Primary Sources

Facial Recognition Manual


If they wanted to keep out spies, security personnel on both sides of the Berlin Wall had to become sophisticated readers of facial features. This manual, prepared by the East German border police as a training text for their front line guards, shows the reader how to recognize someone from telling facial features. Notice how the reader is directed to pay attention not to the entire face, but to certain features like the shape of the ear or the number of wrinkles on a forehead. For the East German police the proper identification of individuals was also not simply a matter of keeping out foreign agents. They were just as concerned with keeping in East German citizens who did not have permission to travel abroad.


Facial Recognition Manual (Berlin, East Germany), courtesy of the Wende Museum, Los Angeles.

How to Cite this Source

"Facial Recognition Manual," Making the History of 1989, Item #717, (accessed May 28 2021, 3:24 pm).