900,000 made it

The Wall: built 1961 – best-guarded border in Europe – downfall 1989

Many tried to cross the 165 km long wall. Others attempted to find their way across forests, rivers, the Baltic Sea and countries like Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria. They tried to leave East Germany for personal, political or social reasons. Some made it, many failed. Most were arrested, some cases ended fatally. There are spectacular cases, well known due to the coverage by the media. However, the unspectacular cases and ordinary people are seldom mentioned. Driven by cleverness and creativity they attempted to cross the border between the East and the West.

May 12, 1963: 13 people – one bus – 100 m before the border hail of bullets – trapped in front of the last barrier – 4 injured – arrested

August 30, 1973: a family – one sailing yacht – leaving the harbor – raising the German Federal flag – obstructed by warships – arrested August 18, 1974: a father in West Germany – attempt to get his family in an inflatable boat – meeting point Isle of Usedom – missed – arrested at the beach

February 1, 1976: a couple – one home-made submarine – escape route through the river Elbe – the submarine’s tower is discovered – stopped by icebreaker – arrested

August 5, 1979: a ship’s mate with a gun – one warship- capture of the ship – recapture by officers with firearms and grenades – life sentence – 10 years and 3 months served until the downfall of the Wall

1983 to 1986: a couple – one airplane with 12.5 m span and a hyped-up car engine – 2 failed attempts to put it together – destruction of airplane – never discovered

April 4, 1986: a mechanical engineer and a painter – one hot-air balloon – a few days before take-off search of their apartment by Ministry for Security – the balloon is found – arrested

August 10, 1986: a father and his 2 sons – one motorboat – flight over the Baltic Sea – chased by helicopter – hindered by warship – arrested

November 1986: 2 engineers – two para gliders – night – take-off from a 16-storey-building in Berlin – landing in a schoolyard before reaching the border – second chance – attempt to cross the Czechoslovakian border to West Germany – arrested

December 20, 1986: a toolmaker – one hang-glider, canvas and a car engine – take-off – 30 minutes 300 m high above the ground – loss of orientation – landing on East German ground – arrested

For further reading: "Faszination Freiheit" by Bodo Mueller, Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin.

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