MiG 21 crash into a apartment block.

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There you are having your minding your own and before you know it there is a MiG 21 parked in your living room. This is what happened to some inhabitants of  the Plattenbau” building, Cottbus, East Germany.

On January 14th, 1975, Major Peter Makowicka, 33, wass on a training mission with his Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 21 SPS „849“. During approach on the military airbase Cottbus, German Democratic Republic (Eastern Germany), a cover latch on the engine compressor section, which has been insufficiently secured by a maintenance technician, opens. The engine draws air and switches off. He receives the order to deploy the ejection seat to save himself and let the plane go down.

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Immediately after the distress, the military control center ordered the pilot to deploy the ejection seat to save himself and to let the plane go down. But Major Makovicka disobeyed, instead he pulled up to prevent the plane from crashing into the TKC (Textile Combinate Cottbus) with its thousands of workers, intending to let the plane crash into an empty field instead. There was no time to get that far away. In the residential area behind the factory site, the aircraft grazed the roof of a building and at 10.15 am pierced a “Plattenbau” (a 5-story large-panel system building) across the street. Mackovicka and five women were killed on the spot.

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The plane had hit the second floor of the apartment block. The fire had spread from the basement to the 4th floor. It was unknown whether the plane carried ammo. However the fire chief correctly deduced acute danger from explosions. It was decided to attack the fire with from the street side and to evacuate the other entries. The decisions later prove to be right. The firefighters discovered that the plane still carried more than 800 liters of fuel. Upon impact, all four tanks had ruptured and the entire fuel escaped instantaneously, explaining the intensive burn and multiple, deflagration-like flare-ups on the 1st to 4th floors.

One hour and 15 minutes after the crash, the fire was, by and large, extinguished. All in all, 200-300 firefighters, police, medics and NVA soldiers were on the scene. Sixteen residents suffered severe injuries, many had jumped out of the windows in panic. One woman died in hospital, raising the death toll of the accident to 7.

The area was sealed off hermetically. Two days later, only a patch in the wall remained as evidence for what happened. The official news agency ADN reported only that a plane crashed, killing six people U5dsRS1mAr8A7hdECmsVVGrDmMTbwbo_1680x8400— and that an official commission has been tasked with the investigation.

 

The technician who failed to close the latch properly was sentenced to five years in jail. Major Peter Makowicka, likely the only NVA (National People’s Army) hero ever to disobey an order, posthumously received the Kampforden für Verdienste um Volk und Vaterland in Gold (Combat medal for the merits for the People and Fatherland) and other awards.

 

The building, Schmellwitzer Straße 2, Cottbus, stands to this day.

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Shot for trying to go to another part of the City.

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Erected in the dead of night on August 13, 1961, the Berlin Wall (known as Berliner Mauer in German) was a physical division between West Berlin and East Germany. Its purpose was to keep disaffected East Germans from fleeing to the West.

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When the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, its destruction was nearly as instantaneous as its creation. For 28 years, the Berlin Wall had been a symbol of the Cold War and the Iron Curtain between Soviet-led Communism and the democracies of the West. When it fell, it was celebrated around the world.

During 1961 and 1989 many people were killed for trying to escape to West Berlin. The exact number of casualties is unknown, because some were categorized as “suicide”

Below are some pictures of some of those who didn’t make it or were wounded.

A refugee runs during an attempt to escape from the East German part of Berlin to West Berlin by climbing over the Berlin Wall on October 16, 1961.I don’t know  if he survived

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East German border guards carry away a refugee who was wounded by East German machine gun fire as he dashed through communist border installations toward the Berlin Wall in 1971.

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Dying Peter Fechter is carried away by East German border guards who shot him down when he tried to flee to the west in this August 17, 1962 photo. Fechter was lying 50 minutes in no-man’s land before he was taken to a hospital where he died shortly after arrival.

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East German border guards carry away a 50 year old refugee, who was shot three times by East German border police on September 4, 1962, as he dashed through communist border installations and tried to climb the Berlin wall in the cemetery of the Sophien Church.

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West Berlin’s regulatory authorities gave fugitives covering fire if they were being fired at by GDR border guards. This resulted in at least one lethal incident on 23 May 1962, when the border guard Peter Göring was shot dead by a West Berlin policeman.

Newspaper story about Peter Göring

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Germany re-united 3-10-1990

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I am not going too deep into the re-unification of Germany. I will leave the images do the talking.BRD-DDR

German reunification (Deutsche Wiedervereinigung) took place on October 3, 1990, when the areas of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR, in English commonly called “East Germany”) were incorporated into the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, in English commonly called “West Germany”), both formed in 1949, after World War II.

Below are some images of that day and some events leading up to it

 

 

 

 

60 Jahre Bundesrepublik

The Fall fo the Berlin Wall

 

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Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate, 10 November 1989. Note the graffito Wie denn (“What now”) over the sign warning the public that they are leaving West Berlin.

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Police officers of the East German Volkspolizei wait for the official opening of the Brandenburg Gate on 22 December 1989.

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Leipzig

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Berlin Wall, October 1990, Saying “Thank You, Gorbi”Германия становится единой страной.

Many Trabants were abandoned after 1989 (this one photographed in Leipzig, 1990)

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East German Prime Minister Hans Modrow, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and mayor of West Berlin Walter Momper among other figures take part in the official opening of the Brandenburg Gate on 22 December 1989.

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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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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.

 

The standoff at Checkpoint Charlie

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Checkpoint Charlie  was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War (1947–1991).

East German leader Walter Ulbricht agitated and maneuvered to get the Soviet Union’s permission to construct the Berlin Wall in 1961 to stop Eastern Bloc emigration and defection westward through the Soviet border system, preventing escape across the city sector border from communist East Berlin into West Berlin.

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Checkpoint Charlie became a symbol of the Cold War, representing the separation of East and West. Soviet and American tanks briefly faced each other at the location during the Berlin Crisis of 1961.

In October 1961, border disputes led to a standoff and for 16 hours the world was at the brink of war while Soviet and American tanks faced each other just 300 feet (100 meters) apart. On August 1961 Washington and its British and French allies had failed to prevent the Soviets building the Berlin Wall. On October 27, after several days of escalating U.S. rebuffs to East German attempts to get American officials to show identification documents before entering East Berlin (thus indirectly acknowledging East German sovereignty, rather than Soviet occupation authority) ten U.S. M-48 tanks took up position at Checkpoint Charlie.

The standoff at Checkpoint Charlie Soviet tanks facing American tanks, 1961 (3)

By now, American officials were deeply alarmed by the potential consequences. General Clay of the American troops was reminded by Washington that Berlin was not so “vital” an interest to be worth risking a conflict with Moscow. President Kennedy approved the opening of a back channel with the Kremlin in order to defuse what had blown up. As a result, the Soviets pulled back one of their T55s from the eastern side of the border at Friedrichstrasse and minutes later an American M48 also left the scene. Soon the rest of the Soviet tanks withdrew, followed shortly by reciprocal withdrawal of the U.S. tanks.

Khrushchev had been equally uninterested in risking a battle over Berlin. In return for Kennedy’s assurance that the west had no designs on East Berlin, the Soviet leader tacitly recognized that allied officials and military personnel would have unimpeded access to the East German capital.

The standoff at Checkpoint Charlie Soviet tanks facing American tanks, 1961 (4)

The standoff at Checkpoint Charlie Soviet tanks facing American tanks, 1961 (5)

The Berlin crisis arose from what one may term “objective factors” – the fact that West Berlin was an anomalous Western enclave well to the east of the Iron Curtain, precipitating a clash of concrete interests of the Soviet Union and the West. The confrontations of armed tanks facing off at Checkpoint Charlie is, however, an excellent illustration of how “subjective factors” such as differing perceptions and beliefs of the two sides also contributed to tension – and could even have precipitated war.

The standoff ended peacefully on October 28 following a U.S.-Soviet understanding to withdraw tanks. Discussions between U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and KGB spy Georgi Bolshakov played a vital role in realizing this tacit agreement.

Although the wall was opened in November 1989 and the checkpoint booth removed on June 22, 1990,the checkpoint remained an official crossing for foreigners and diplomats until German reunification during October 1990 when the guard house was removed; it is now on display in the open-air museum of the Allied Museum in Berlin-Zehlendorf.

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Ida Siekmann & Günter Litfin-The first two victims of the Berlin Wall.

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There were numerous deaths at the Berlin Wall, which stood as a barrier between West Berlin and East Germany from 13 August 1961 until 9 November 1989. Before the rise of the Berlin Wall in 1961, 3.5 million East Germans circumvented Eastern Bloc emigration restrictions, many by crossing over the border from East Berlin into West Berlin, from where they could then travel to West Germany and other Western European countries. Between 1961 and 1989, the Wall prevented almost all such emigration.

Ida Siekmann (23 August 1902 – 22 August 1961) was the first person to die at the Berlin Wall, only 9 days after the beginning of its construction.

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Ida Siekmann was born in Gorken near Marienwerder (West Prussia) (now Górki, Kwidzyn County, Poland). She had moved to Berlin where she worked as a nurse, and lived at Bernauer Straße 48 in the center of Berlin.

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As of August 1961, she was already a widow; it is not known when she was actually widowed.

After World War II, Berlin was divided in four Allied sectors. While the street and the sidewalk of the Bernauer Straße lay in the French sector of West Berlin,

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the frontage of the buildings on the southern side lay in the Soviet sector of East Berlin. Until 13 August 1961, the day the Berlin Wall was built, Siekmann crossed the sector’s border just by leaving her house.Her sister’s apartment was also in the French sector of West Berlin.

Immediately after the border between East and West Berlin was closed on 13 August 1961, numerous families and individuals from 50 Bernauer Straße addresses fled to the West. On 18 August 1961, Walter Ulbricht ordered the East German border troops to brick up the entrances and windows on the ground floor of the houses on the southern side of the street.

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Members of the Combat Groups of the Working Class and police controlled every person who tried to enter the houses and the residents were subject to rigid controls, even in the hallways.

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Many residents of such tenements still fled to West Berlin: residents of the upper floors were often rescued by jumping-sheets of the West Berlin fire department. On 21 August, the entrance and windows of Bernauer Straße 48 were barred. In the early morning of 22 August, Siekmann, living on the fourth floor (by North American standards, third floor/dritter Stock/Obergeschoss by German standards), threw eiderdowns and some possessions down onto the street and jumped out of the window of her apartment before the firefighters were able to open the jumping-sheet.She fell on the pavement and was severely injured. Siekmann died shortly after on her way to the Lazarus Hospital, thus becoming the first casualty at the Berlin Wall.

Günter Litfin (19 January 1937 – 24 August 1961) was the second victim at the Berlin Wall, and the first to succumb to gunshots.

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A tailor from the borough of Weißensee, like his father, he was a member of the illegal local branch of the West German Christian Democrats. Litfin was already working in the West, near the Zoological Garden, and had already found a flat in the western part of the city. Even on 12 August, one day before the first barbed wire fences were built, he had driven to Charlottenburg with his brother, to furnish his new flat. His intention to escape East Germany was abruptly halted the next morning, as road blocks had already been built. Therefore, around 4pm on 24 August, he undertook the escape attempt that would prove fatal to him.

Starting from Humboldthafen, a small harbour in the River Spree, his plan was to swim through a small canal branching off from the river westwards. However, upon crossing the railway bridge that constituted the border, he was discovered by officers of the transportation police, and was ordered to swim back. He lifted his hands from the water and was then fired upon and mortally wounded.

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In memory of Günter Litfin as well as all other victims of the Wall, a memorial was installed in 1992. Additionally, a street in his home district of Weißensee was named after him. One of the crosses at the White Crosses memorial site next to the Reichstag building is devoted to him.