Can you think of any good reason to escape from your country? I am not talking about criminal acts causing you to hide from being caught or trying to avoid punishment. No, I am talking about not being able to breathe anymore, not being able to talk openly, always being afraid to say the wrong thing, even to your own family.
About 60.000 people escaped almost monthly from East Germany to the West for many years. A number of them lost their lives when shot by other East Germans, maybe their brothers, cousins, or friends, – boys who had grown up since the war ended in 1945 and became part of the East German Police Force.
The day I escaped, it was October 5th 1955, over 16.000 registered in the West. In my case, it was West Berlin. The two shots fired after me could very easily have hit me but I like to believe the young police man missed on purpose. Maybe he lost his life because of it. Their order was to “shoot to kill.” Maybe he was severely punished. Maybe he could prove that he did NOT do it on purpose. Two Berliner men pulled me into a moving train. Luckily the train was not stopped as a result of my escape.
To stop the exodus the “Berlin Wall” had been built over night August 13th 1961. Nobody, absolutely nobody, knew about it and people wonder to this day how the government could have organized it. The Wall went straight down the middle of streets for some kilometers. Families or friends were cut off from each other. If you had been visiting in either East or West Berlin, maybe just across the street, you were stuck, you could not return. Days later the people living in the houses along the wall on the eastern side were evacuated and all the windows bricked up. The rest of the country was fenced in with miles and miles of barbed wire and a wide strip of mined no-mans-land. In order to see footsteps another wide strip of raked sand was added later. Towers for sharp shooters were built. East Germany became a large prison with life going on as if everything was all right. But nothing was all right. People risked their life by building tunnels, balloons, micro-aircraft, even shooting wires across a street and became escape artists above the search lights. One young police man even stole an armored police truck and made it across the border and, despite being wounded and finding himself in a hospital bed he was happy because he made it! According to reports thousands got shot, many were wounded but they just did not give up trying to reach what is not even fully appreciated by the populace of western countries: Freedom.
Have you ever thought of freedom? What freedom means, to you or your family, your friends? It is something we don’t think about because it is something we take for granted.