The Germans celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall


Little Peggy held on to the hand of her father, Peter Spitzner, who trembled with fear as the footsteps of the guard approached.

The couple was locked in the trunk of a car and was about to become the last person to cross the Berlin Wall – just three months before it fell, 30 years ago.

The sun he reports that he is among hundreds of Germans who risked their lives to escape the oppressive regime of the communist government in East Germany – which became a Soviet territory occupied in 1949 after the Second World War, dividing Germany into two.

The Berlin Wall – a four meter concrete and barbed wire barrier – was built to separate East and West in 1961.

Yesterday marks the 30th anniversary of the destruction of the wall, amid exultant scenes in both East and West Germany.

Shortly before midnight on November 9, 1989, a crowd of 20,000 Germans from the east, in a desperate attempt to escape the "prison" of East Berlin, gathered at the intersection "Open the Gate".

Realizing that they were more numerous, the guards obeyed and a flood of people poured into the streets of West Berlin.

The dismantling came as quickly as the construction, while enthusiastic crowds brought it down with axes – signaling the end of the cold war and the collapse of communism in Europe.

During the era of the Berlin Wall, on the east side the prices of housing, basic goods and services were fixed by the central government planners, who also controlled jobs and food rations.

They asked all citizens to support the Communist Party and the secret police – known as the Stasi – arrested 250,000 political prisoners who denounced their oppressive regime.

On the west side, the Germans enjoyed beautiful homes, better cars, freedom to work and study where they wished, freedom of speech and a democratic political system.

As a result, thousands of Germans living in the oppressed eastern state have made desperate attempts to escape a life of freedom in the West, including through ziplines and ropes.

Others, like 35-year-old Peter and seven-year-old daughter Peggy, have implored Western officials to covertly bring them.

"It was the most dangerous journey of my life," said Spitzner. "I was very scared and knew that if I was caught I would go to jail or even shoot me, and Peggy would be taken away and put in a house. But I felt I had no other choice. "


Peter and Peggy Spitzner's escape saw them trapped for over an hour in a stifling hot boot driven by an American soldier who took pity on them.

As a teacher Hans-Peter Spitzner – known as Peter – claims to have lived a relatively "normal" life with enough money and food, but fiercely opposed the communist ideals of the ruling party.

"We couldn't say what we thought of the system," he says. "We lived in a big prison."

In 1989, Peter was arrested by the Stasi early in the morning after refusing to vote for a communist candidate in rigged elections at his school.

"They questioned me for hours, about my life, my relationships, my thoughts and they told me that I was a bad man because I was against the system. I knew I had to leave, "he says.


In August 1989, Spitzner's wife, Ingrid, was granted a visa to visit the family in Austria and saw her chance to escape.

He drove from his hometown of Chemnitz to East Berlin, where he masqueraded as a tourist and approached over 20 people asking if they could sneak him and his daughter Peggy.

He was about to give up when he met American soldier Erik Yaw who agreed to smuggle them and the couple climbed into the trunk of his black sedan.

"I told Peggy that we would see her mother because she was in the West," he says. "I said:" If you want to see it, you have to be very quiet and get into the trunk of a car. "But for her it was like a game."

Private Yaw believed that the worst that could happen to him was extradition to the United States, but for the Spitzners the attempt was much more risky.


As the outside temperature rose over 30 degrees Celsius, the boot of the black sedan became unbearably hot as it stopped at the border.

Then came the terrifying sound of a guard's steps as he walked slowly around the car.

"I can't explain what I had in mind at the time," he says. "It was a dangerous situation, but I just waited, wanting her daughter to be quiet and eventually let the car pass."

Half an hour later, they came out of the oven boot in the West.

"I saw beautiful houses and I knew I was in the West. I was free. I had left the prison behind me and was very happy, "says Spitzner, remembering the emotional moment.

After the frantic phone calls to the hotel in Austria, where his wife lived, he was able to talk to her and tell her not to go back to the East.

"She was not happy about having risked the crossing to East Berlin," he says. "But he was happy that we had done it without hurting ourselves."


But not everyone who tried to cross the wall made it alive.

An estimated 718 people died in their attempts to cross the west wall – hit by Soviet guards or suffered terrible injuries from automatic spray-shooting devices that bordered the border.

In August 1962, the German guards of the East shot the eighteen-year-old Peter Fletcher and his teenage friend Helmut Kulbeik 21 times while crossing Nobody's land between two 13-foot barriers known as "the strip of death".

For now Peter lay dying while the West Berliners gathered, shouting for the East German guards to help and throwing bandages on the outer wall.

His death sparked a spontaneous protest with hundreds of western Germans who shouted "assassins" to the border guards armed with weapons.


On February 5, 1989, twenty-one-year-old Chris Gueffroy became the last victim, shot to death by border guards while doing his freedom offer with his friend Christian, in the middle of the night.

They easily climbed the inner wall but, as they ran towards the final barrier, a 10-foot metal fence, a guard began firing at them.

Chris was shot in the heart and died instantly. The wounded Christian was arrested and sentenced to three years in prison.

At home in his apartment in East Berlin, separated from the border by a small forest, Chris Karin's mother heard the shots, but had become a familiar sound in the 14 years she had lived there.

Days passed before the Stasi told her that he was dead, saying: "Your son was a criminal and that's how he was treated."

After the fall of the wall, the Berlin government erected a monument for Chris in the place where he tried to cross the border.

Ingo Heinrich, the border guard who shot Chris, was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to two years of suspension.

"Chris has paid a very high price for his courage and dream," says Karin. "When the wall fell, I did not shed tears of happiness. I was sad, but also happy that there would be no more injured people or death on the wall. "


Far from the wall itself, there were many brave attempts to cross from east to west.

One of the most spectacular was that of Gunter Wetzel and his colleague, Peter Strelczyk – who floated across the border in a hot air balloon bringing with them their wives and four children.

Gunter, 64, told The Sun Online, spent 18 months designing, sewing and building a steel plate basket and corner posts.

At 2 am, on a freezing night in September 1963, Gunter and his wife Petra put Peter Andreas into the trash, five and two years old, and, with Peter, his wife Doris and their children Frank, 15 and Andreas, went upstairs.

The disaster struck when a fire left a hole in the fabric and in a moment of heart failure, a series of projectors was pointed in their direction.

At 2000 m, the gas was exhausted, causing them to fall into the darkness and into a rapid descent, but they landed in the West.

"We were very relieved. It was great we did it. "



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