Family Holiday at Lake Balaton, Hungary, June 1989: Outside the holiday house at Lake Balaton [2/9]



June 1989
Hungary, Tihany
Created By: Renate Börner

License: Creative Commons License


bench, group of people, joy


car, fall of the Berlin Wall, family, freedom, home, inner German border, island, isolating equipment, journey, joy, leave, surveillance, wave of refugees


Ministry for State Security


Lake Balaton

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"In February 1988, two brothers – Günther, born 1937 in Thuringia and still living there, and Fritz, born 1946 in Austria – met for the first time in their lives. (How this came about is a story in itself and not the point here.) After a lengthy bureaucratic process initiated in Austria, Fritz was granted a permit to travel to East Germany with his wife. It was an exciting, unspeakable moment when my husband Günther and I stood by the autobahn exit in Eisenach, and a car with Austrian number plates came down the road.

We made plans to see each other again soon. The inner German border was, of course, still intact, and at the time it was unimaginable that it would ever disappear. So it seemed to us that a meeting in Hungary would be the most realistic option. Back in Austria, Fritz booked a holiday for us all at a resort on the Tihany Peninsula. In June 1989, we met again there. As citizens of East Germany, we would never have been able to afford such a pretty little holiday cottage. Our financial means for Hungary were prescribed by the state. The whole resort was fenced in. Our car was the only vehicle from the GDR in the hotel car park.

We enjoyed our holidays together. But one thing made our Austrian relatives suspicious. A woman regularly passed by our cottage. They were totally convinced that the Stasi was observing us. A few days later, we also became suspicious. We noticed that there were cars from the GDR parked by the roadside and that nobody ever came to pick them up or drove them anywhere.

It wasn’t until we got home from a wonderful holiday with our newfound relatives – with fantastic day trips, and interesting evenings of wine and song – that we realised what had been going on! In Hungary, we hadn’t kept up with the news for days on end. Now we heard that many East German citizens wanted to leave their homeland because they could no longer bear being locked up, and they were gathering in large numbers in Hungary in the hopes of getting to West Germany via Austria.

Now we, too, understood why there had been so many abandoned East German cars in Hungary. People had left these material things behind because, at this moment in time, they were no longer important. A different idea had planted itself in their minds. The owners of these cars only wanted to escape to the 'Golden West' and live in freedom.

The border has long since disappeared, and the brothers and their spouses are now free to visit each other, show each other their beautiful homelands, and enjoy each other’s company. Isn’t that wonderful?"

Renate Börner (Dönges)