Escape from the former East Germany by hot air balloon

It is now many years since we left East Germany in our homemade hot air balloon. Much has changed since then and East Germany has ceased to exist.

However, many things from this period seem to have been forgotten in the meantime and there are many young people who are either not familiar with this period or are simply too young to remember it.

I have therefore decided to tell the story of our escape on this website.

Some will now ask the question “why am I doing this now, after such a long time?”. I can answer this question readily: in the last few years I have read much about our escape and seen it reported extensively on television and through the radio. It was recently the 30th anniversary of our escape and the Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago.

A primary reason for the inaccuracies is that my family and I have very seldom appeared in the media since our escape. Due to our very rough landing I had sustained a tear to my right calf muscle and was admitted to hospital on the afternoon after the escape. I spent an entire week there and much happened during this time of which I was not aware. I was also unable to influence the events that immediately followed. The rest of that year was very turbulent and passed quickly and we decided in January 1980 to resume a normal, unassuming life. Fortunately we were both able to secure jobs and for a few years we had all but disappeared from public view.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall I understandably followed the changes in the East as well as the West with keen interest. After several years of attempts in our country to brush the issue of East Germany aside and to forget about it, I get the impression that there is a renewed interest in the GDR era.

Irrespective of whether one lived through this period or not, we should not allow it to fade into obscurity because these 40 years represent both a significant part of our own past and also the history of Germany.

Günter Wetzel