Fall of Berlin Wall reminds me of great escape story

By Barry Farber

It was with great pride and delight that I watched our media make such a big deal over the 30th anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. I had thought our once-great American media had dismissed it with a yawn and a ho-hum. I had feared that the sense of pride in freedom and democracy, and in all that America has done in her glorious role as freedom’s flame and a beacon unto the nations, had been forgotten.

Hearing again on radio and television last week the oft-repeated words of President Ronald Reagan imploring Soviet ruler Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall!” once again turned tired blood into sparkling burgundy. It had been a tremendous thrill to hear those words the first time and another big thrill when Mr. Gorbachev actually complied. But my greatest thrill was to have my own daughter chopping away while sitting atop that notorious wall as the words of freedom echoed around the world.

That’s how I can now claim a personal connection with the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. I’m not the president who issued that plea, nor was I physically there. However, one my daughters, Celia, was there, in person, on Nov. 9, 1989, and was among those chopping away at the wall as freedom and democracy were scoring a non-violent victory over communist enslavement!

And thanks to my daughter I was able to share, via my radio broadcasts, the details of a great story of escape from East Germany. I think it just might be the greatest “escape-from-communism” story possible.

Mind you, this story competes with those of Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians sailing on small boats across the Baltic to freedom in Sweden, and of people who bet with their lives they could get away with the great gamble of hiding themselves in the trunk of a car that had free passage back and forth. And there were the athletes and performers who defected in the middle of their gigs at events billed as “cultural exchanges” between communist nations and the West.

And let us not forget to give honorable mention to the bicycle racer from Czechoslovakia who sewed over a dozen raincoats into a balloon and literally floated over the heads of his communist masters from Czechoslovakia to West Germany with his wife, children, bicycle and all!

Here, now, is the saga of the German who was smart enough to use communist psychology to defeat the German communists and make a clean getaway to the West.

Apparently, this East Berlin resident’s acting abilities were as strong as his desire to escape communism, and he pulled off the following maneuver. One night, he walked up to Checkpoint Charlie, the famous border crossing between communist East Berlin from democratic West Berlin. He strode as though he owned Checkpoint Charlie and all the surrounding real estate. And, as he expected, an angry communist border guard shouted, “Halt! Where are your papers?” The man feigned a look of confusion and then pointed to the gatehouse and said, “I think my papers are in there. I’ll go look for them.” And, again as he expected, the communist guard said, “No! You stay right here! I’ll go look for them!”

That eliminated the first layer of obstruction, the first communist border guard, from our hero’s path to freedom. He then changed his whole demeanor, from that of an arrogant field marshal who owns the place clear over to a sniveling slave begging for a favor. He approached the second communist border guard and said, “Excuse me, please. I live in West Berlin, and I just got a phone call that my mother, who lives in East Berlin, has suddenly taken ill. I was so upset I ran from my apartment without my papers! Would you please let me into East Germany so I can see my mother? Please, please, please, let me into East Germany!”

And again, as he hoped and expected, he ignited the fury of that communist border guard, who shouted, “What? You want to go into East Berlin? You are in East Berlin!” And the guard added, “I don’t care about your mother! You are not allowed to be here!”

And then, with a bony finger of fury, he pointed over into West Berlin, and shouted “Get back over there!” Our hero then pretended to be crestfallen and miserable until he was safely across the border into West Berlin!

His mother, I’m sure, enjoyed the story as much as I did!

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