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History
February 16, 2017 | Berlin | Germany
How Did People From Communist East Germany Escape Through Berlin Wall?

This is a story based on what actually happened. Young German, Manfred, could not make peace with the reality he got to live in. A few years ago, soldiers created an enormous wall in Berlin, separating his home city into two parts. The sight of this giant concrete wall, surrounded by barbed wire, touched his heartstrings every time he smoke a cigarette in the window of his flat on Bernauer Strasse. But now, everything was ready for him to change his fate.

The wall was erected on 13th August 1961 and divided Berlin into the Eastern part, controlled by the Russians, and the Western part, the zone of the allies – the Americans, British and French. There were 13 border gates, which could be used only by those with a special permission. The most famous one was called Checkpoint Charlie – the most guarded crossing point in the world.

By 1965, the wall was equipped so well that no one could go through it. Moreover, along the construction, there was a mined area called the death strip. The escape was even harder given that there were 302 guarding towers with moving lights. You could hear the dogs barking; ready to attack anybody who dared to approach the area.

After the border was closed, hundreds of people tried to get to West Berlin. Some jumped from the windows of buildings near the wall; others tried to break the gates with cars or swim through Spree River’s canals. In the first weeks, when the wall was still not perfectly guarded, around 500 people managed to escape to the other side, although the guards shot a few dozen.

Any attempt to escape was very risky. When crossing the wall „on the ground” became impossible, the fugitives from communist East began to have more and more unbelievable ideas about the escape: by a balloon, by diving in the river, by hiding in two suitcases lying on a shelf on a train or under the bonnet of cars, and by battering the border checkpoints.

Manfred was considering two options. The first option was to falsify documents. He was not convinced about this idea because more and more frequently such attempts were being discovered, which ended tragically for those who tried. He decided to go for the option suggested by his friends.

He and his friends managed to create a 60-metre long tunnel, of which the entrance was situated in one of the graves of a nearby cemetery. Despite limited space and lack of oxygen, they managed to get through to the other side. They had to dig for many nights, in absolute silence, but the motivation to succeed was too significant. It was about living a life in dignity.

It seems to be one of very few scientifically proven cases of how the dead helped the living in achieving happiness on earth. 

Berlin is a beautiful city now – the capital of united Germany. I can help you discover many secrets from its dark past.

Ready to go there? Contact me

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