Katharina Dötterl

* 1981  

  • “They would have done the same thing these days, my parents. But there's no bitterness in them as they are happy with what they have. Nowadays, they are living where they were born. The regime has changed and they are free to live as they wish. They can live peacefully, no one bothers them, no one is attacking them for any reason. They found the life they had been looking for.”

  • “Suddenly, there was a lot of yelling. And someone rushed in and told us that we were allowed to travel abroad. And there was a phone in the house so my father used it and asked whether we could indeed travel abroad. And then he said: 'Yes, we can leave the country.' And he told us that we should pack up our belongings. And so it went. What should I pack up? They gave me many things but had to leave it there as it wouldn't fit into this one bag we were allowed to take with us. Se we packed our belongings and then we went downstairs. Only then we realised how many people were actually there. As the staircase was just packed with people, as I had already said. And after that, we have been standing downstairs in this large courtyard, in that curved area, and we were lucky that we had the opportunity to say goodbye to 'the little Andreas and the big Andreas', and we would get on a bus slowly, though I couldn't recall how we went from the embassy to the railway station. I just don't remember that bus ride. Just the railway station and how we were waiting on the stairs to the platform for such a long time. And on the platform, we met Mr ambassador once again, Mr Huber, who embraced us all... and after that, we were on the train.”

  • “And after that, there was school established for us. So on September 1st, all the children at the embassy at the age of six or seven went to school for the first time. Mr ambassador's wife herself went to get some candy and textbooks. And then we had to attend lessons.”

  • “Some time after that we got to know the ambassador and his wife. He was born in Bavaria, near Munich, and she was French. They were such cordial pair and had been spending so much time with us. We would paint pictures for them. Also we were allowed into the embassy gardens where we used to play and fool around and we met other embassy employees: 'the Big Andreas and the Little Andreas.' And we would play with them and watch them playing frisbee. So we had quite a good time.”

  • “In the GDR, school used to end on June 30th and there was the summer break from July 1st to August 31st. And school started again on September 1st. So my parent told me... I was quite talkative back then and I used to say even things I shouldn't say. I even revealed a secret. And my parents told me that we were going on holidays to visit my grandfather, my father's father, where they would pick us up and then we would spent the holidays in our grandparents' house in the borderlands. We got on a train and we had those magnetic tablets, which are still around, you can write on them and erase it again, and I got so bored at one moment that I asked my parents how long would it take, when we would finally reach Eisenach. And my parents told me: 'Well, we aren't going to Eisenach, we are going to Dresden.' - 'How come, what will we be doing in Dresden?' They told me that we wanted to get to Prague (Praha) and that I should be patient. We reached Dresden early in the morning; and we knew we would arrive in Prague too soon if we would take the first train. So we spent quite some time at the Dresden railway station and took a later train so we wouldn't reach our destination until early morning. Otherwise we would come to Prague at night. And again, I found it quite boring that I had to sit around at the railway station, I had absolutely no clue what was going on. Why go to Prague when we should have been visiting my grandfather. And after that, we got to Prague. And I... While we were on the train, there was this thing that had to be done with our passports, but we children were sleeping. Then we came to Prague, we went for a walk and saw the sights. And then we came to the embassy which was closed... Because... I don't even know what day it was. But there was nothing going on at that time. So we walked for a while again and again we were in front of the Prague's embassy. And this Czech policeman saw us and he went across the square towards us, I think there was this small square in front of the embassy, but I don't know for sure. And as he rushed towards us, the embassy door opened. My older brother and my mother were already in, but the policeman reached us at that moment and grabbed my father's arm. And my little brother and me we were watching the policeman holding our father and my mother kept yelling that we had to go inside, but I couldn't just leave. I wouldn't go inside without my father. Some embassy employee yelled that the Czech officer had to let that man go. But I didn't understand a word, as I didn't speak Czech and I still haven't learned it. Unfortunately. And my father... He kept pushing us forward, towards the entrance and kept pushing forward himself and at one moment my father was already at the premises of the embassy with us, so the Czech had to let my father go as he couldn't enter the embassy premises. Then the door closed behind us. And we were at the Prague's embassy. It was June 1st 1989.”

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    Praha, 20.06.2019

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It’s not like that you will get just everything, now that you are in the West

Katharina Dötterl
Katharina Dötterl
photo: archiv pamětníka

Katharina Dötterl, née Kuhn, was born on March 23rd 1981 in Eisenach in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). Her father, Hubert Kuhn, was born on January 29th 1951 in Gerstungen and had been working as a water management expert. Her mother, Susanne Kuhn, was born on July 11th 1959 in Gerstungen and had been working as an office clerk. The witness also has one younger and one older brother. On February 19th 1987, police accompanied with military personnel raided their flat at night. The family had been forcibly relocated from the borderlands to the town of Sömmerda. While her mother was working as a head secretary in the House of Economy her father could no longer work in his profession. As the pressure on the family intensified since early 1987, in 1989, right after the children got their school reports, they went by train to Prague (Praha) via Dresden. They were among the first to reach the Federal Republic of Germany’s embassy in Prague (Praha). Refugees from the GDR were gradually filling the premises of the Baroque Lobkovicz palace, as about fifteen people who had been living there since July were joined by maybe 4000 thousand refugees during the autumn. On September 30th 1989, maybe hundred more people came to the attic flat at the embassy. On the same day, the federal minister of foreign affairs Hans-Dietrich Genscher gave his famous speech from the embassy’s balcony, announcing the refugees from the former German Democratic Republic that they would be allowed to travel to the West. Taking a train via Dresden, the family reached the refugee camp in Henneberg. After that, they had been living near Chiemsee and in the years to come also in Mammendorf, Deggendrof and Hof. At first, witness’ parents made their living as labourers at a garden centre, but soon they found jobs in their profession. Katharina Dötterl graduated in Art history and Religious studies at the university in Erfurt. After that, she had been working in the field of political education. In 2004, she returned home to Lutzberg with her parents and with a family of her own. Since 2018, she has been the director of the Local museum of history in Gerstungen.