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Berlin Blockade Escape Methods
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DescriptionBerlin Blockade Escape Methods
Berlin Blockade Escape Methods
The Berlin Wall was manned by 15,000 guards - the so called Volkspolizei (VOPOS). When Joseph Stalin attempted to starve West Berlin into submission by cutting off all electricity and supplies on 23 June 1948 the Western powers responded with the Berlin Airlift. The Berlin blockade was the first serious global crisis of the Cold War. West Berlin was kept alive by an airlift of over 150 aircraft supplying an average of 5,000 tons per day. By the time the Soviets ended the blockade on 12 May 1949 over 2.5 million tons had been delivered at the cost of 60 aircrew who had died in aircraft crashes.
724 observation posts/machine gun towers,
1,161 km of electric fencing,
54, 000 self-firing devices, and
190 km of mine fields.
Just between 13 August 1961 to 30 July 1983, 73 people were killed by the communists while attempting to escape over the Berlin Wall, 182 more people were killed attempting to escape from East Germany across the border into West Germany, 60,000 people were imprisoned for “preparation, assistance or complicity”, in attempting to escape from East to West Germany (with sentences ranging from 16 months to life imprisonment).
Yet 191,559 succeeded in escaping from East to West Berlin. 38,515 escaped by tunnels, by improvised air machines or hot air balloons, hidden inside vehicles travelling from East to West Berlin. 2,768 East German soldiers and officers on duty (including a Colonel) escaped to the West.
From the founding of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1949, more than 4,500,000 (over one quarter of the population) voted with their feet by fleeing to the West.
The East German government issued shooting orders to border guards dealing with defectors, though such orders are not the same as "shoot to kill" orders. GDR officials denied issuing the latter. In an October 1973 order later discovered by researchers, guards were instructed that people attempting to cross the wall were criminals and needed to be shot: "Do not hesitate to use your firearm, not even when the border is breached in the company of women and children, which is a tactic the traitors have often used".
Early successful escapes involved people jumping the initial barbed wire or leaping out of apartment windows along the line, but these ended as the wall was fortified. East German authorities no longer permitted apartments near the wall to be occupied, and any building near the wall had its windows boarded and later bricked up. On August 15, 1961, Conrad Schumann was the first East German border guard to escape by jumping the barbed wire to West Berlin
On 22 August 1961 Ida Siekmann was the first casualty at the Berlin Wall: she died after she jumped out ...
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