Geschichte der Außenpolitik der DDR / Südafrika
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Schleicher, Dr. Hans-Georg:
German Democratic Republic (GDR) support for Umkhonto weSizwe (MK)
Solidarity or "rooi gevaar"(communist threat)?
Quelle: Autor, Februar 2015Ein Beitrag von Hans-Georg Schleicher zur Geschichte des ANC unter der Überschrift “Die Unterstützung der DDR für Umkhonto we Sizwe (den bewaffneten Arm der Befreiungsorganisation ANC) – Solidarität oder kommunistische Bedrohung?” ist vom Büro der Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung in Johannesburg (Südafrika) unter International Politics/History 02/2015 veröffentlicht worden.Nachfolgend der englischsprachige Text des Beitrags: German Democratic Republic (GDR) support for Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) -Solidarity or "rooi gevaar"(communist threat)?
In early 1967 the first issue of the publication Sechaba reflected the hopes of the South African liberation movement that it could make its way back into South Africa by means of an armed struggle. An article entitled "The creeping war. The new trend in Southern Africa", analysed developments in South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, Angola and Mozambique coming to the conclusion that southern Africa was entering a phase of military struggle. Later in the year the Wankie campaign jointly undertaken by MK and ZIPRA, the military wing of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), seemed to underscore this statement.
Sechaba, the new and the first official journal of the ANC,was printed in and distributed from the GDR, the socialist state in the East of divided Germany. As an effective communication tool, Sechaba was to play a major role in the liberation struggle of the ANC. Did the proclamation of the new phase of the armed struggle by Sechaba indicate that the East German communist state instigated terrorism and guided the total onslaught against the whites in South Africa? Was this the rooi gevaar, the communist threat backed by Moscow?
Indeed the GDR was was one of the major players in the Eastern Bloc, so much so that the former foreign minister in Zimbabwe, Nathan Shamuyarira, considered it, the second most important player after the Soviet Union.
Relationship between the GDR and the ANC - support for MK’s armed struggle
The GDR enshrined anti-imperialist solidarity as a basic foreign policy principle in its constitution. While solidarity vested in the internationalist principles of socialist ideology, it also served as a vehicle for specific GDR foreign policy interests in its drive to achieve recognition. Solidarity with the liberation struggle in southern Africa was also determined largely by the constellations of the Cold War and the confrontation between the two German states.
Support for liberation movements in Southern Africa was one of four priorities within the GDR Africa policy priorities. The GDR based its relationship with the South African liberation movement, the ANC, on common ideological and political values. But as far as military assistance was concerned it initially showed a certain reluctance.
GDR and armed conflict
The GDR, like other socialist countries, regarded anti-colonial and anti-racist liberation wars as just wars or a legitimate form of struggle for liberation, the employment of which essentially depended on the behaviour of the ruling power in the respective territory. The majority of UN member states increasingly recognised the legitimacy of armed struggle by liberation movements in southern Africa to enforce the right to self-determination for the people of the region.
There was also an important ideological element involved. To the international communist movement, support for national liberation movements, including military aid had, since the 1920s, been an element of pushing forward with the world revolutionary process. But from the mid-1950s an intensive discussion on strategical and tactical change had started including a debate about the possibility of a peaceful road to socialism. Questions were raised about the relationship between political and military methods in the liberation struggle. In the 1960s these debates culminated in controversies no only with the Cuban leadership which tended to favour exporting its own revolutionary experience, but primarily with the Chinese Communist Party which, at that time, adhered to a theory of revolution more or less equating it with a revolutionary people's war.
The Sino-Soviet conflict strongly influenced the development of relations with liberation movements in southern Africa for quite some time. The vehement dispute was about strategy and tactics in the struggle between socialist and capitalist systems and about conceptions for the evolution of socialism, but equally about hegemony in the ‘world revolutionary movement’. The principle of peaceful coexistence played an important role and explains the GDR’s unambiguous stance in the Soviet-Chinese controversy and its resultant subordination to Moscow’s policy concerning the African liberation movement.
In the nuclear age, the USSR and its allies came to adjust their anti-imperialist alliance strategy by attempting to harmonise their support of liberation movements with a policy of peaceful co-existence between the East and in the West. Support for the armed struggle and the policy of peaceful coexistence had always to be carefully balanced.
Having embarked on a virtual tightrope walk between peaceful coexistence and an anti-imperialist alliance with the movement for national liberation, the Eastern bloc countries were ambivalent on the use of armed force in the liberation struggle. In fact, until the end of the 1980’s, the policy of the Soviet Union and its allies wavered between aiding armed liberation struggles and living up to a self-professed willingness to cooperate on peaceful settlements to conflicts in southern Africa. A swing between compromise and recourse to revolutionary means to overcome the existing structures of domination in the region. Depending on the prevailing situation in Eastern bloc countries in the region and within the general international political climate, the emphasis would shift towards or away from support for armed struggle. Here the GDR sometimes differed from the official Soviet Union line. The GDR was not merely a Soviet proxy or surrogate in Africa but its junior partner. The GDR had considerable room to manoeuvre and even influenced Soviet policies. But it did not question the leading role of the USSR. The relationship between the GDR and the Soviet Union changed in the 1980s; bonds were dissolved when Gorbachev’s ‘new thinking’ gave all socialist countries more freedom and room to manoeuvre and when the GDR leadership increasingly disassociated itself from Moscow because of disagreement with Gorbachev’s perestroika.
The early years of the struggle in South Africa
It was in 1955 that Moses Kotane, the future SACP secretary-general, paid his first short visit to the GDR. Contacts between the ruling East German communist party (SED) and the SACP, between the East German trade unions and the SACTU, and finally between the Solidarity Committee of the GDR and the ANC were developing. Representatives of South African organisations became frequent guests in Berlin.
The early 1960s was a crucial period for closer relations between the ANC and SACP and the GDR when it was a question of survival for the South African liberation movement and for the GDR, a path to legitimacy and a means to summount the international blockade arranged by West Germany. The GDR joined the trade boycott against South Africa despite serious economic hardships when trade relations with South Africa were cut and important market opportunitieslost. The GDR leadership overruled economic considerations when it imposed an economic boycott against South Africa. It was a difficult political decision with serious economic implications. At the same time the GDR provided material aid for the South African liberation movement.
In the 1970s, with the collapse of the Portuguese colonial empire, the GDR shifted the focus of its Africa policy towards southern Africa, which seemed to offer a chance to inflict a strategic defeat on Western imperialism and to rapidly advance the ‘revolutionary world process’. Solidarity with the liberation struggle became the trademark of its Africa policy.
The destabilisation strategy of the Apartheid regime confronted the Eastern bloc with the choice to either give priority to stabilising the newly independent Angola and Mozambique or supporting the armed struggle of ANC and SWAPO. The GDR decided in favour of Angola and Mozambique but without cutting back its assistance for the liberation movements.
The 1980s saw a substantial change as far as the political approach of the GDR to the problems in southern Africa was concerned. The new approach put explicit emphasis on the need for peace in the region. This was partly owing to new political and economic priorities in the GDR itself but also to southern Africa’s degeneration into an acute source of conflict. Taking note of international trends, the GDR developed a new, constructive stand in support of a political settlement. The GDR pleaded for a negotiated solution for Namibia’s independence. The GDR supported ANC contacts with political forces in South Africa including representatives of the white political elite. The GDR’s commitment to a peaceful settlement was not at odds with continued unrestricted solidarity with the ANC and SWAPO. Those organisations never doubted the GDR’s position. On the contrary, the unqualified support for the ANC and SWAPO continued and even strengthened.
GDR solidarity resulted in valuable international recognition and praise. The GDR was considered by the African liberation movements to be mostly involved with Africa. ‘The GDR was omnipresent in Africa and gave a lot of support, mainly in the field of training ... The GDR was “in charge of Africa”’, according to Max Sisulu.
GDR support for the ANC and SACP
Education and training figured prominently in GDR solidarity. From as early as the 1950s, scholarships were offered to South Africans, mostly through the SACP. In 1962 the first ANC students were enrolled at GDR academic institutions followed by many South Africans in the years thereafter. Scholarships for vocational training were provided as well. In 1990 there were well over 100 students in the GDR. In 1989 ANC members even attended a training course for diplomats.
A major area of support for the ANC was propaganda with the printing of various types of material for the ANC and the SACP. Popaganda was closely linked to subversive work inside South Africa. The journals Sechaba and The African Communist both reported on the ‘indirect work among the masses’ in 1970. Material support for the ANC had started in 1963 when the first major ANC delegation received a pledge to supply goods worth 100 000 Marks. Later periodic shipments of solidarity goods were sent to the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College in Mazimbu and the ANC camp in Dakawa, both in Tanzania. Experts of the East German youth movement assisted in Morogoro to support the ANC camp. GDR educationalists worked as teachers and advisors in Mazimbu. Finally until 1989 assistance to the ANC amounted to 37 million Marks.
Political and diplomatic support for the ANC in international organisations and at international conferences became another trademark of GDR solidarity. Education and scholarships, training of skilled personnel, support for ANC training institutions, substantial material and infrastructural assistance were complimented by medical treatment for the sick and wounded. The new quality in bilateral relations was demonstrated by the establishment of party-to-party relations and the opening of an official ANC mission in Berlin with semi-diplomatic status.
Political consultations and cooperation with the ANC constituted a special form of GDR solidarity. High-level contacts and exchanges of experiences and opinions between the GDR and the ANC and the SACP took place not only during visits, but also at international conferences and visits of GDR delegations abroad.
Support for the armed struggle
When the ANC and its national allies decided to launch an armed struggle and organise underground resistance, the GDR decided to extend its solidarity to include these areas. The SACP and the ANC had asked for military support since the early 1960s, particularly seeking assistance with military training. The GDR had offered a sabotage training course for a handful of South Africans (among them Mac Maharaj) for several months in 1962. In early 1967 the GDR leadership decided to provide arms to liberation movements in Southern Africa. At that time the ANC was not among the recipients. The GDR was obviously irritated because of reported disagreement between SACP and ANC officials in London and Dar es Salaam regarding the strategy and tactics of armed struggle. While leaders in exile in Dar es Salaam were said have expressed the desire for quick military intervention in South Africa, those living in London were evidently giving priority to building clandestine structures within the country.
Yussuf Dadoo on behalf of the SACP turned to the SED with a request for assistance to strengthen and reinforce its underground machinery through a programme of training for selected cadres in techniques on general resistance activity including illegal printing, fraudulent documentation, the art of personal disguise, evading surveillance, etc. They also wanted advice and assistance with the printing of illegal propaganda, its camouflage for purposes of transportation into the country and special methods of distribution.The GDR seemed to be an ideal partner because of people with underground experience with the German communist party and other organsiations during the years of the fascist Hitler regime. Indeed the South Africans came accross a number of former anti-fascist resistance fighters among their GDR counterparts in the party and in the Solidarity Committee.
About the same time, the faction in the South African liberation movement which was pressing for military conflict seemed to win the upper hand with the launching of the Wankie campaign in August 1967. But even then there were mixed feelings in the GDR about this trial of military strength. Interestingly enough the GDR was closely watching these discussions within the South African liberation movement without intervening or favouring one above the other. Differences on the priorities of the liberation struggle in South Africa were obvious. At some point few outside observers even suspected influence of the radical ideology of Maoism, in particular, the Chinese theory of people's wars. But probably it was more the "revolutionary impatience" especially among many young ANC fighters, which needed to be taken seriously.
Soon GDR officials in Berlin received first-hand information about the course of events in southern Africa. In late 1967 a visiting SACP delegation with J.B. Marks, Moses Kotane, Brian Bunting and Joe Slovo prioritised military actions started in August. J.B. Marks and Moses Kotane were highly pleased with the outcome of their talks with their East German counterparts. Marks even noted that he had fallen in love with the GDR this time. Documents surrounding this visit indicate that the GDR and SED leadership did not try to interfere with the discussion on strategy and tactics of the struggle inside the South African liberation movement.
At the time of the SACP delegation visit, the Wankie campaign had produced results which must have had a fairly sobering effect on the liberation movement's thinking, although further batches of guerilla fighters marched south in 1968. The course of the armed struggle will have strengthened the persuasive power of those who preferred building illegal structures and organising political work within South Africa and, correspondingly, wished some of their cadres had received appropriate training in the GDR.
The visit of the SACP delegation was decisive in setting the stage for more intensive support for the underground work in South Africa. Training of cadres in the military and security fields became a special feature of the co-operation. Training for solo fighters and small groups of MK was subsequently arranged to take place in the GDR. The training included basic security work for parties operating in the underground, specific (secret) security work, and marxism-leninism. It took place at well concealed safe houses. Military drill and the handling of various types of hand-held arms and explosives was, as a rule, performed in remote camps. In line with the political hierarchy, the SED leadership commissioned the Ministry for State Security to train MK personnel.
In 1970 both journals,Sechaba and The African Communist, proudly reported on actions in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg, East London and Durban. In those cities ANC-leaflets floated down from buildings and tape recorded messages like 'This is the African National Congress, this is the voice of freedom' could be heard. These were the first results of the special training. In the mid-1970s, this type of action was very much expanded upon, involving a number of underground fighters who had been trained in the GDR. The impact of the propaganda war should not be underestimated. The ANC captured the attention of the people within South Africa, especially the young generation with little experience of mass action against apartheid in the 1950s.
In the GDR, it was noted with much relief that the ANC had abandoned its military actions with ZAPU, which were bound to fail under the circumstances and was changing course to reinvigorate the resistance within South Africa itself, not least by means of political propaganda.
Cooperation on security and military matters intensified in the 1970s. Thousands of young South Africans left their country after the Soweto uprising in 1976, many joining the ANC and its military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe. Providing shelter and training for them became a critical problem for the liberation movement. In this emergency the ANC turned to the GDR, amongst others, for help and received prompt and efficient assistance. Special GDR Interflug flights were arranged from 1976/77 onwards to transport young MK recruits in groups of about forty from their camps in Angola to the GDR. Those selected for training were mostly MK soldiers who had already done basic training in Angola and proven their mettle.
The training base in the GDR was a secret camp in a hilly and wooden stretch of landscape in the North of the GDR, near Teterow, in the vicinity of a well-known motocross track. The six month course focused on military drill, general security, intelligence and counter-intelligence, information and propaganda activities. The MK trainees lived in the camp together with their GDR instructors. These instructors were responsible for the practical military and security training, whereas ANC officials like Ronnie Kasrils, Pallo Jordan and Aziz Pahad gave lectures on the ANC's history. Marksmanship practice was at a shooting range farther off. The instruction and exercises were intensive and extensive, confronting trainees with exacting standards. They covered a wide range of combat methods, such as ambush, surprise attacks, or the construction of underground bunkers and tunnels. Ronnie Kasrils rated the training in East German camps as very creative and practical. He credited the East German instructors with high professionalism and political self-confidence.
Every year from 1976 to the end of the 1980s, the training camp near Teterow accommodated two groups of about 40 MK fighters each, and around 1.000 in total. In addition starting in the late 1960s, there was special training of solo fighters and small groups of up to three people. Some nominees for this kind of training would depart from South Africa legally for short or longer periods providing their friends and relatives with contact addresses in Great Britian or other countries. But also ranking MK cadres preparing for their infiltration into South Africa like Chris Hani, James April or Tim Jenkin underwent this special training in the GDR. The efficiency of this instruction was highly appreciated by MK as I learned from interviews with former ranking MK cadres. In the course of training even a specific textbook for the underground struggle was developed. Interviewing a number of participants of those training courses I found very few who voiced their criticism about the usefulness of this support for the struggle the ANC was waging.
One specific aspect was GDR solidarity in the medical field. In addition to the supply of medicine and clinical apparatus for refugee camps and for MK, medical treatment in the GDR for wounded soldiers and civilians played an increasingly important part from the mid 1970s. Wounded ANC personnel were treated in a special ward in one of the major hospitals in Berlin, which acquired an international reputation as a place for humanitarian help and solidarity. GDR’s assistance in this field was very important in terms of emotional support. It had a great moral and psychological effect among fighters and refugees who had been exposed to the horrors of SADF raids. It was encouraging for them to know that there was the prospect of recovery and rehabilitation even in critical cases. Medical assistance for hundreds of wounded freedom fighters is remembered by South Africans. This assistance included the treatment of ANC officials in hospitals and convalescent homes. Oliver Tambo received medical treatment, spent short holidays in the GDR and was also treated for a stroke.
Looking at the cooperation on military and security matters between the GDR and the ANC, one can conclude that the latter preferred their partners in the GDR to specialise in cadre training. According to the ANC and SACP officials responsible, the GDR's contribution was of a high standard and well adapted to the conditions and requirements of the liberation struggle in South Africa.
There was another important aspect – the Cold War between East and West. At no other place was this Cold War as visible as in Berlin. The Cold War had an enormous impact on the South African liberation struggle. The apartheid regime used the East-West conflict to present itself as a bulwark against communism – the “rooi gevaar”. The hostile attitude of Western governments on the one hand and the massive support it received from the socialist countries on the other hand made an impression upon the ANC. Militant solidarity and the frontline situation of the GDR in international politics probably made relations between the ANC and the GDR special. Cadres in MK saw it that way. Representatives of the ANC did not hesitate to praise the solidarity of the GDR at international conferences and in Africa.
Although the GDR had its own specific foreign policy interests in Africa, its representatives convincingly presented its principled position of opposing colonialism, racism and apartheid. The political players in the GDR agreed on the principle of solidarity but had to manage conflicts of political and economic interests in the practical pursuit of politics. It was always a problem finding ways of giving material support without overstretching the possibilities of the strained economy. Solidarity institutions and groups included political parties, the trade union federation (which was the main contributor to the solidarity fund) and other mass organisations. There were also church-related anti-apartheid groups outside the official solidarity movement. The role of the churches was significant, despite political restrictions and limitations. The Solidarity Committee played a central role as the major instrument for the mobilisation, organisation and implementation of solidarity. It was not a non-governmental organisation but was embedded in the centralised political structures under the overall leadership of the ruling SED.
Solidarity was not unaffected by contradictions within the GDR. Because the ruling dogma claimed that socialist society was harmonious and free of conflict, existing dissent between political principles and economic requirements could not be discussed openly and were hushed up. This ‘genetic’ deficiency in a society of state socialism was reinforced by Cold War positions and by the GDR’s particular weakness in the sensitive area of foreign trade and international relations, where the West wielded superior power. Economic limitations had an impact on the GDR’s readiness and ability to implement solidarity with the movement for national liberation. With the deepening of the economic crisis in the GDR in the 1980s, the limits of solidarity in terms of material help became more and more obvious. Despite this situation and a decline of the GDR’s Africa policy generally, the help for the liberation movements was not reduced. GDR support of a political settlement in southern Africa did not negatively affect solidarity.
Among the GDR population there was a broad sense of solidarity, but the centralistic and administrative way of organising it inhibited initiatives from below and prevented a democratic grassroots solidarity movement in the country. Furthermore, the undemocratic character of the state-socialist society in which the political rights of its people were stifled clashed with the official claim to champion the right to self-determination of colonially and racially oppressed people. This was undoubtedly the major weakness of GDR solidarity. Thus, the solidarity potential could not come into full effect under these conditions.
There was a strong solidarity mood among the people of the GDR. Many of the East Germans could identify with the official policy of solidarity with the struggle against colonialism, racism and apartheid. But there were obvious contradictions, for example deficits in democracy and economic deficits. The economic problems of the GDR, bureaucratic hurdles, the over-centralisation of structures, the lack of free initiative and the curtailing of grassroots activities limited the mobilisation efforts and the efficiency in implementing solidarity. At the same time, the efficiency of its support for and its close relations with the liberation movements partly resulted from the sincere personal and convincing commitment of many East Germans. The solidarity movement, despite flaws and restrictions,was a genuine popular movement.
The relationship between the GDR and the ANC
The GDR used to be a relatively small country with limited international importance. What made GDR support for the South African liberation struggle so special? How efficient was that support?
In 1997 at a symposium of German and South African historians at Robben Island, Brian Bunting, a veteran of the South African liberation struggle stated: The GDR placed the resources of the country at the disposal of the South African liberation movement to the fullest extent possible. Hundreds of MK members were trained in the GDR, the ANC representative given the status of ambassador. Journals, pamphlets and books of the ANC and SACP were printed in the GDR and dispatched at state expense all over the world. Illegal editions were printed for distribution inside South Africa. Cadres of both organisations were treated in GDR hospitals free of charge. Material aid was provided to the movement in Zambia and Angola. Students were enrolled at GDR universities and colleges … Because of the warmth of support so readily offered, members of the liberation movement developed a special respect and love for the GDR.
Former ANC Secretary General Alfred Nzo commented: The GDR, what was impressive about it was ... when you discussed with somebody from the GDR, you discussed with real friends. Max Sisulu recalls that the GDR helped when freedom for South Africa was a very distant vision – at that early stage it was a friend in need and therefore a friend indeed. He added: we were accepted unconditionally, no strings attached. … We had the feeling: the GDR was our home away from home. When African states – one after the other – expelled us in connection with the ‘detente’ exercise after the Lusaka Declaration (1969 – HGS) we could retreat to the GDR, also to the Soviet Union.
In the old days of apartheid in South Africa itself, the GDR was known to be one of the main allies and a staunch supporter of the ANC. Allister Sparks, a veteran journalist and political commentator, told me: It was known that quite a number of ANC people were based in East Berlin, Sechaba was produced there ... I think there were more ANC people in East Germany than in any other East European country [except] in the Soviet Union. It was a primary kind of base ... with all the military training was being given there. I think East Germany and Moscow itself were seen as the two knots of support for the ANC.
And Brigadier Snowball of the former South Africa Defence Force recalls: Our perception was that East Germany was the leading force of the Eastern Bloc countries against the white government in South Africa. As such they were giving assistance to all the liberation movements, also anti-Portuguese, also anti-South African of course ... They were one of the main instigators behind the onslaught against us.
Here we are – the GDR being the main instigator of the onslaught? So was this the real thing – the „rooi gevaar“, the communist threat? The GDR regarded its support for the liberation struggle in southern Africa as a cooperative effort. Cooperation in a common struggle was a coherent element of solidarity, cooperation among equal partners – meaning the GDR on one side, the liberation organisation on the other. Most East Germans actively involved in practising solidarity spiritualised this feeling. From personal experience I always considered my South African counterparts from the ANC as brothers-in-arms, as comrades. This attitude of partnership was acknowledged by the ANC.
These common positions did not exclude differences of opinion, for example, on how to judge political adversaries or devise the strategy and tactics of the liberation struggle. True, the GDR and the liberation movements in southern Africa shared overall interests which were to a great extent conditioned by the East-West Cold War confrontation, but their specific interests were not always the same. Pallo Jordan remembers quite extensive discussions in the GDR. Mostly it seemed that the GDR officials shared or accepted the strategic view and assessment of the South African delegation. Later, in the 1980s Pallo Jordan recalls a sense that some of the partners thought that the ANC military leadership was a bit overcautious in the way it conducted armed struggle. Jordan thinks these differences were about tactics rather than principles.
GDR representatives were usually cautious about offering their socialist model as a blueprint for post-colonial development. Of course there was influence through advice, consultations, ideological, political and propaganda assistance and through education and training. South Africans, being well aware of this, valued that their German counterparts never tried to impose their position on them. Especially in the early years, the GDR presented itself in Africa as a partner on equal terms quite distinct from the paternalistic attitude of other European countries.
The strength of GDR solidarity was swift aid in acute emergency situations. The Solidarity Committee was able to rally support, even at short notice. Political decisions within 24 hours guaranteed a speedy implementation of emergency aid. Of course, the centralistic system did not involve ‘bottlenecks’ in the decisionmaking process. When in autumn 1968 the deteriorating situation in Tanzania and Zambia forced the ANC to submit an urgent request for help, in December that year the Solidarity Committee prepared an emergency shipment of clothing for South Africans in ANC camps. In 1976 thousands of young South African refugees flocked to the ANC in the African frontline states after the Soweto uprising. It was no coincidence that in the same year the GDR more than doubled its assistance to the ANC. Scholarships and facilities for military training formed part of this assistance.
Alfred Nzo concluded: It was therefore easy for us to place our case whenever the ANC was in any form of trouble ... And we knew the GDR was going to respond accordingly ...I remember, sometimes our camps in Angola would run short of food. It was dangerously low. The first country we [asked] was GDR, because we knew the GDR would respond almost immediately including airlifting supplies.
Jeremiah Kingsley Mamabolo, the current South African ambassador to the United Nations, who was one of the first MK cadres to be trained in the GDR, qualifies the support of the GDR: At government level, there was no doubt that GDR was at the forefront of support for the liberation movements in terms of material, political, moral and other support. ... The GDR government was in the frontline.
From my own experience as a GDR diplomat I would agree – that was the way we perceived our contribution – as comrades in arms in the liberation struggle.