The Berlin Wall didn't stop all East Germans. An estimated 10,000 of them
tried to escape to the West. About 5,000 made it.
Some escapes were ingenious. One woman hid under the hood of a car. Two
families floated over the border in a hot-air balloon as big as a four-story
Other escapes were just plain hard work. One group took six months in
1964 to dig a 145-yard tunnel from the cellar of a former West Berlin
bakery to an outhouse on the eastern side. They freed 57 East Berliners.
The escape ended when East German soldiers sprayed the tunnel with machine-gun
Even soldiers escaped. On Aug. 15, 1961, the first member of the East
German People's Army leaped to freedom. After him, about 2,000 soldiers
fled to the West.
In all, 246 people died at the wall. Perhaps the best known was 18-year-old
bricklayer Peter Fechter. On Aug. 17, 1962, he tried to jump the barbed
wire near Checkpoint Charlie, a key border crossing between the American
and Soviet sectors of Berlin. East German soldiers fired. Fechter fell.
The East Germans would not allow anyone to help him as he bled to death.
"Murderers!" yelled West Berliners.
Fechter, the wall's 50th casualty, became a symbol of all those slain
at the Berlin Wall. His death was memorialized with wreaths and crosses.
stories of people who went over, under, around, or through the Berlin
Wall to the West:
A truck carrying
a group of East Berliners simply crashed through the wall. The driver,
though shot, kept going. He later died from his wounds.
woman in West Berlin made a U.S. Army uniform. She got buttons and
badges from officers by saying they were for a play. She borrowed
an American car, drove over to East Berlin and brought back two friends.
A team of
young mechanics engineered a chain of folding ladders guided by pulleys
and ropes. They scaled the electrified wall without touching it.
Two men used
an archery bow to shoot a cable over the wall and onto a roof on the
Western side. They attached pulleys to the cable and sailed across
the wall - 65 feet - in 30 seconds.
At a blind
spot between two checkpoints, people could swim across a small river
and climb to freedom. British soldiers hung a rope ladder at the spot
to help escapees.
100 people escaped through a sewer that the East German authorities
had forgotten about.
East Berliners who escaped became heroes in the West. Yet those who
died trying to escape also performed courageous acts. Do you think
that the people who simply survived the oppression of the Berlin Wall
were heroic as well? Why or why not?
Write a short story about a daring escape attempt. You can base the
story on a real situation or devise your own escape plan.