Historical Witness - Peter Bochmann

Printer-friendly version

Major Peter Bochmann is a former platoon leader in the East German Border Guard (Grenztruppen der DDR), which was responsible for securing the border and preventing the flight of East Germans to the West (Republikflucht). He took part in developing many of the Wall’s security features. He devised a comprehensive system of facial recognition based on taxonomic identification of subjects’ physical features and characteristics, which was designed to help guards test authenticity of a passport photo. Trainee border guards were required to pass Bochman’s flashcard examination, in which potential guards were asked to compare and contrast two different photos to determine whether or not both were the same person.

Facial Recognition Facial Recognition Facial Recognition Facial  Recognition

In this interview Peter Bochmann, not a practiced speaker, was testifying essentially about his life’s work, to which he had contributed ideas, personal authority, military loyalty and the kind of pride that made him defensive at the thought he might be seen as negligent or overwhelmed by the events of the fall of the Wall. He clearly believed in the system he had served; it was a period in his life that had simply come to an abrupt end. A little bit of a self-made historian and only beginning to see himself as a memoirist in his own case, Major Bochmann had liked to collect facts--clippings, photographs, assorted documents about this period even though he had only gradually grasped the historical sweep of events at the Wall.

Return to Facing the Wall: Four Personal Perspectives