These terms were instrumental in the preparation of my book “Wege durch die Mauer”. They were used by all escape helpers, including the “gangsters”. Most of them were coined by the "first fathers" of aided escape – Detlev Girrman, Dieter Thieme and Bodo Köhler.


A family member, friend or acquaintance, who submitted the application for the aided escape of one or more escapees. In the beginning, of course, there were no applicants. The very first escape helpers, however, had lists with the names of students, who lived in the East but studied in the West. Because of political reasons they were not allowed to study in the East. When these students came into the West, they usually became applicants instantly. The system functioned in a pyramid scheme . Other possibilities of contacting an escape helper, like using the press, political parties or secret organizations, hardly existed or were seldom realized.


A list of questions in order not to forget anything when submitting an application.
A list of questions in order not to forget anything when submitting an application.

The applications looked similar for most escape helpers: they required a photo, name, age, place of residence and contact information of the escapee. This was particularly important if the person lived in the GDR, the "Zone" or correct the former Sowjet Zone, (in that case we needed an intermediary – in other words, an East-Berliner who could travel into the Zone, since the "runners" (see definition further down) were only allowed to enter East-Berlin and not the Zone). However, establishing and keeping up contact in East-Berlin also was quite difficult: if the person wishing to escape was not at home, if an unsuspecting (or intentionally uninformed) family member answered the door, if the person had no separate room in which the parties could speak privately, if a house resident observed or heard the contact initiation and therefore the contact had to be cut off  quickly, if the immediate escape would endanger friends or family members, etc..

The application also had to contain an absolutely secure password, always in the form of a dialogue, i.e., in a florist's shop: Runner: "I'm here to pick up the seven gerberas." Escapee: "They're no longer fresh. Can I offer you seven roses instead?" Two further sentences were often added to insure maximum security. These dialogues should only be known by the applicant and the escapee, the escape helper headquarters and lastly the runner; absolutely nobody else should know them. In this way the escapee could be certain that the contact person was “genuine” and the runner could be certain that the person whom he had approached was really the escapee.

For our passport forgeries most of the time we needed to enlarge the existing photo, because the photos in Eastern passports were smaller than those for Western passports. In the cases of escapes conducted in modified cars, the purpose of the photo on the application was to protect the runners contact. When he had recognized the escapee by the picture he could observe him for a while in order to determine whether he gave any hidden signals, which would have revealed him as a snitch.

Automobile Modification

For a full survey into this subjekt, please check my book "Wege durch die Mauer".


A route is burst or discovered: the border guards or Stasi – who were identical as of 1962 – discovered the tour, so it could no longer be used.

By Resemblance

For a full survey into this subjekt, please check my book "Wege durch die Mauer".


This is what helpers were called, who brought passports, then later also medicines and books into the East. Carriers of passports were nearly always employees of a consulate or embassy; in other words, foreigners, who were examined less thoroughly by border guards.

Books and medications were carried principally by socially conscious students. Although they were always examined, these tours never failed. This worked best using a inter-zone highway. The students would leave the "material" at predetermined points in parking areas. The material was then picked up by the recipient in the East, after it was determined that "the coast was clear" (the GDR had established a security system which was relatively difficult to overcome. Pensioners earned extra money by observing the various parking places; either in plain sight, or – if they were malicious – from a hiding place.  Delivering material was therefore a dangerous endeavor; collecting it, even more so).

Passports were nearly always carried from West Berlin into East Berlin. Books and medicines, on the other hand, were often delivered using the highway between Berlin and the FRG: most often from and to Hanover, that being the shortest route through the GDR.

For a full survey into this subjekt, please check my book "Wege durch die Mauer".


For a full survey into this subjekt, please check my book "Wege durch die Mauer".


For a full survey into this subjekt, please check my book "Wege durch die Mauer".

Escape Helper

For a full survey into this subjekt, please check my book "Wege durch die Mauer".


To fetch a refugee: to bring a resident of the GDR into the West by whatever means possible.

Fleeing from the GDR

After the end of Word War 2 in 1945, ca. 4, 5 Million people fled from the GDR until the wall was built on August 13, 1961. (Remember, the population of the State was only 15 – 17 Million to begin with!) The daily average was 770 refugees; and in times of political tension the escape rate rose to over 1,000 – 4,000 daily. Languid citizens who wanted to arrange themselves with any regime – were not those who fled, but rather, the intelligentsia: physicians, engineers, college professors; but also laborers and farmers, who thought about the future.  Above all, young people – the percentage of escapees under 24 years of age was greater than 50 –  fled. By virtue of this "running ballot" it was clear that the SED party would not have had the ghost of a chance to form a government in the GDR, if an open and free vote had been held. That, however, was not an issue: the communists wanted to form the population according to their own conception. It was absolutely beyond question, that the population should have the right to elect them into – or out of – power.

After the national uprising of June 17, 1953 Bertold Brecht, a staunch socialist / communist, wrote a poem, which characterized this situation:

Die Lösung

Nach dem Aufstand des 17. Juni
Ließ der Sekretär des Schriftstellerverbandes
In der Stalinallee Flugblätter verteilen
Auf denen zu lesen war, dass das Volk
Das Vertrauen der Regierung verscherzt habe
und es nur durch verdoppelte Arbeit
Zurückerobern könne. Wäre es da
Nicht doch einfacher, die Regierung
Löste das Volk auf und
Wählte ein anderes?

Translation: The Solution

After the rebellion on June 17
The Secretary of the Authors' Collective
Had flyers distributed on Stalinallee
Which stated that the population
Had betrayed the trust of the government
And only by working twice as hard
Could regain it. Would
It not be simpler, if the government
Dissolved the population and
Elected a different one?

Four-Power-Agreement status

Following the conferences of the later allied victorious powers (without France), the foreign ministers of the USA, Great Britain and the Soviet Union signed a protocol in Malta and Yalta in 1944 concerning the division of Germany into "Zones" after the end of the war. It was stated pertaining to Berlin: "The territory of greater Berlin shall be occupied jointly by the armed forces of the USA, the UK, and the USSR." France was amended to this protocol on May 1, 1945. From that time on there were four powers who divided Berlin among themselves. In accordance with this, the entrances and exits to and from the city were controlled by a four power status. The Western powers had, however, overlooked the fact that only the flight paths had been defined exactly. The connections by road had been defined only by statement of intent. For this reason the USSR was able to block the land routes on the 24th of June, 1948 without having broken the four power agreement. Thereupon Americans and British then installed the "Berlin Airlift", which caused the first defeat of the USSR in the cold war: the Soviet Union reopened the land entrances to the city on May 12, 1949.

One passage in the Four Power Agreement on Berlin stated that no German military force was allowed in Berlin. This part of the agreement was broken by the GDR by erecting the wall in 1961, when the NVA (National Volksarmee = National Peoples' Army) was stationed in East-Berlin and later on at the border between East- and West-Berlin. The FRG upheld the agreement until the end of the divided status of Germany.

For a full survey into this subjekt, please check my book "Wege durch die Mauer".

FU (Free University)

FU or Free University was established in West-Berlin as a political opposite pole to the communist-led Humboldt University (HU) in East Berlin. FU was founded principally by students and professors who until then had studied or taught in East Berlin. The interferences of the ruling government in the areas of research and doctrine had become so massive, that many students developed a wish to establish a new university in West Berlin as early as 1946 /1947. In 1948, party functionaries expelled a few students from the University answering completely harmless offences. That was the signal for others to become active: the founding members were able to make use of several villas ("where there's a villa, there's a way") and former scientific institiutions in relatively intact post-war Dahlem. In this manner, they were able to establish a "back room" university.

It was clear, that the universities in the GDR would protest this. But the disagreeing echo of nearly all West German universities, which condemned the founding – because it had occurred due to political reasons – was disgraceful! That was an antiquated and unrealistic way of thinking; that was the mildew of a thousand years! ("Unter den Talaren der Muff von tausend Jahren - mildew of a thousand years hidden under academic robes" was a slogan of the 1968 student protest movement). The FU gained stability through generous donations from the USA, primarily from the Ford Foundation, which allowed the construction of several buildings and lecture halls.


According to the Stasi and the East German press, every escape helper was a criminal, a CIA-henchman and a "preparer" of a Third World War, when he lured a citizen away from the GDR (no person was ever lured away from the East. Nearly all people whom I met during decades in the GDR wanted to leave their homeland as quickly as possible and under any and all conditions). This condemnation and categorization is simply ridiculous.

Unfortunately, there were also those individuals during the history of aided escapes who called themselves escape helpers, but only profited from the plight of others. I call them gangsters, myself. Even so, differentiation is necessary. There were gangsters, who had a certain sense of honor and really tried to bring people from the East in to the West. But there were others, who even cooperated with the Stasi and who led people consciously into traps. However, I haven't studied this area thoroughly and can only point to publications yet to be released (I know of one being prepared by a friend of mine, whom I supplied with documents and other materials).

Food for thought: Of course there was a large scale of possibilities and characters, which were hard to classify: Was Wolfgang Fuchs a gangster, or merely shady, because he organized runs which were in some cases dangerous, where shootings could and did occur? (For example, escapes directly over some of the barbed wire barriers by means of cranes. Luckily, no one was wounded.) Also, what should we think about newspaper ads offering moving services, for which the escape helpers charge large sums of money, but perform the escapes with great professionalism (Lenzlinger, for example)?

For a full survey into this subjekt, please check my book "Wege durch die Mauer".


There were informers, snitches, among the escape helpers who caused great damage. Foremost among them:

  • Jürgen Mielke, waiter, born 10.27.1941 in Berlin
  • Dr. Georgios Raptis, chemist with Schering in Berlin, born on Lesbos, Greece, 2.3.1938. Later returned to Greece – very ill. Died 8.2.2008
  • Siegfried Uhse, Barber or Hairdresser, later unemployed in West Berlin. Believed to be hiding either in Thailand or near Nürnberg, where he may have died (he was supposedly very ill).

The last two were responsible for causing great grief to more than 200 people! I describe their activities in detail in my book.


Escape helpers did not differentiate between former GDR citizens who had already fled to the West and those still in the GDR, who were planning to escape. All were called refugees. This simplification was for practical reasons, not ideological ones.


For a full survey into this subjekt, please check my book "Wege durch die Mauer".


an escape ran – the planned route functioned, it was ready for action, to bring refugees across.


By sure, this was the term used most often. It meant people, who were able to travel from West- into East-Berlin and meet a refugee there. In the beginning anyone could do so, but after ten days only citizens of West-Germany or foreigners were allowed in.

A runner had to be ready to do anything needed for a flight, such as alter passports in East-Berlin, find safe accomodation, etc. To avoid any risk a runner would principally not bring passports, medicine or books into the East. These were jobs for other helpers who were well aware of the risk they went through, and who quite often had to be paid for.

For a full survey into this subjekt, please check my book "Wege durch die Mauer".

Stasi (State Security Police)

In the former GDR in 1989 about 91,000 people worked full-time in Stasi positions for the Ministerium für Staatsicherheit (Ministry of State Security) (MfS.) In addition, 180,000 "IM ("Inoffizielle Mitarbeiter = unofficial colleagues, informal colleagues, secret informers, etc.) were employed: among them were 3000 West German citizens, who performed special tasks in the West (there were 12,000 "moles" in the FRG as well, who were awaiting orders to become active). All of them were very efficient workers with the Stasi, whose jobs were to spy on their neighbors in the West and relatives in the East. In the Fall of 1989 there were 280,000 people in the GDR who worked incognito mainly against their own fellow citizens. Statistically, there was 1 Stasi agent for every 58 "normal" GDR citizens. Also, 1 out of every 20 physicians was active in the Stasi! There were just as many informers in the SED, the "state supporting party". Every 10th soldier in the armed forces was a Stasi informer. The Stasi was therefore the largest secret service organization in world history! During the existence of the GDR, about 900,000 people served with this criminal organization (see below).

These numbers do not include the millions of "information carriers" who existed and increased in numbers at all times in the GDR. They reported – often voluntary and fully consciously – to the Stasi everything they wanted to know about colleagues at work, neighbors, relatives, clients of lawyers, and patients of doctors.  After officially permitted trips outside of the GDR, they also reported on the working conditions in the capitalistic foreign territories. They had never signed an agreement, and yet were an integral part of the Stasi oppression apparatus. In spite of all the differences between both German dictatorships in the 20th century, one comparison is perhaps of interest here: during the National Socialist era there were 32,000 Gestapo-employees (Geheime Staatspolizei = Secret State Police). 1 agent for every 2,500 "normal" citizens (other calculations even show a relation of 1: 8,500).

For the Soviet Union and its KGB, a relation of 1: 600 was calculated: one tenth of the relation prevalent in the GDR! Even that is remarkable. This disproportion, however, is completely extreme when compared to the data pertaining to Nazi Germany – and it is clear to everyone, that National Socialism possessed an extremely misanthropic machinery of oppression and espionage against its own people. At least in view of espionage and surveillance, the GDR outstripped our earlier dictatorship immensely! For every Gestapo agent, we had 43 (and in some calculations, as many as 150) Stasi agents. These people in both dictatorships can only be described as criminals, because they all served only to preserve the power of a small clique of master criminals who trod on all human rights.

The population of the "Deutsches Reich" (German Realm) cheered its "Führer" (Leader) and the dictatorship of National Socialism even after people had long since recognized that they were living in a totalitarian state. In the GDR, however, the majority of the population never stood in agreement with their government and Socialism. For this reason the ruling powers considered the extreme surveillance by the Stasi as absolutely necessary.

The GDR was a different dictatorship in comparison to National Socialism, but it was a dictatorship, although those born later refuse to see that. The so-called "Drittes Reich" would still have been a dictatorship even if it had not executed Jews and Communists, nor had incited a world war! In a dictatorship it is possible to experience a happy childhood. Regulations of traffic and civil laws do not necessarily lead to infringement against human rights. The difference is that criminal justice contains a great number of political crimes which would never be considered punishable in a constitutionally correct state. How can fleeing from the republic be a crime, when every person is entitled to live where he / she wishes?

The most alarming fact about the informer circle of the Stasi is that the majority of its members were – at least, as long as they worked in that capacity – dedicated to the ideals. Apparently, a surprisingly large number of individuals were fascinated by the prospects of frightening other people, unsettling them, and exercising power over them.

Spying on someone quite often led to the victim's incarceration and torture: in the relatively small GDR there were 170,000 to 200,000 political prisoners (about 72,000 charged with "attempted flight from the Republic") until 1989; roughly every 80th or 90th GDR citizen found himself imprisoned for some period of time due to political reasons. This statistic includes infants, children and the aged. About 130,000 citizens were persecuted, brutally interrogated, beaten, tortured, and "degraded" (GDR slang: today we say "mobbed" – and not only at their workplaces) by means of "legends" (false stories invented for denunciation). The danger of this type of "degrading" was also given in ones own family or circle of friends.  It was so perfidiously and effectively planned, that many citizens only discovered – to their great dismay – upon examining Stasi records after the political transformation, that they had been betrayed by people whom they had trusted implicitly. Yet their slightest move had been reported to the Stasi. As so many people feared the Stasi, the most effective method of degradation was the spreading of rumors that the targeted person was a Stasi spy. In this case, all his friends and colleagues distanced themselves from him and no longer spoke to him.

The notorious Stasi-guideline 1/67 describes 7 "proven forms of degradation" and 5 proven "methods and means". For example: "systematic discrediting of public reputation", or "systematic organization of professional and social failure in order to destroy self-confidence".  By employing these methods, it was no longer necessary to imprison the "suspects"; they were already effectively destroyed. The Stasi was quite proud of this. An annual report verified that the steadily increasing number of attempted and successful suicides could be accredited to this "operative degradation."

During the few years in which the GDR existed, around 300,000 citizens were persecuted for political reasons, roughly every 50th citizen. Even in our present day, former Stasi members view these fellow citizens as criminals, as people whom they were justified in "breaking" by any means necessary. Many of these victims suffered under depression or psychosomatic illnesses due to post traumatic stress elicited through Stasi "treatment." Many of them were never able to recover, as long as they lived. They were broken. Lifelong. The worst tragedy is that they were never treated medically, couldn't be treated, because the State and the Stasi wanted them to suffer.

The Stasi took its role very seriously, saw itself as the "sword and shield" of the only decisive party in the GDR: the SED. The Stasi passed its own laws whenever possible, became a State within a State. In view of its actions, the Stasi was a criminal organization which bent the law according to its own whims and harassed the citizens of the GDR according to its own discretion and without supervision.

The findings of my personal research in this area are quite interesting. Many GDR citizens had "established" themselves in the State. They had to raise their children to lie: four-year-olds had to say in kindergarten, that they only knew the TV program series of the "East Sandman" and the Clock on TV at the end of the transmission (both the Sandman and the clock were different from the ones shown in the West), although most households were watching only channels from the West. The adults had to be active in the "German-Soviet Friendship Society" – albeit without enthusiasm – if they were not party members of the SED, but it was possible to live that way; as long as one did not land in the hands of the Stasi, quite often for harmless and coincidental reasons. In that case, the Stasi made people into their enemies through beatings and torture. Hasso Herschel is a good example of this. Before the random "treatment" by the Stasi he was an enthusiastic member of the Young Pioneers and Free German Youth organizations. Thereafter, however, little of this enthusiasm remained: he had now become a permanent enemy of the State. Many GDR citizens had experienced similar incidents and escaped to the West with our help.

Every fourth GDR citizen – up until 1961 – had fled to the West. Of the rest, who did not flee, 1 out of 60 had been persecuted by the Stasi and 1 out of 85 had either been in prison, or had suffered psychological damage through their treatment. In German, the GDR is abbreviated as DDR – Deutsche Demokratische Republik. Those who had not fled were called by some GDR citizens as DDR – Der Doofe Rest (The Stupid Rest). Repeating this popular joke could bring you to prison for 2 years! Without the wall this State would have collapsed in 1961 – although not as peacefully as in 1989. Could anyone possibly be proud of this dictatorship?

And if so, he must ask himself, at what price? Or rather, at whose expense? "We were all aware that we would all have dirty hands sooner or later; there was no possible alternative. After a certain time, no-one knew anymore whether a particular behaviour was tactics or had already become opportunism." This is a quote from Wolfgang Engel, who was at that time the general director of the Leipzig Theater.

Socialism / Communism as a form of government – as in every form of dictatorship – rendered innocent people guilty. Even if one had only been an observer and could do nothing but maintain silence. Nonetheless, this "moral guilt" should be differentiated and not classified as the actual guilt of the perpetrators who represented and propagated this inhuman State.

For a full survey into this subjekt, please check my book "Wege durch die Mauer".


For a full survey into this subjekt, please check my book "Wege durch die Mauer".

Tour or Route

This term defined every way across the border or through the wall. A tour could be a tunnel, or a trick with passports. This term was used when – due to security reasons – one did not want to tell someone the exact route, or how the tour "ran". If one wanted to be, or could be more specific, one spoke of an Auto tour, a passport tour, a tour through a foreign country, etc.


Vopo is the abbreviation of "Volkspolizei" (People's Army). This was an euphemistic term for the police in the East. It would have been more appropriate to have named them "Antivolkspolizei" – Police against the People.