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Escapes over the Berlin Wall

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Escapes over the Berlin Wall


A part of the Berlin wall can still be seen in Bernauer Strasse. It was here that some of the early escapes from West to East took place.

In the hours and days that followed the first installation of barbed wire in August 1961, hundreds of people were prevented from crossing the street, separated from their families and neighbours. It was here on the 15th of August that 19-year-old soldier Hans Conrad Schumann leapt over the barbed wire. He was supposed to be there to guard the Berlin Wall, but was encouraged by people on the other side to make a run for it. As the wall started to go up some managed to get through to the West, even by jumping through windows. But others lost their lives. Some even tried to help their families escape by building an underground tunnel, but the authorities found out about it with terrible consequences. Dieter Hoetger said: “I will never forget what happened here on June the 12th, 1962, at midday. My friend Siegfried Noffke was killed at the exit of the tunnel. Someone betrayed us about its existence. I never saw my friend again. I was taken to the Stasi prison Hohenschoenhausen.” An exhibition at Checkpoint Charlie shows all the different types of methods people used to try to escape. In 1974 Christa Feurich fell in love with a man who worked in the Swiss embassy. She tried to pass into the West by hiding in the boot of his car, but was betrayed and spent three years in jail. Eventually, however, she did make it to the West. Feurich said: “It’s human nature that we only keep good memories. but that’s why we’re here today, to make it known that the former GDR was not harmless. The GDR was a dictatorship.” In Bernauer Strasse a special memorial aims to make sure that people never forget the victims of the wall.

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