A leap into freedom

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Hans Conrad Schumann (March 28, 1942 – June 20, 1998) was an East German soldier who famously defected to West Germany during the construction of the Berlin Wall on 15 August 1961.

Conrad Schumann was immortalized in this photograph as he leapt across the barricade that would become the Berlin Wall. The photo was called “The Leap into Freedom”. It became an iconic image of the Cold War.

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Born in Zschochau, Saxony during the middle of World War II, he enlisted in the East German state police following his 18th birthday. Since he had always shown himself to be a loyal and hardworking young citizen of the German Democratic Republic, local military officials offered him an elite position in the paramilitary Bereitschaftspolizei or BePo (“riot police”), which was specifically conceived to suppress rebellion.

On 15 August 1961, the 19-year-old Schumann was sent to the corner of Ruppiner Strasse and Bernauer Strasse to guard the Berlin Wall on its third day of construction. At that time, the wall was only a low barbed wire fence. At the same spot, on the West Berlin, was standing the 19-year-old photographer Peter Leibing. For more than an hour, Leibing stood watching the nervous young non-commissioned officer as he paced back and forth, his PPSh-41 slung over his shoulder, smoking one cigarette after another. “Come on over, come on over!” (Komm’ rüber!) the West Berlin crowd on Bernauer Strasse chanted. “He’s going to jump!” one passerby remarked.

And at four p.m. on August 15, 1961, Leibing got lucky. Schumann tossed aside his cigarette, then turned and ran for the coil of barbed wire that marked the boundary between East and West. He jumped, flinging away his gun as he flew, and Leibing clicked the shutter.

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After the fall of the Berlin Wall he said, “Only since 9 November 1989 [the date of the fall] have I felt truly free.” Even so, he continued to feel more at home in Bavaria than in his birthplace, citing old frictions with his former colleagues, and was even hesitant to visit his parents and siblings in Saxony. On 20 June 1998, suffering from depression, he committed suicide, hanging himself in his orchard near the town of Kipfenberg in Upper Bavaria.

In May 2011, the photograph of Schumann’s “leap into freedom” was inducted into the UNESCO Memory of the World programme as part of a collection of documents on the fall of the Berlin Wall.

A sculpture called Mauerspringer (“Walljumper”) by Florian and Michael Brauer and Edward Anders could be seen close to the site of the defection,but has been moved since then to the side of a building on Brunnenstraße, several meters south of Bernauer Straße.

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The Thing-not the movie.

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The Thing, also known as The Great Seal Bug, was a passive covert listening device, developed in the Soviet Union and planted in the study of the US Ambassador in Moscow, hidden inside a wooden carving of the Great Seal of the United States. It is called a passive device as it does not have its own power source. Instead it is acivated by a strong electromagnetic signal from outside. The device was code named LOSS by the US and RAINDEER by the Soviets.

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On 4 August 1945, the Vladimir Lenin All-Union Pioneer organization 1 presented a hand-carved replica of the Great Seal of the United States to US Ambassador Averell Harriman, as a gesture of friendship to the USSR’s World War II ally. It hung in the library at the Residency Spaso House.

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Unknown to the Americans however, the carving contained an HF radio bug of a novel design, in that it didn’t have its own power source and was not connected via wires. Instead, the device was illuminated by a strong radio signal from the outside, which powered and activated it. It gave the bug a virtually unlimited life and provided the Soviets with the best possible intelligence.

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The bug was finally discovered by the US State Department in 1952, three ambassadors later, during the tenure of Amb. George F. Kennan.

In 1951, a British radio operator was monitoring Russian air force radio traffic, when he suddenly picked up the voice of the British Air Attaché loud and clear, but a survey of the embassy did not reveal any hidden microphones. A similar thing happened to an American interceptor in 1952, when he overheared a conversation that appeared to come from the ambassador’s residency at Spaso House. After a search by the Department of State, the bug was finally discovered by means of a so-called crystal-video receiver , whilst the Russians were actively illuminating the bug.

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The device appeared to be hidden inside the wooden carving behind the ambassador’s desk, and resembled a cylindrical microphone with an antenne rod connected to it. Tiny holes in the wood under the eagle’s beak, guided the sound to the membrane of the bug that was mounted just behind it. When the Russians knew that an important meeting would take place, they parked an unmarked van in the vicinity of the residency 3 and illuminated the bug. A receiver, tuned to the bug’s resonant frequency, was then used to pick up the conversation in the ambassador’s office.

The discovery of the bug was kept secret for many years, until the 1960 U-2 incident . On 1 may 1960, the Soviets had shot down an American U-2 spy plane over Soviet airspace, as a result of which the Soviet Union convened a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, accusing the Americans of spying. On the 4th day of the meeting (26 May 1960), in an attempt to illustrate to the council that spying between the two nations was mutual, American Ambassador to the UN, Henry Cabot Lodge, revealed the Russian bugging device.

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The Thing consisted of a tiny capacitive membrane connected to a small quarter-wavelength antenna; it had no power supply or active electronic components. The device, a passive cavity resonator, became active only when a radio signal of the correct frequency was sent to the device from an external transmitter. This is currently referred in NSA parlance as “illuminating” a passive device. Sound waves (from voices inside the ambassador’s office) passed through the thin wood case, striking the membrane and causing it to vibrate. The movement of the membrane varied the capacitance “seen” by the antenna, which in turn modulated the radio waves that struck and were re-transmitted by the Thing. A receiver demodulated the signal so that sound picked up by the microphone could be heard, just as an ordinary radio receiver demodulates radio signals and outputs sound.

Theremin’s design made the listening device very difficult to detect, because it was very small, had no power supply or active electronic components, and did not radiate any signal unless it was actively being irradiated remotely. These same design features, along with the overall simplicity of the device, made it very reliable and gave it a potentially unlimited operational life.

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East Berlin to West Berlin- The 3.6 Metre journey that took decades to finish.

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When we hear the stories of Berlin wall, we don’t often realize that basically the dimensions weren’t that great, and it is often forgotten that it was actually West Berlin that was surrounded by the wall and not East Berlin.

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The height of the wall was 3.6 Metres (11.8ft). On August 13 1961 the works to build the wall started.

In November 1989 the wall came down. So for 28 years the people from Berlin were divided by a 3.6m high wall. The collapse of the Eastern European communist regimes didn’t start in Germany though.

In May 1989 the Hungarian government began dismantling the electrified fence along its border with Austria (with Western TV crews present).

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in September, more than 13,000 East German tourists escaped through Hungary to Austria.This set up a chain of events. The Hungarians prevented many more East Germans from crossing the border and returned them to Budapest. These East Germans flooded the West German embassy and refused to return to East Germany.

Below are some pictures of the events of late 1989 when the people from East Berlin were finally free again to travel to the west which eventually resulted in Germany to be re-united and Berlin to become one city again.

People crossing Bronholmer Road to get to West Berlin.

By the time this photo was taken, the Soviet Ministry had already given out 10 million visas for travel and 17,500 permits to permanently emigrate from East Berlin.

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A line of thousands make their way toward the Berlin Wall, ready to leave East Berlin.

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East German ruling party spokesman Günter Schabowski announces that people can pass freely across the Berlin Wall.

Berlin. November 9, 1989

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East German border guards demolish a section of the Berlin Wall.
November 11, 1989.
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A worker tearing down a statue of Vladimir Lenin sneaks in a quick kick to its head.

Berlin, Germany. November 13, 1991.

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Crowds in East Berlin help one another climb over the Berlin Wall and into the freedom of West Berlin.

November 1989.

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No one can hear you in Space

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Laika, the ‘space dog’ was sent into orbit from Russia in 1957. She was the first living creature to orbit the Earth. She was sent on a one-way mission but sadly died less than a week after blast-off.

Laika was a stray dog from the streets of Moscow before she was selected to become the first animal in space.

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The space chimp, Ham, survived a space flight from the United States in 1961. The test was done to ensure that a human being could survive space flight, think clearly and perform useful functions outside of the Earth’s atmosphere.

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The charred remains of Soviet cosmonaut, Vladimir Komarov. His spaceflight on Soyuz 1 made him the first Soviet cosmonaut to fly into outer space more than once, but he also became the first human to die on a space mission. He was killed when the space capsule crashed on re-entry in April, 1967.

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At 10:39 pm on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong opened the hatch of the lunar module. As he made his way down the lunar module’s ladder, a television camera attached to the craft recorded his progress and beamed the signal back to Earth, where hundreds of millions watched in great anticipation. At 10:56 pm, Armstrong spoke his famous quote, which he later contended was slightly garbled by his microphone and meant to be “that’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”. He then planted his left foot on the gray, powdery surface, took a cautious step forward, and humanity had walked on the moon.

Buzz Aldrin joined him on the moon’s surface at 11:11 pm, and together they took photographs of the terrain, planted an American flag, ran a few simple scientific tests, and spoke with President Richard Nixon via Houston. By 1:11 am on July 21, both astronauts were back in the lunar module and the hatch was closed. The two men slept that night on the surface of the moon, and at 1:54 pm the Eagle began its ascent back to the command module. Among the items left on the surface of the moon was a plaque that read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon–July 1969 A.D–We came in peace for all mankind”

Astronaut Edwin Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon, 1969

John F. Kennedy and NASA officials at Cape Canaveral, being briefed on the pending Apollo launch. From left to right is Jim Webb, NASA Administrator; Lyndon B. Johnson, Vice President; Kurt Debus, NASA official; JFK, President; Maj. Gen. Lee Davis, USAF; Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense.

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Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin who made the courageous, life-changing decision to become the first human in space, making a 108-minute orbital flight in his Vostok 1 spacecraft in 1961.

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The launch of Vostok 1, the first manned spaceflight in history in 1961.

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Michael Collins took this picture (below)of the Lunar Module, containing Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong with Earth in the background, during the Apollo 11 mission. This makes him the only person ever to have lived who was not inside the frame of the photo. Matter cannot be created or destroyed. That means that every human that lived up to the point of this photo being taken still exists, at least in some form, and every human that has been born since then was also is in this photo, at least in some form. So even if you were born after this picture was taken, the materials you’re made from are still on the frame of this picture.

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The entertaining Norma Jean-Marilyn Monroe & the troops.

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In February 1954, actress Marilyn Monroe traveled to Korea to entertain the American troops. She performed a quickly thrown-together show titled Anything Goes to audiences which totaled over 100,000 troops over 4 days. Then tour was also a chance for the film star to overcome a degree of stage fright. She remarked that the Korea trip “was the best thing that ever happened to me. I never felt like a star before in my heart. It was so wonderful to look down and see a fellow smiling at me”.

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In one show where the start was delayed the troops got frustrated and threatened to riot so the opening acts had to be cancelled to get her onto the stage sooner. The crowd adored her and they truly enjoyed her visit.

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She looked amazing on her baggy army uniform. Ted Sherman, who served in the Navy during World War II and Korea, recalled: “I was with a group of Navy guys who happened to be at Daegu Air Force Base when we heard Marilyn would entertain there that night. We convinced our transport pilot to find something wrong with our R4D transport, so we could delay the return flight to our ship in Tokyo Bay for that one night. It was a great evening for all the homesick guys who were dazzled by the movie star’s performance. The sight and sounds of Marilyn singing ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ is a memory I still cherish”.

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Monroe flew to Korea during her honeymoon in Japan with husband Joe DiMaggio.

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The baseball star was said to be annoyed by the fact that more fans turned out to see Marilyn in Japan than to see him and he refused to join her in Korea. Even at this early stage in their marriage the cracks were starting to show and they divorced later that year.

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The dismantling of Checkpoint Charlie

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During the Cold War, Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie was one of the crossing points between West and East Berlin (and West and East Germany). It was operated by members of the U.S. military in the American Sector of the city.

Located by the Berlin Wall, which divided the German city during the Cold War, Checkpoint Charlie was at the junction of Friedrichstrasse with Zimmerstrasse and Mauerstrasse.

Checkpoint Charlie was dismantled on the 22nd of June, 1990, about seven months after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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The checkpoint, marked by a beige-painted metal shack, was built on the Western side of Friedrichstrasse shortly after the Berlin wall was begun in 1961. The East German Communist Government, with Soviet approval, had designated Friedrichstrasse as the only crossing point between East and West Berlin for non-German vehicles and pedestrians.

It was the scene of a tense confrontation between Soviet and American tanks in October 1961, and later of successful and unsuccessful attempts by East Germans to escape to the West.

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On June 22, 1990 the guardhouse at Checkpoint Charlie was removed with great ceremony.
The former Allied guardhouse is now located in the Allied Museum.
A copy of the US Army guardhouse was errected on the original place on August 13, 2000

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Ich bin ein Berliner

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The speech is considered one of Kennedy’s best, both a notable moment of the Cold War and a high point of the New Frontier. It was a great morale boost for West Berliners, who lived in an enclave deep inside East Germany and feared a possible East German occupation. Speaking from a platform erected on the steps of Rathaus Schöneberg for an audience of 450,000, Kennedy said: Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis romanus sum [“I am a Roman citizen”]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner!“… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner!”.

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Kennedy used the phrase twice in his speech, including at the end, pronouncing the sentence with his Boston accent and reading from his note “ish bin ein Bearleener”, which he had written out using English spelling habits to indicate an approximation of the German pronunciation. Another phrase in the speech was also spoken in German, “Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen” (“Let them come to Berlin”), addressed at those who claimed “we can work with the Communists”.

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While the immediate response from the West German population was positive, the Soviet authorities were less pleased with the combative Lass sie nach Berlin kommen. Only two weeks before, Kennedy had spoken in a more conciliatory tone, speaking of “improving relations with the Soviet Union”: in response to Kennedy’s Berlin speech, Nikita Khrushchev, days later, remarked that “one would think that the speeches were made by two different Presidents”.

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Kennedy held the speech on 26 June 1963, less then 3 months later he was killed.

 

Soviet labor camps

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Before the close of World War II, when the Red Army failed to leave Eastern European countries, Stalin’s sphere of influence was expanding. Eventually that group of Soviet-occupied nations became known as the “Warsaw Pact.”

At Yalta, Stalin apparently never meant for his troops to leave.  He just forgot to mention it to Churchill and FDR.

It didn’t take long for Churchill to predict what would happen if Stalin controlled Eastern Europe. It was, he said (at thirty-eight minutes into his “Sinews of Peace” speech), as though an “Iron Curtain” had descended. Soon after one war ended, another – the “Cold War” – had begun.

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Soviet propaganda posters claimed “We Are Invincible.” (From left to right the pictured flags are from occupied Romania, East Germany, Bulgaria, Soviet Union, Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia.)

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No posters, and no propaganda mentioned another crucial fact: While Nazi concentration camps were being closed, more and more Soviet forced-labor camps were being opened.

 

The first Soviet labor camp (which Solzhenitsyn called the “mother of the GULAG”) was a former monastery – Solovetski Monastery. Perhaps there was symbolism in that choice with barbed wires replacing open doors.

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Located in the far north of Russia, the monastery at Solovetski has its own walled fortress.  For six months every year, harsh winters in the area virtually cause the place (and its people) to become isolated from the rest of the world.

It was, in other words, an ideal place for a prison. Early leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution began to use it for that purpose.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn described the monastery-turned-labor-camp this way:

This was the basic idea behind Solovki.  It was a place with no connection to the rest of the world for half a year.  A scream from here would never be heard.

Helmut Kohl and the German re-unification

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On this day of his passing it is good to look back at his biggest legacy, although he was not solely responsible for it, he did play a major and decisive part in it.

There were two, very moving developments that led to the reunification of Germany: the democratization of the east, especially made possible by Mikhail Gorbachev, and the courage of thousands of people who fought for their freedom. At the end of 1989 these events came together and ended up a new state – the Federal Republic as we know it today.

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8 August 1989130 people flee from the German Democratic Republic, the GDR, to the Permanent Representation of the Federal Republic in East Berlin.

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They are a few of the many thousands who want to leave their home country via Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland.

4 September 1989 This date is considered to be the start of the so-called Monday demonstrations. Around 1000 people gather in Leipzig and demand more rights and freedom. On the following Mondays there are ever more people who defy the brutal excesses of the security forces.

11 September 1989 Hungary opens its borders to Austria. Within only three days 15,000 people flee.

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At the end of September the Soviet and East German government gave 6,000 refugees staying in the German Embassy in Prague permission to leave East Germany.

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7 October 1989 The Government of the GDR decrees celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the founding of the state. As a reaction to this, people in many cities demonstrate against the regime of the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschland, the SED, [Socialist Unity Party of Germany]

9 October 1989 Over 70,000 people march through Leipzig city centre and call for non-violent demonstrations for freedom of opinion and political reforms. One week later they are followed by 120,000 from the whole GDR

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18 October 1989 Erich Honecker resigns as Secretary-General of the SED and head of state.

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3 November 1989 The GDR endorses to leave the country directly via the border to Czechoslovakia. Two days later around 15,000 GDR citizens have arrived in the Federal Republic via this route.

8 November 1989 The SED gives up its power in the politburo and resigns.

9 November 1989 The symbol of the separation of the two German states, the Berlin Wall, falls to the jubilation of people from east and west.

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18 March 1990 In the spring free elections are held in the still extant GDR for the first time ever. The people elect a new Chamber of the People, the main aim of which was to prepare for accession to the Federal Republic.

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5 May 1990 The Two-plus-Four talks start, in which the victorious powers of the Second World War and the Foreign Ministers of the two German states discuss removal of the rights of the Allies in Germany.

18 May 1990 The FRG and GDR sign the Treaty on the Creation of an Economic, Currency and Social Union.

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1 July 1990 The GDR adopts large parts of the economic and legal order of the Federal Republic. The deutschmark becomes the sole means of payment.

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23 August 1990 Before the end of the negotiations on a Unification Treaty between the two German states, the Chamber of the People decides on accession of the GDR to the Federal Republic for 3 October 1990.

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12 September 1990 The Foreign Ministers of the United States of America, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and France sign the Two-plus-Four Treaty and thus grant Germany full sovereignty.

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3 October 1990 In the night of 2/3 October 1990 the official celebrations for German Unity Day are held. Fireworks light up the sky, bells accompany the joy of the people.

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2 December 1990 The Germans elect a pan-German parliament. It is the first free election since 1933.

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Vostok 6

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Vostok 6 (Russian: Восток-6, Orient 6 or East 6) was the first human spaceflight to carry a woman, cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, into space.

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The spacecraft was launched on June 16, 1963. While Vostok 5 had been delayed by technical problems, Vostok 6’s launch proceeded perfectly with no difficulties at all.

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Data collected during the mission was to allow better understanding of the female body’s reaction to spaceflight. Like other cosmonauts on Vostok missions, she maintained a flight log, took photographs, and manually oriented the spacecraft. Her photographs of the horizon from space were later used to identify aerosol layers within the atmosphere. The mission, a joint flight with Vostok 5, was originally conceived as being a joint mission with two Vostoks each carrying a female cosmonaut, but this changed as the Vostok program experienced cutbacks as a precursor to the retooling of the program into the Voskhod program. Vostok 6 was the last flight of a Vostok 3KA spacecraft.

The Soviet state television network broadcast live video of Tereshkova from a television camera inside the capsule, and she conversed with Premier Nikita Khrushchev over the radio.

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Communications with ground controllers about her overall health were described in postflight reports as “evasive”, and later official accounts of the mission had somewhat condescending remarks about Tereshkova’s overall in-flight performance.

 In Tereshkova’s account of the mission in her postflight debriefing, she mentioned having assorted body pains and difficulty with her helmet headset (also reported by Bykovsky on Vostok 5). She vomited while attempting to eat, although she attributed this to the taste of the food rather than her physical condition.[4]

An official history of the Soviet manned space program published in 1973 described Tereshkova’s physical condition and in-flight performance as “udovletvoritelnoe” (adequate) rather than “otlichno” (good or outstanding).

It was revealed in 2004 that an error in the control program made the spaceship ascend from orbit instead of descending. Tereshkova noticed the fault on the first day of the flight and reported it to spaceship designer Sergey Korolev.

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The team on Earth provided Tereshkova with new data to enter into the descent program which corrected the problem.By request of Korolev, Tereshkova kept the problem secret for dozens of years. “I kept silent, but Evgeny Vasilievich decided to make it public. So, I can easily talk about it now.”

The Vostok 6 landing site coordinates are 53.209375°N 80.80395°E, which is 200 km West of Barnaul, Region of Altai in the Russian Federation and 7 km south of Baevo, and 650 km North East of Karagandy, Kazakhstan.

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At the site, in a small park at the roadside, is a gleaming silver statue of Tereshkova soaring upward, with arms outstretched, at the top of a curved column. The statue is wearing a spacesuit without a helmet.

The capsule is now on display at the RKK Energia Museum in Korolyov (near Moscow).

This was the final Vostok flight.