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East German Battalion Commander Defects to West Germany

September 1, 1986

MUNICH, West Germany (AP) _ An East German lieutenant colonel slipped across the heavily fortified border and asked for asylum in West Germany, the West German federal intelligence office said Monday.

A spokesman for the office confirmed a Bild newspaper report that Lt. Col. Dietmar Mann, commander of the 3rd Battalion of Communist East Germany’s 24th Border Regiment, defected on Sunday.

″The name and battalion in the Bild report is correct according to information we have from the (West German) border police,″ the spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

West German security sources, also speaking on condition they were not identified, told AP the 38-year-old Mann was questioned Monday by the federal intelligence agency in Pullach near Munich.

Bild, a Hamburg-based mass circulation newspaper, said the high ranking officer had fled in uniform but unarmed over the border near Ulzen in West Germany’s Lower Saxony state, about 45 miles north of Hanover.

No details of how the officer escaped were released.

East Germany has hundreds of watchtowers as well as barbed-wire fences, ditches and electronic detectors along its frontier in an effort to keerp people from escaping.

Bild’s report will appear in its Tuesday editions but was telexed in advance to other news media.

Mann was the highest-ranking East German military officer to flee to West Germany since 1981, when Lt. Col. Klaus-Dieter Rauschenbach, commander of another border regiment, defected across the frontier. Rauschenbach returned to East Germany two days later after talking with his wife and East German diplomats in Bonn.

Two other escapes by East Germans across the frontier with West Germany were revealed Monday.

Border police in Hanover said a 29-year-old East German civilian escaped across the border to Lower Saxony. No details were released.

In Bavaria, border police said an armed 22-year-old East German border guard made it across the boundary into southern West Germany on Saturday.

The soldier slipped away from a work detail he was guarding and reported to West German border police in uniform and carrying a pistol, police said.

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