The Three Greatest Notable Escapes from the Berlin Wall After World War II

After World War II, an estimated 2.5 million East Germans fled to West Germany. This upset East Germany as they have already lost nearly a sixth of their population. To stop the exodus, they closed the borders between East and West Germany and erected the Berlin Wall.

Soldiers manned the barriers and were ordered to shoot anyone crossing the border. The Wall was quite effective, fearing for their lives, people stopped leaving. However, there are still some who have made extraordinary courageous attempts to get over, under, around or through the Berlin Wall.

1. Escaping via hot air balloon

Coworkers Peter Strelzyk and Gunter Wetzel wanted to escape to West Germany, but couldn’t think of a way to cross the border without dying. When Wetzel’s sister visited, she brought a magazine that had an article on hot air balloons. This gave Wetzel the idea of ​​building one that he could use to cross the border.

Wetzel told Strelzyk his idea and the two began designing their getaway vehicles with the help of an instruction book. The first two attempts failed, but the third one worked. So at midnight, the pair gathered their family on the highest nearby hill and crammed them into the untested hot air balloon. He floated towards West Germany, but when they approached the border, searchlights turned on them, fortunately, they had already traveled a long way and the lights did not reach them anymore.

The balloon’s flame went out when they ran out of gas. The balloon flew down and landed on the ground. They weren’t sure if they landed in West Germany or if they were still in the East. They started walking and came across a police officer who confirmed that they had successfully reached the west side of the border.

2. Escaping through cables

Horst Klein, a professional trapeze artist, was an outspoken anti-communist, so it was easy to see why he wanted to escape East Germany.

He chose to flee through the power cables that connect the two cities. He climbed the electricity pole and climbed the cable. It was terrifying for him – if he touched the tower and the cable at the same time, he would be burned to ashes… and if the East German soldiers spotted him, he would be killed too.

As he crossed from one tower to another, he saw two German guards patrolling behind him. Luckily for him, he was above the headlights so he couldn’t be seen.

On his last tower, he used the rope he wrapped around himself to try to lower himself to the west side. Unfortunately, his hands went numb from the cold and he couldn’t get a good grip on the rope. He fell 12 meters into the western border, had two arms broken, but was healthy and safe.

3. Driving a train through barriers

Harry Deterling was a well-known critic of the East German government. When he was threatened with being sent to a labor camp, he knew that he would soon have to flee.

Deterling, a railway engineer, learned that the tracks still connected East and West Berlin, but would soon be dismantled. He asked a friend, Harmut Lucy, to help him with his escape plan.

He told his family and friends about his plan and 24 of them joined him on the train. Deterling chose a train route that would take him closer to the border. As Deterling approached the designated location for the train, he did not slow down, instead stepping on the accelerator.

As the train thundered and slammed into the barriers, Deterling and Lichy took refuge in the cool reserve while their family and friends threw themselves to the ground. They skidded to a stop in West Germany and no one was hurt in their escape attempt.