«Only those who are deprived of their liberty know what it means to be free. Those who are already born free do not know how it feels». Peter Strelzyk is talking. Who is this man? We will get there further, but you just have to know that he is one of those who, in 28 years of wall, chose to risk his life rather than live in a trap.
When, in August 1961, the Berlin Wall was erected from day to night (literally), there were numerous attempts to escape from the next few instances. At first, shaken by such a sudden event and pushed by a still provisional barrage, many ran to West Berlin. For example, along the border, the houses still belonged to the eastern part of the city, but the adjoining sidewalk was already in the west. Some residents managed to jump from the windows of their homes, but soon the entrances and the windows were sealed and blocked.
THE JUMP AGAINST POWER – On August 15, 1961, just three days after the works began to erect the wall, Conrad Schumann, a 18 years old border guard, decided to skip the barbed wire, becoming the first Oriental German desert. Peter Leibing, a journalist from West Germany, captured the jump to liberty with one shot and Schumann became a free world hero and a symbol of the Cold War. But with the passing of years and with the rise of the fugitives, the wall was reinforced more and more. From the barbed wire they passed to concrete slabs which were then reinforced with towers and checks tightened. But for a principle of direct proportionality the more they tried to stem the escape, the more dissenters invented ingenious solutions.
TUNNEL 57 – In 1964, a group of students from West Berlin, led by 25-year-old Wolfgang Fuchs and future astronaut Reinhard Furre, organized a plan to escape the inhabitants of the other side, excavating one of the most spectacular tunnel ever made. Several months to create a passage from a bakery in the Bernauer Straße (West Berlin) underneath the wall and end in a public toilet in a courtyard at Strelitzer Straße (East Berlin). It was 145 meters long and 90 centimeters tall. Exactly 57 people, men, women and children, escaped, but border guards discovered the tunnel 42 hours after it was completed. That night there was a shootout where the unoncommissioned officer of the troops, Egon Schultz, was killed, shot dead by a colleague accidentally.
THE HOMEMADE HOT AIR BALLOON- You imagine being 200 meters away from freedom, from peace, from the end of your sufferings. But one step from the finish line, you plunge into discomfort. No, you didn’t it for just 200 meters. After 34 minutes of travel on a rudimentary hot air balloon, Peter Strelzyk (mentioned earlier) understood that he didn’t cross the wall. They were still in East Germany. But he didn’t despair: his loved ones, together with the Wetzel family, seized centimeters per centimeters a new hot air balloon made of various linens and fabrics. It was the night of September 16, 1979, and the two families left again. After 28 minutes they were once again on the ground: due to a flare higher than normal, they had cracked and thus lost altitude. They were disheartened, they knew they had taken less time than the first attempt, but once they landed, Peter and Gunter Wetzel found a policeman who confirmed to them that they had “landed” in the West.
THE THREE BROTHERS BENTHKE AND THEIR ESCAPES – Ingo Bethke’s parents worked in the DDR interior ministry, but he felt different: he wanted to see the world. On May 22, 1975, shortly before midnight, while two border guards laughed and told jokes, the 21-year-old decided to cross the border near the Elbe river with a waterbed. He knew that trait because he had been there shortly before as a soldier: at the nearest point of the river, about 500 meters, he cut a small crack in the iron fence, then with a wooden pallet he checked the gravel ground in front of him to find and neutralize mines. Thanks to the fog it was not discovered when one would illuminate the surrounding area. Then a half-hour swim before reaching Lower Saxony, before reaching the West.
A ROPE, A BOW AND A ARROW – But Ingo was the first of three brothers to heroically try to escape. All with three unique, fascinating and, nowadays, fun strategies. Holger, younger than Ingo, on March 31, 1983, with his friend Michael Becker, was able to climb the wall by conceiving a kind of “cable car” linking an East home to one of the West. For two weeks they had tried the resistance of the steel wire, they also worked with bow and arrows to send the wire from the other side of the wall, but not to arouse suspicions were forced to tell the curious who were trying out the numbers for the circus .
Then, on the day set for attempting the escape, Holger and his friend, pretending to be electricians, with wires and cables hanging on his neck, got into an apartment in Treptow. On the other side, the Neukölln area, his brother Ingo was waiting for the arrow. After two failed attempts, Holger managed to hit the arrow, but before exulting nearly an hour passed because Ingo could not immediately find the arrow, blocked in a bush.
I BRING YOU OUT BY A PLANE -Egbert Bethke, the youngest of Bethke brothers, wanted to emulate their gesture, but over the years it had become almost impossible to cross the wall by climbing it or digging a tunnel. So it was necessary to fly!
So Ingo took a few lessons on how to pilot an ultra-lighter and later instructed Holger. Then they decided to sell their bar to buy two small aircraft and changed the engines to make them more powerful. Their first attempt on 11 May 1989 failed. Two weeks later, May 26, they tried again. To confuse border guards, they had painted Soviet stars on their planes. They wore military uniforms and helmets with microphones and took flight. Meanwhile, Egbert was waiting at Treptower Park in East Berlin, hidden in the bushes, worried about being discovered and shooted. When he saw his brother Ingo land with his plane, he ran to him, rushed precipitously. Holger, however, remained in the air watching the surrounding area. Both flew just 150 meters above the wall, but nobody noticed them before touching the ground in front of the Reichstag.
SURFING NEXT THE FREEDOM – Two years before, another crazy adventure. Dirk Deckert and Karsten Kluender dreamed of traveling, they loved surfing, sailing. they wanted to be free: «I wanted to live in a country where I could do what I wanted, I did not mind risking my life for freedom», said Kluender.
The two guys lived near the sea and so they thought they were trying to escape to Denmark. One early morning in November 1986, they watched the sea with their ready-made surfboards. They crossed the border without being seen and thrown into the water. But shortly after departure, Deckert ripped his mute. He knew it would be a suicide to continue in the cold water, so he went back to try another day. Meanwhile, Kluender, ignorant of what had happened to his friend, went on his way. A few hours later, exhausted and worried about losing the route, he saw the Danish coastline. He was convinced that his friend had been caught, but the next day, with his new mute, Deckert tried it again. After six hours of sailing, he saw a Danish fishing boat he was looking for him, alerted by Kluender.
Those are some stories of unconscious, romantically free heroes who no one has ever caged. So unconscious that Deckert later said: «If I had known that the wall would fall three years later, I would certainly stay at home».