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 house.
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 fire.
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.
More 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.
One young 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.
More than 100 people escaped through a sewer that the East German authorities had forgotten about.
The 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.