Tuesday, December 5, 1961: Escape from East Berlin

From the book "Berlin Wall: Monument of the Cold War" by Hans-Hermann Hertle:

Train driver Harry Deterling and his wife Ingrid do not want to live in the GDR as prisoners with their four children. In early December 1961, word gets around among railway employees that a still-open rail connection to Berlin is soon to be blocked off. Harry Deterling resolves to escape immediately to West Berlin on this line by steam train. On December 5 1961, he tells his relatives and friends the departure time: "The last train to freedom departs today at 7.33 p.m."

At around 8.50 p.m., the train driven by Harry Deterling passes the East German terminus, Albrechtstof, crosses the border and stops on West German territory. As a safety precaution, train driver Deterling and his stoker Hartmut Lichy have climbed into the coal tender while crossing the border; the passengers who know about the escape have thrown themselves onto the floor -- but not a shot is fired.

Twenty-five passengers remain in the West; seven return to East Berlin of their own accord. The train is pulled back to the West by a GDR locomotive.

The railway line is closed off the very next day. Tracks are torn up and barriers put in place; the border is made impassable. No train ever succeeds in breaking through the barriers again.

* Associated Press article (December 6; headline at left): @
* "The Berlin Wall: Monument of the Cold War" (book): @

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