Iron Curtain Escape: My Escape to Freedom (Iron Curtain Memoirs Book 3)

How One Writer Uncovered the Truth About the Family She Lost in the Holocaust
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Precious seconds ticked by. The area was crawling with guards carrying machine guns. Some had snarling dogs at their sides. If they caught Hartmut, he could be thrown in prison—or worse. Hartmut grabbed the wire with his bare hands. He began pulling it apart, hoping he could make a hole large enough to squeeze through. Hartmut Richter was not a criminal escaping from jail. He was not a bank robber on the run.

He was simply an year-old kid who wanted nothing more than to be free—to listen to the music he wanted to listen to, to say what he wanted to say and think what he wanted to think. Now he was trapped in the water by a wall of razor-sharp barbed wire. Hartmut grabbed the wire with his bare hands and began pulling it apart, hoping to make a hole large enough to squeeze through.

Hartmut Richter was not a criminal escaping from jail or a bank robber on the run. He was just an year-old kid who wanted to be free—to listen to the music he wanted to listen to, to say what he wanted to say and think what he wanted to think. Hartmut was born in Germany in He lived near the capital city of Berlin with his parents and younger sister. This was a bleak time for his country. During the war, Germany had invaded nearly every other country in Europe.

It had carried out the Holocaust, systematically murdering 6 million Jewish people. Germany was deeply shamed by the horrors the country had unleashed on the world. The war had left much of Germany in tatters. Cities had been bombed into ruins. Buildings and streets were pocked with holes from bullets and grenades. Many people were struggling to feed and house themselves. It was during these brutal postwar years that Germany became caught up in a struggle between the two strongest countries in the world: the United States and the Soviet Union which included modern-day Russia.

He lived near the capital city of Berlin with his parents and sister. Germany was deeply shamed by the horrors the country had unleashed.

It was during this time that Germany became caught up in a struggle between the two strongest countries in the world, the United States and the Soviet Union which included modern-day Russia. The struggle between the U. This Cold War was not fought with bombs and armies. It was fought with fear and threats. During this period of tension, both nations vied for power and control across the world.

This struggle would go on for more than 40 years. The U.

The Cold War Part 1 - The Iron Curtain

They competed to make the deadliest weapons, filling up warehouses with bombs more powerful than anything the world had ever seen. They told stories that vilified each other. During this time of tension, both nations vied for power and control across the world. This struggle went on for more than 40 years. They competed to make the deadliest weapons, filling warehouses with bombs more powerful than anything the world had ever seen. The Soviet Union in red existed from to During the Cold War, East Germany was one of a number of countries in orange under the influence and control of the Soviet Union.

In , when Hartmut was 1 year old, this area became a new country: East Germany. The official name was the German Democratic Republic. The capital city of Berlin was divided between East and West Germany. Life in East and West Germany could not have been more different. As West Germany recovered from the war, the people who lived there began to thrive.

They had lives like Americans. You could walk into a bookstore and choose from all sorts of books. There were newspapers that expressed many viewpoints. There were planes to take you anywhere you wanted to go. Teenagers were watching the latest Hollywood movies and listening to the Beatles.

Winston Churchill: His Childhood, Life, and Memorable Speeches

But in East Germany, many felt they were living in a prison. You could only read books and see movies approved by the government. Listening to the Beatles—or any rock and roll music—was forbidden. And getting news of the outside world was extremely difficult. Journalists were allowed to write only what the government told them to write. If you were caught breaking a rule, the penalties could be harsh.

They listened to phone calls and read personal mail. And they were notorious for their brutality. This is the country Hartmut was growing up in. And this is the country he was determined to leave. In , when Hartmut was 1 year old, this area became a new country - East Germany. Life in East and West Germany was very different. As West Germany recovered from the war, the people there began to thrive. Teens watched the latest James Dean movies and listened to the Beatles.

Listening to the Beatles - or any rock and roll music - was forbidden. And with journalists allowed to write only what the government told them to write, news of the outside world was rare. For those caught breaking a rule, the penalties could be harsh. They decided that Germany would be divided into zones. France, the U. The capital city of Berlin was also divided into four zones. In , the areas controlled by the U. The area controlled by the Soviet Union became East Germany.

From to , millions fled, and Berlin was one of the main places for escape. By , 1, people were crossing from East Berlin into West Berlin every day. East German leaders were alarmed by the flood of people leaving the country. They became determined to put a stop to it. And so on August 13, , at in the morning, they began building a giant wall to physically separate East Berlin from West Berlin. How strange it must have been for Hartmut, who was 13 at the time and visiting relatives in Berlin, to wake up that morning and see the capital city literally cut in two.

Streets connecting the two sides of the city were blocked off. So too were train lines and sewers.

A Story of Tyranny, Freedom, Love and Identity

Phone lines were cut. Families and friends were suddenly separated. If you happened to live on one side of the wall and work in the other? Too bad. You had to get a new job. Over the years, many people tried to get over the Berlin Wall. Some made a run for it. Others dug tunnels deep underground.

Many were caught and thrown in prison—or killed. Historians estimate that as many as 5, people managed to escape. At least died trying. From to , millions fled. Berlin was one of the main places for escape. They wanted to put a stop to it.

One Man's Journey to Freedom: Escape From Behind the Iron Curtain

And so on August 13, , at 1 in the morning, they began building a giant wall to physically separate East Berlin from West Berlin. Hartmut, who was 13 at the time and visiting relatives in Berlin, woke up to find the city literally cut in two. Train lines and sewers were too. Over the years, many people tried to get past the Berlin Wall.

Others dug tunnels. Many were caught and thrown in prison - or killed. Construction on the Berlin Wall began in At first, it was mainly barbed-wire fences. But over the years, the wall was expanded to include enormous concrete barriers. By the s, it extended nearly miles, surrounding West Berlin completely.

Three hundred watchtowers with armed guards stood along its length. Hartmut had heard about a section of the canal that was not well guarded—a place he could climb in undetected. On a warm August night in , Hartmut put on his darkest clothes. He carefully wrapped in plastic his ID and some money—the only belongings he would take with him. He did not tell his parents or sister that he was leaving. He knew that would only put them in danger with the Stasi. He could not even say goodbye. Then, under the cover of darkness, Hartmut made his way through the streets. Just past midnight, he quietly slipped into the canal and began to swim.

He figured it would take him 20 minutes—not easy in the cold water but not impossible for someone young and strong.

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