The true story of and by a political prisoner in East Germany from 1985, imprisoned by the communist regime and the GDR Stasi (MfS) secret service

Thank you for your interest in my story as a political prisoner in East Germany (from 1985).

I was imprisoned by the communist GDR (German 'Democratic' Republic) regime and their Stasi (MfS - Ministerium für Staatssicherheit) secret service because, as a 20 year old, I tried to find my own way of life.

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The story is written like a timelined blog, so the first entrance - the start of the story - sits all the way at the bottom of the blog and you can use the 'Newer' / 'Older' command to follow the story.

There is also a chronological timeline content list here.

One more trail explains the backgrounds that only came to my attention after I studied my Stasi files many years after the ordeal; and another trail tells the story of the beginning of a new life.

I recorded this story as personal Facebook Life Events exactly 30 years after everything happened and my friends convinced me to create this dedicated website so this history witness document will survive the times and is independent from any development at third party platforms.

To keep the site going I would like to ask a small donation if you believe that it has its value in the vast online universe.

Please Donate

Many thanks. Jens

25 years - without me

25 years ago today they built that monster.

It devastated families and communities, a whole society.

Today was my official release day from Stasi prison back to home.

 

Instead I stand here and celebrate my freedom with new friends and new hope.

Still with a sad heart as I miss my family and friends so very much.

Will I ever see them again?

 

This spot, in the farthest Southwestern part of Germany connects France, Switzerland and West Germany.

When I cross the borders, sometimes several times daily, they don't even stop or control us here.

This is what I spent the last 16 months in the Stasi prison for.

13-August 1986. Me, celebrating my freedom with friends on the 25th anniversary of the building of the wall. In the distance the Swiss Jura mountains.

13-August 1986. Me, celebrating my freedom with friends on the 25th anniversary of the building of the wall. In the distance the Swiss Jura mountains.

Freedom to live.

Freedom to develop into the person I want to become.

I will spread my wings and grow them, I will earn this liberty.

I promise!

 

Willkommen

Administration all day.

Medical, secret services, labor office.

They want to send us on our way within just days.

 

Where should I go?

Fighting with West Berlin where most comrades went and Baden-Württemberg where my dear friends from Leipzig live.

Their letters that were handed to me from the government officials in the bus, are intriguing for a solid, robust start.

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There will be so many new learnings, development and opportunities now.

A new trail, a new era.

I have arrived.

Touching fresh grass

The bus stops.

Two gentlemen enter.

“Welcome in the Bundesrepublik Deutschland.”

 

Government officials from the West German Minister of Intra-German Relations.

Explaining the next steps and where they’ll take us.

Giessen refugee station.

 

They hand out letters to most of us.

Some of them are older than a year.

I get three letters from my friends.

 

"Welcome to freedom, when you receive this letter you will be free... why don't you come down to us, we can support your start period with experience and ideas... economy is good, unemployment rate is down..."

 

Actually I wanted to go to West Berlin.

Many of my comrades had planned to go there.

I'll have to decide within the next couple of days I guess.

 

The trip will take another 2-3 hours.

Stepping out of the bus, the sun is shining.

My first steps as a free man, my first touch of fresh grass.

 

And then they give us sandwiches.

Freshly baked rolls with lettuce, salami, tomatoes and cheese.

This is the most delicious food I have ever eaten in my entire life.

Hallo guten Morgen Deutschland

Exhaustion, overcooking joy on a carpet of relieve.

Vogel’s white Volvo stopped at the last check point.

The bus driver switching on the PA for the first time.

 

“Welcome to the Bundesrepublik Deutschland fellows.

I’m glad we lost those bastards but I can’t even imagine how you feel about them.

We will take a quick stop in a couple of minutes, relax and sing, welcome home!”

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Tears!

Trucker song: “Hallo guten Morgen Deutschland” by Tom Astor.

We drive through small, beautifully decorated villages on nicely paved roads.

 

The grass IS greener here and the sun DOES shine brighter in every way.

I only know this country from photographs and TV.

And my dad’s stories.

 

This is the first time I am not sad about my family.

I know that they’ve been waiting for this as much as I have.

And we will find ways to get together and be a family as much as it’ll be possible.

 

Jumping

The border.

What are they proztecting here, the fucking universe?

Miles of towers, barbed wire installations, armed patrols and check points.

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The bus drives through a special lane.

Passing all standing cars, all check points.

Driving at walking speed before the last check point.

 

The bus door opens, bus rolling ever so slowly.

The Stasi officers jump out the slowly rolling bus.

A massive burst of noise, screams, yelling, tears!

 

WE MADE IT!

 

Fork in the road

The border must be close.

The Stasi officers move to the front.

There is still an awkward silence in the bus.

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Traffic gets thinner now.

In the distance rolling hills with the fortification installations.

Some of the comrades in this bus got close and got caught years ago.

 

There is a fork dividing traffic.

Taking the road to Western Germany.

Everything is really unnerving now, unbearable tension.

 

In the back of the bus

Autobahn for a good half hour.

Vogel in front with his Western Volvo.

The Stasi people still in the bus behind us.

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How long will the trip take?

What will happen at the border?

When will my parents know the news?

 

It is awfully quiet in here.

Everyone is in deepest thoughts.

Plus we hate these idiots in the back.

 

One sunflower

This is the first time in a long time I see civilians.

People moving around, cars driving by.

The bus is rolling slowly through town.

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At a rotten old bridge I see a sunflower growing through the concrete cracks.

We drive past it with medium speed but it seems like a still image.

It is such a cheesy symbol but this flower will always be with me.

 

Rolling in disbelieve

We are all without a citizenship right now.

Waiting for what might happen next.

The let us out.

 

A bunch of guys in civil clothes.

Walking outside a political prison.

Straight into a blue Kässbohrer bus.

 

East Berlin license plates.

I never sat in a Western bus.

Everything is clean and comfortable.

Original Kaessbohrer bus that was used to trade political prisoners from communist East Germany to West Germany. The license plate changed automatically from an East Berlin plate to a West Germany registered plate as soon as the bus crossed the border.

Original Kaessbohrer bus that was used to trade political prisoners from communist East Germany to West Germany. The license plate changed automatically from an East Berlin plate to a West Germany registered plate as soon as the bus crossed the border.

 

There is a strange mood among us.

Disbelieve mixes with fear and excitement.

16 months pass by me, my family, my friends, my home town.

 

Wolfgang Vogel, the key negotiator, lawyer who brokers the deals.

Right here in the bus, right next to my seat, put’s his hand on my shoulder:

“Na, Thieme, Christmas?!” - referring to that discussion I had in prison with lieutenant Kulas

 

I don’t believe my ears!

It’s all a big fucking game, isn’t it.

I’m glad he leaves the bus or I would jump at him.

 

There are two Stasi officers in civil clothing in the back and one in front.

Everything follows a plan, a process, a routine.

Rather fast, we take off.

 

They would

The most important document of my life.

The release from the citizenship of the German ‘Democratic’ Republic.

This is the most expensive document for the price I have paid, my family has paid.

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Almost 16 months of Stasi prison.

I’m still in their hands.

It’s only paper.

 

There were rumors also that they had kicked people off the bus a mile ahead of the border.

Would they go through all the work and process to get you off that bus and bring your back after all?

 

I think they would…

 

Stupid money

172 Marks.

That’s my entire ‘salary’.

And I’m supposed to spend it all.

 

They tell me that I can’t take anything out here though.

“So, how much time will I have to consume it all?”

“Officially your sentence ends 13-August.”

 

Wow, I’m with stupid.

“So, what happens when I leave before?”

“I’m not supposed to give you an answer to that.”

 

Ok, giving up.

Bought 20 packs of cigarettes and dozens of packs of cookies.

When we came back to our cell we tossed everything into a locker for everyone to take whatever they wanted.

 

A first act of absolute ease and freedom.

A playful way of not caring anymore.

Don’t have to care anymore.

 

So we all hope.

There are some rumors.

Of guys still heading out the wrong door.

 

‘Can’t be’, telling this to myself all day.

Started signing some papers in the afternoon.

An old photographer who stank of garlic and booz.

 

Haven’t smelled that in 1.5 years.

We declined the ‘free walk’ in the walled prison yard.

 

Soon we’ll have the entire planet to walk on, any way we chose.

 

Exhausting joy

What a day.

What excitement.

This is really happening.

 

One short talk with an officer.

Not friendly but correct.

Routine really.

 

Will see a bunch of admins tomorrow.

Paperwork and legal procedures.

Medical check Tuesday.

Kaßberg Stasi prison from the inside. A photo taken after renovation to become a memorial.

Kaßberg Stasi prison from the inside. A photo taken after renovation to become a memorial.

 

He wouldn’t tell me anything else.

Assuming to leave mid next week then.

I can still hardly comprehend what is happening.

 

Seeing the new comrades and feeling the excitement is truly a new world.

What will life be for me in the next weeks and months?

How will it feel to finally see the sun again?

 

Food is not much better but not limited.

“They want to stuff us before the release.”

Haven’t eaten a lot for I’m way too excited.

 

Apparently we will get all our money we ‘earned’ working in their factories.

There is a store with regular goods where we need to spend it all.

It can’t be transferred to the parents, jail money.

 

When will my family and friends know?

I guess not before I’m long gone.

It’s been the best day.

 

Exhausted from being afraid, shocked and surprised.

Lamed by the continuous joy.

An unusual emotion.

 

Another arrival

The van stops.

It’s been way more than one hour.

I counted the first 15 minutes, doubled it by feeling and doubled it again.

 

Anything after the second double would bring me closer to the dream.

This trip was unbearably stressful.

The door opens.

 

Two guards outside.

“Where are we?”

“JVA Kaßberg.”

Stasi prison Kaßberg (in a neighborhood in former Karl-Marx-Stadt, Chemnitz today). Tract A housed political prisoners, tract B these political prisoners processed for ransom by the West German government, tract C was a reserve. 

Stasi prison Kaßberg (in a neighborhood in former Karl-Marx-Stadt, Chemnitz today). Tract A housed political prisoners, tract B these political prisoners processed for ransom by the West German government, tract C was a reserve. 

 

This is it.

I made it!

The final stage.

 

They push me inside.

Run down as all their prisons.

New clothes and a new cell with 5 inmates.

 

“Is this a dream?”

“You made it mate!”

“4-5 days and you’re gone”

 

Still can’t believe it.

Everybody is giggling and foaming with joy.

Plans are made and shared, stories told without the darkness.

 

Some have been here since yesterday, some a little longer.

“It takes them 4-5 days and then the bus picks you up.”

“Direct one way ticket to freedom mate."

 

Doubt

The time is eating on me and the doubt.

Why am I alone in this vehicle?

How long still?

Inside a Stasi prison van. Perspective from the driver cabin. Windowless cell boxes to the left and right. The vans were marked as delivery vans with produce promotion and the likes.

Inside a Stasi prison van. Perspective from the driver cabin. Windowless cell boxes to the left and right. The vans were marked as delivery vans with produce promotion and the likes.

 

Trying to make out direction or sounds to give me clues.

It’s impossible though within these locked, dark cell boxes.

If they send me closer to home though we should leave the autobahn now.

Where to?

That vehicle again.

This is definitively a transport.

No other prisoners however and that worries me.

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There is one central place for political prisoners’ processing right before they send them across the border.

Kaßberg prison in Karl Marx Stadt, the processing takes 4-5 days.

The trip should take around 2 hours.

 

If the trip takes less than an hour I’ll be closer to home.

And that would be horrible news.

Back to Kästner jail?

 

Out the door

Everything feels like slow motion.

I am like wrapped in an invisible protective foil.

Impulses from the outside, I act on them mechanically.

 

Faceless guards guide me to a windowless room in the basement.

Three officers busy with paperwork, me on a wooden bench.

No words are exchanged, I’m numb with surprise.

 

I didn’t pay attention in the hallways whether there are more comrades taken today.

It is a Thursday and in the last weeks the Thursday transport schedule held firm.

Why are there no other prisoners down here or are we just shielded?

 

Will they take me to another prison for the remaining weeks and still release me home?

Or is this indeed the final processing to get me across the border to the West?

Were the lawyers and the West German government successful in the end?

 

One guard takes a large envelope, stuffs some documents in and heads out the door.

Another takes a file and points me to the door.

Out were are heading.

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Is this the day?

“SG 1240: pack your things.”

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There he stands, the guard, in the door, all of us ready to leave for work and he speaks the sentence.

The sentence I have been dreaming about, yearning for, wanting so much.

Is this a horrible trick or another ugly development?

 

The comrades have a huge grin on their faces.

They fall into my arms in big relieve.

My mind is kicked in.

 

All of a sudden it feels as if I am standing in a bubble.

Outside a lot of movement, noises I can’t make out.

The guard rushing me to get out the door.

 

That cell door that kept my dreams, hopes and wishes contained.

A last turn to fetch my only three allowed pictures of my family.

Last hug from my very dear friends, some crying.

 

Can this be happening?

Is this the real thing?

Will I be free at last?