Cold War Culture east germany escape History hot air balloon News Science Technology WHM

Two families escape their country in homemade hot-air balloon

Two families escape their country in homemade hot-air balloon

Historical past is marked by nice feats of braveness, however few are extra vital than these undertaken to guard those we care about. Even in the face of imminent hazard, women and men all through time have put their lives on the road to make sure that no hurt would come to these they love.

Issues have been no totally different for Günter Wetzel and Peter Strelzyk. When the oppressive East German authorities turned a menace to their families, they hatched scheme beneath the nostril of the ever-watchful secret police and tried a daring escape that almost value them all the things…

Within the days of Soviet management, life for the individuals of East Germany was filled with hardship and strife. Between rampant poverty and authorities oppression, many working-class East Germans needed nothing greater than to escape to the freedoms of the west.

The Dialog

Amongst these dissidents have been Günter Wetzel (left) and Peter Strelzyk (proper), two manufacturing unit staff from the small city of Poessneck. With the wellbeing of their families their prime precedence, the 2 males sought a strategy to escape to the security of West Germany.

In fact, this was not an simply achieved objective. The East German secret police – generally known as the Stasi – had eyes and ears in all places. A lot as a single phrase uttered towards their Communist lifestyle might have an individual jailed and tortured for treason. 

Karl Marx Metropolis

Not solely that, however the Berlin Wall, which divided East and West Germany, was closely fortified, boasting tens of hundreds of armed troopers with orders to shoot on sight. Barbed-wire fences, vicious guard canine, and even landmines met those that managed to slide previous the wall undetected.

Wetzel and Strelzyk understood the dangers concerned in a ground-based escape, in order that they proposed setting up a helicopter that they might fly over the fortifications. However after smuggling a western aeronautical journal into Poessneck, the 2 males realized that their ticket to freedom was a way more primary car…


In contrast to a loud, clunky helicopter, a hot-air balloon would permit the lads and their families to move over the Berlin Wall with out being detected. Moreover, the supplies required to construct the balloon would draw much less suspicion from the Stasi than the massive metallic elements wanted for a helicopter.

However with neither man possessing a lot in the best way of aeronautical expertise, how have been they to assemble such a machine? They appeared to their native library for the reply, however no sooner did they start testing their plan that issues started to come up.

To ensure that the hot-air balloon to help the load of eight people, Wetzel and Strelzyk would wish an enormous quantity of cloth; nevertheless, buying such a lot of materials in Poessneck would certainly arouse suspicion. If this plan was going to work, they’d have to get artistic.


In an exhausting effort, the lads drove from city to city shopping for small quantities of cloth from quite a few totally different distributors. Once they’d lastly amassed sufficient supplies, Wetzel and Strelzyk started the painstaking means of placing all of it collectively.

Given his expertise as a mechanic, Strelzyk set to work developing the basket and burner. Wetzel, in the meantime, started on the balloon itself, stitching collectively the material on a hand-powered stitching machine over the course of two weeks. However even with their imaginative and prescient taking form, one query nonetheless lingered: wouldn’t it work?


They received their reply in late April of 1978 when, after weeks of looking, Wetzel and Strelzyk discovered a secluded subject in which to check their craft. They ignited the propane burner and watched because the balloon inflated… after which shortly collapsed.

Night time Crossing

Apparently, the material that Wetzel and Strelzyk had used to assemble the balloon was too porous, permitting the constructing air currents to escape. However the males wouldn’t be deterred. After burning the proof from their first plane, the optimistic pair went proper again to work.

This time, nevertheless, they labored smarter, utilizing taffeta to assemble the balloon and an electrical stitching machine to halve their manufacturing time. When balloon #2 was accomplished, Wetzel and Strelzyk have been assured they’d labored out all of the kinks from their first trial.

Because of the weight of the brand new material, the burner was unable to inflate the balloon to the altitude wanted to realize flight. With their freedom drifting additional out of attain on the heels of yet one more failure, one of many companions had had sufficient.

Night time Crossing

Fed up with their lack of progress, Wetzel deserted the undertaking in favor of pursuing different technique of escape. Strelzyk was torn over leaving his good friend behind, however in his coronary heart, he knew this balloon was his household’s solely probability to make it to the west.

On July three, 1979, after weeks of recalculations, Strelzyk and his household tried to flee East Germany ceaselessly with the assistance of his redesigned hot-air balloon. The launch went off with no hitch, however when the plane entered a big storm cloud the taffeta turned too saturated, they usually have been pressured to make an emergency touchdown.

Night time Crossing

On the bottom, Strelzyk had no concept the place that they had landed; for all he knew, he and his household might have floated over the Berlin Wall! However when the household stumbled upon a discarded flyer for an area bakery, Strelzyk’s fears have been confirmed: they have been nonetheless in East Germany.

Selecting between their lives and the balloon, Strelzyk and his household fled the crash scene and made the nine-mile journey again to their automotive. And although they’d hid the wreckage as greatest they might, they knew somebody was sure to seek out it.

Positive sufficient, the Stasi found the balloon, and by day’s finish, a warrant had been issued for the seize of its proprietor. Strelzyk knew that it was solely a matter of time earlier than the craft was traced again to him, or worse — to Wetzel. He had no selection: he needed to come clear to his pal.

Night time Crossing

Wetzel was livid, however whether or not he needed to confess it or not, he and Strelzyk have been nonetheless in this collectively. With the Stasi shortly closing in on the 2 males, they knew they needed to give their plan one remaining attempt. They needed to construct one final balloon.

Night time Crossing

On September 15, 1979, a stormy fall night served because the backdrop to the ultimate escape try for the Wetzel’s and Strelzyk’s, as all eight people climbed into the basket of balloon #three. After some last calculations and whispered prayers, the craft took off into the night time.

Night time Crossing

The balloon floated off the bottom with ease, however the best way in which the rope anchors had been reduce brought about the craft to tilt at an odd angle and positioned the burner dangerously near the balloon. Wetzel and Strelzyk rushed to right the flaw, however it was too late: the material had ignited.


Fortunately, the lads had introduced a fireplace extinguisher aboard and put out the flames earlier than they did any vital injury. However they weren’t out of the woods but, because the propane burner was utilizing extra gasoline than that they had anticipated. After 28 minutes of flight, the balloon started plummeting out of the sky.

Night time Crossing

The craft crash-landed in a big tree, spilling the 2 families out of the basket and onto the onerous earth under. They discovered themselves in a quiet forest, and, identical to Strelzyk two months prior, none of them had any concept the place they have been.

Night time Crossing

All that modified, nevertheless, when the group stumbled throughout a close-by farm, one a lot smaller than the economic plantations of Poessneck. As they inspected the farm gear, they shortly realized the machines have been American manufacturers. This might solely imply one factor: they’d achieved it. They’d made it to West Germany!


var bt_fb_app_id = ‘810246545721499’;
var bt_twitter_account = ‘boredomtherapy’;

perform loadSocial()
var WaitForFunction = perform (func, todo)
if (!$.isFunction(func))
setTimeout(WaitForFunction, 100);
else todo;

window.fbAsyncInit = perform ()
appId: 810246545721499,
standing: true,
xfbml: true,
model: ‘v2.four’
jQuery(doc).set off(‘fb-load’); //Set off fb load

if (typeof(FB) != ‘undefined’)
FB.Occasion.subscribe(‘xfbml.render’, perform ()
//console.log(‘fb is prepared’);

if (!bt.themeManageGa)
FB.Occasion.subscribe(‘edge.create’, perform (targetUrl, factor)
var likeid = ‘unknown like’;
if (aspect.hasAttribute(“data-like-id”)) // a like that we do not find out about?
likeid = ‘like_’ + aspect.getAttribute(“data-like-id”);

ga(‘ship’, ‘social’, ‘fb’, likeid);
//console.log(“LIKE ” + targetUrl + ” ” + likeid);

FB.Occasion.subscribe(‘edge.take away’, perform (targetUrl, component)
var likeid = ‘unknown in contrast to’;
if (component.hasAttribute(“data-like-id”)) // a like that we do not find out about?
likeid = ‘unlike_’ + aspect.getAttribute(“data-like-id”);

ga(‘ship’, ‘social’, ‘fb’, likeid);
//console.log(“UNLIKE ” + targetUrl + ” ” + likeid);

FB.Occasion.subscribe(‘message.ship’, perform (targetUrl)
ga(‘ship’, ‘social’, ‘fb’, ‘ship’, targetUrl);


perform go()
var s = ‘script’;
var js, fjs = doc.getElementsByTagName(s)[0], load = perform (url, id)
if (doc.getElementById(id))

js = doc.createElement(s);
js.src = url; = id;
fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);

jQuery(‘iframe’).every(perform ()
jQuery(this).attr(‘src’, jQuery(this).attr(‘data-src’));

load(‘//join.fb.internet/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1’, ‘fbjssdk’);
// Youtube
//load(‘//’, ‘youtube’);
load(‘//’, ‘gplus1js’);
load(‘//’, ‘tweetjs’);
load(‘//’, ‘pinitjs’);


perform checkLive(cellular, desktop)
var rn = desktop;
var isMobile = window.matchMedia(“only screen and (max-width: 640px)”);
if (isMobile.matches)
rn = cellular;
var rand = Math.random() * 100;
if (rand < rn)
ret = true;
ret = false;
return ret;

window.sticky_top_offset = zero;

!perform (f, b, e, v, n, t, s)
if (f.fbq)return;
n = f.fbq = perform ()
n.callMethod ?
n.callMethod.apply(n, arguments) : n.queue.push(arguments)
if (!f._fbq)f._fbq = n;
n.push = n;
n.loaded = !zero;
n.model = '';
n.queue = [];
t = b.createElement(e);
t.async = !zero;
t.src = v;
s = b.getElementsByTagName(e)[0];
s.parentNode.insertBefore(t, s)
doc, 'script', '//join.fb.internet/en_US/fbevents.js');

fbq('init', '780958225275101');
fbq('monitor', 'PageView');