“We came upon two cases of East German citizens killed while attempting to escape via Bulgaria – one in 1974 and another in 1988,” Ekaterina Boncheva, a member of an official committee looking into communist-era secret service archives, told journalists.
Border police officers were rewarded for catching or shooting at people trying to flee the country, according to another committee member Valeri Katsunov.
“Patrols were granted a 20-day leave for every person caught on the border and an engraved wristwatch for a so-called ‘display of heroism’ or firing at a trespasser,” he said, citing former border police officers.
It’s the first official information about suspected communist-era shootings to come from Bulgaria.
A researcher at Germany’s Oldenburg University, Stefan Appelius, told the New York Times recently that he had clear evidence of 845 escape attempts and 18 killings on the Bulgaria border.
He estimated however that up to 4,500 may have sought to cross the Iron Curtain and that as many as 100 may have been killed. Bulgaria was once one of the most faithful Soviet satellites.
It Darzhavna Sigurnost secret service agency was implicated in some of the Communist era’s landmark spy plots, like the 1978 poisoned-umbrella murder of dissident Georgi Markov and the 1981 attempt on the late Pope John Paul II.