1988 German dash for freedom--from West to East Berlin! (?)
Twenty years ago this week, the biggest escape ever over the Berlin Wall took place, but the event went nearly unreported outside of the two Germanies. The 182 persons who jumped over the Wall in the early morning hours of 1 July 1988, instead of leaving East Germany, fled in the opposite direction to escape the West Berlin police. East German border guards waited with trucks on the other side of the Wall in the middle of the death strip to pick up the wall-hopping protesters; they were driven to another location, served breakfast, and then taken to the Friedrichsstrasse crossing to West Berlin with the admonition to "use the usual border crossing next time."
By SERGE SCHMEMANN, SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: July 2, 1988
LEAD: Several score West Berliners scrambled across the Berlin wall at dawn today in a brief eastward flight, adding a bizarre Berlin touch to the swap of several bits of misplaced land between the two halves of the divided city.
Several score West Berliners scrambled across the Berlin wall at dawn today in a brief eastward flight, adding a bizarre Berlin touch to the swap of several bits of misplaced land between the two halves of the divided city.
The escapees were 182 denizens of a squatter's camp that sprang up in May on the Lenne Triangle, an overgrown lot in the middle of the city. The lot was the centerpiece of a long-negotiated effort to exchange 16 chunks of land that for various historical reasons were stranded on the wrong side of the line that divides Berlin. The squatters said they were there to block the construction of a highway that would erase the little corner of greenery by the wall.
Shortly after midnight, when the triangle formally passed to West Berlin, the police converged and demanded that the squatters leave. Finally, at 5 A.M., 900 police officers moved in, and most of the the squatters scrambled up and across the adjacent wall - as they had threatened to do - and into waiting East German trucks. Cross-Border Breakfast
In sharp contrast to westward escapes, in which defectors have risked and sometimes lost their lives to cross the broad no man's land between two 15-foot-high concrete walls, the eastward escape proved benign and brief.
East German border guards fed the escapees breakfast, took down their names and put them on a subway to West Berlin, where waiting West Berlin police officers also took down their names and then let them go. One person was arrested. The episode added an additional touch of craziness to an exchange that in itself reflected the anomalies of a Western city stranded deep inside the Soviet bloc.