct, so no problems here.
All the men come in several parts (see image of sprue) which allows for some entirely appropriate and lifelike poses. Everything is well proportioned and well produced, as we would expect from this manufacturer. Some kit items such as the rain cape are separate, so there is no excess plastic or flash, but assembly is quite straight-forward. No one has a base, so again the customer will have to provide their own if desired. However these are very well designed and made figures with some useful accessories that make for yet another interesting and high quality little product.