Fleeing from Eberswalde to Munich, August/September 1989 : Map [19/23]



August 1989
Created By: Hans-Michael Fritz

License: Creative Commons License




anxiety, border installations, certainty, escape, escape agent, escape route, family, freedom, identity document, journey, nature, priest, surveillance


International Red Cross, Ministry for State Security



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"Social and political conditions, and a variety of other factors, especially the Stasi’s surveillance of our family for years on end, played a key role in our decision to flee in January 1989.

I had originally wanted to flee on my own and made my preparations accordingly. But when my attempts to discuss my plans at the West German Embassy in Warsaw proved fruitless, I returned to East Germany. My wife and I then decided to flee together via Hungary. We filed an application to travel. At the end of August 1989, we took just enough clothes with us for a 'two-week holiday'. We had no exact map of the border region where we planned to make our escape, and no compass. We took nothing that might betray our intention to escape. All we had to help us on our way was our road map.

On our arrival in Hungary, we visited a woman friend of ours and told her of our plans. She wrote us three messages in Hungarian describing us as refugees in need of help. They proved to be very useful later on. Our goal was a Romanesque church in the village of Jak, about four kilometres from the Iron Curtain, on the border of southern Burgenland in Austria. Once there, we managed to contact the priest, who granted us asylum in the rectory until nightfall. He then drove us in his car to the edge of the village.

Now our journey really started. It took us about twelve hours, travelling through the dark rainy night. The following morning, we were physically and emotionally exhausted, and on the verge of surrendering to the Hungarian border officials. But then we suddenly thought: “No. We’ll never return! Never!” So we continued our journey in the early-morning light, unable to see any sign of the border as we drove on through shrublands and pastoral countryside. A Hungarian peasant helped us the last 200 metres of the way. We hurried to the border fence, which consisted of thorn bushes and barbed wire, and, summoning our last ounce of strength, crawled through. Nobody tried to stop us, not even from the watchtower we could see nearby. A little unnerved, we proceeded cautiously to the next village, to Oberbildein in southern Burgenland. Then, at about 9.30 a.m., we were picked up by a customs patrol car.

Only when we were in the safe custody of the customs guards and later of the Austrian Red Cross in Güssing did we know for certain that we were free. After a seven-day journey through Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Austria, we had finally reached our goal: Munich.

In September 1989, equipped with my green West German passport, I went to the district authority of the Hungarian Security Service in Szombathely where I collected my car, which had been left there. That green document helped me to banish my ever-present fear of being arrested. It was on this trip, with my wife accompanying me as far as the Austrian-Hungarian border, that I took the photos of the rural district of Güssing, a mere two kilometres from our escape route."

Hans-Michael Fritz (Eberswalde and Munich, now living in Schweina; born 1947)

Original Caption

"A page from an original GDR Hungarian road atlas, available at bookstores in the 80s. Official destination was the Romanesque church in the village of Ják (approx. 3.5 km from the border)."