Frank Plunze

* 1962  

  • “Then I heard for the first time about the possibility to steal such an armored infantry combat vehicle from a military barracks nearby Oranienburg. When they told me about it for the first time, I said that they must be completely crazy. ‘Are you nuts? They’ll shoot us’. But they said: ‘no, they’re completely drunk on the weekends. They are totally trashed’. And it was true. We went there a couple of times to look and they were really absolutely wasted. It was unbelievable. It was an elite guard company with an adjacent shooting range and next to the range, there were three or four of these combat vehicles that were used for training purposes during the weekdays. They got drunk on Friday and stayed drunk until Sunday (laughing). At first I thought it was impossible but after I saw what was going on there on the weekends I came to the conclusion that it probably was possible to steal the things, or at least one of them. We tried it twice. You have to figure what kind of machines these things are. They are actually long-range reconnaissance vehicles with air intakes that have to be opened in order to keep the air flowing to the engine. We learned that in retrospect. When you start the thing, there’s a hell of a roar inside the vehicle, but you can hardly hear anything on the outside. But we were in panic and our adrenalin was running high. When the guards had found out about it, they would have shot us. But luckily they were all so extremely drunk that they didn’t hear anything. It wouldn’t come on for the first try, the second try, it was a bit better and it started on the third try. Then we said: ‘now or never’ and we drove away with it. However, the thing came to a halt after some twelve or thirteen kilometers. The engine broke down. It was just a stone’s throw away from the border.“

  • “I had two dreams. I wanted to see a concert by Udo Lindenberg and I wanted to visit the USA. These were my dreams that kept me going when I was in prison. I think that I might not have survived those five years without them. But thanks to them I was strong enough to survive everything. And I fulfilled my dreams. In 1990, I flew to the USA for six weeks.”

  • “We were taken within hours to the state security in Erfurt by the Criminal police. They kept interrogating us for hours and I believe that we were taken into custody on August 30, 1982. I think that we spent a month at the state security in Erfurt and then somebody told them that we had actually stolen an armored infantry combat vehicle in Berlin. I don’t remember anymore who told them but it produced a great upheaval and all the functionaries from the station gathered to take a look at us. I think that they learned about the stolen vehicle from us in the morning and in the evening, we were transferred to the state security in Berlin. Afterwards, I spent 9 months in pre-trial custody and was then taken to the city court of Berlin-Mitte. The court sentenced me to eight and a half years of prison for terrorism, according to paragraph 101 and 218 ‘illegal border crossing’.

  • “There I spent almost five years under the worst conditions you can imagine. They employed the complete repertoire, including physical and mental torture. In the winter they would sprinkle us with water from a hosepipe used by the firefighters. Then they divided the cell into sectors. This practice was called ‘kurzschließen‘ (to ‘short circuit’). What they did was basically to separate the space of the cell where the toilet, the shower, the sink and the heater were located. In this way, you were left to live in the remaining space of the cell. They turned off the heating and you were laying on the ground soaking wet. They did this a couple of times and you were almost finished, suffering from pneumonia. Later they stopped this practice. But they kept another practice which was beating us up with telephone directories. This kind of beating doesn’t leave behind any bruises. They several times cracked my eardrum with it. We were also beaten up by other inmates who acted on instructions of the wardens. I witnessed it all. We were even pickpocketed by the wardens in the prison.”

  • “Then they took all of us out on a yard. There were around fifty or sixty of us, men and women. We had to get into a bus and were driven away. There was a Stasi officer sitting in the front. There was a car driving in front of the bus and another one in the back. We drove out on the A4 bound for the Herleshausen border crossing, so basically Frankfurt, Hesse. We reached the crossing point and the bus pulled in a special line. He stopped. The car that had been in front of us disappeared. The two guys got off the bus. The bus started moving again and the car behind us didn’t follow us anymore. Suddenly, it was all quiet and peaceful. Nobody was able to fully take in the new situation, yet. It was hard for us to believe it and we were still distrustful. You couldn’t get rid of the idea that he’d still turn the bus around and go back. But he just kept driving in the right direction. I remember a moment that seemed to come from a Comic. There was a wide white stripe painted on the highway which represented the boundary between the two states. It was the demarcation line. As soon as we crossed that line the sun came out and shone on us (crying). Then the bus driver turned on the microphone and told us: ‘Now you can rejoice. We’re now in the west. It’s over. Don’t be afraid, there’s nobody sitting in the bus anymore. I’m now taking you to the Gießen central reception center where you’ll be photographed and fingerprinted.”

  • Full recordings
  • 6

    Berlin-Hermsdorf, 24.06.2013

    (audio)
    duration: 01:39:06
    media recorded in project Iron Curtain Stories
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

When dreams come true

Plunze_Foto_1.jpg (historic)
Frank Plunze
photo: Archiv des Zeitzeugen

Frank Plunze was born on May 1, 1962, in Berlin-Pankow. Although he repeatedly tried to escape from the GDR, all of his attempts failed. His endeavors resulted in him being arrested and sentenced to prison. Frank spent five years in prison under inhumane conditions until he was redeemed by the government of the Federal Republic of Germany that paid for his release to West Germany in June 1987.