East german defectors

In 1984, in the mountains of Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, a woman fled from East Germany. For years, Kerstin Beck had carried the dream, and then the plan, of escaping the GDR.

As a 24-year-old student at East Berlin's Humboldt University, she traveled to Soviet-occupied Afghanistan for intensive language training.

Around 5,000 people managed to escape the GDR after Germany's division [GALLO/GETTY] But from the day she arrived in Kabul six months before her eventual escape, she knew she would not return to East Germany.

"I couldn't live the way I wanted; I couldn't study what I wanted. I only knew one corner of the world, but I wanted to see all of it," she said.

Just before she was due to return to the GDR, Beck met a Mujaheddin who took her to his mother's house.

The women of the house asked her why she would want to go to Pakistan but were supportive when she explained that the GDR was a Communist state and she did not want to return there.

Early the next morning, on the day she was due to return to the GDR, some Mujahidden gave Beck the burqa that would be her disguise for the next few days and they set off on their journey.

At the checkpoints they crossed, Beck pretended to be the men's cousin from Tajikistan.

Just a couple of hours after she started her journey, two fellow students told the East German embassy in Kabul that Beck was missing. Checkpoints were set up across the country and an aeroplane heading for India was held so that the security forces could check the passengers.

After the Mujaheddin had escorted her through the last army checkpoint and deep into their territory, they handed her over to four armed men who would accompany her to the border.

But four days later as the border was in sight, she was stopped by some armed men. The men accompanying Beck told her: "They found out that you are a Western woman - you are wearing the burqa, but the way you are walking is very different to an Afghan woman."

Beck eventually crossed the border into Pakistan, but once there she was held at the Mujaheddin's headquarters for nearly two weeks as the leaders of rival groups fought over her. Some wanted more money, one was convinced that she was a Soviet KGB spy and another wanted to marry her.

A member of an influential exiled Afghan family finally took her to live with them in Peshawar.

On April 14, 1984, one month after she started her journey from Kabul, Beck got on an aeroplane to Frankfurt in West Germany.

Surfing to Denmark
Dirk Deckert and Karsten Kluender dreamt of traveling, surfing, sailing and freedom.

"I wanted to live in a country where I could do what I wanted, I didn't mind risking my life for freedom," Kluender said.

The pair lived near the sea and decided to attempt an escape by surfing to Denmark.

In addition, emigration restrictions were used to keep secrecy about life in the Soviet Union. [30] Starting in 1935, Joseph Stalin had already effectively sealed off outside access to the Soviet Socialist Republics ( and until his death in 1953 ), effectively permitting no foreign travel inside the Soviet Union such that outsiders did not know of the political processes that had taken place therein. [31] During this period, and until the late 1970s, 25 years after Stalin's death, the few diplomats and foreign correspondents that were permitted inside the Soviet Union were usually restricted to within a few miles of Moscow, while their phones were tapped, their residences were restricted to foreigner-only locations, and they were constantly followed by Soviet authorities. [31] Dissenters who approached such foreigners were arrested. [30] For many years after World War II, even the best informed foreigners did not know the number of arrested or executed Soviet citizens, or how poorly the Soviet economy had performed. [30]

In the Yalta and Potsdam conferences, the Allies established their joint military occupation and administration of Germany via the Allied Control Council (ACC), a four-power (US, UK, USSR, France) military government effective until the restoration of German sovereignty. In eastern Germany, the Soviet Occupation Zone (SBZ – Sowjetische Besatzungszone ) comprised the five states ( Länder ) of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern , Brandenburg , Saxony , Saxony-Anhalt , and Thuringia . Disagreements over the policies to be followed in the occupied zones quickly led to a breakdown in cooperation between the four powers, and the Soviets administered their zone without regard to the policies implemented in the other zones. The Soviets withdrew from the ACC in 1948; subsequently as the other three zones were increasingly unified and granted self-government, the Soviet administration instituted a separate socialist government in its zone.

East german defectors

east german defectors

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