Lutz Porombka

* 1955  

  • “Well, I mean, the first impressions of the West, for someone who had grown up in the east, there was a bunch of things, very basic things, a bunch of new impressions, new smells, new colors, it was all very colorful. Well, actually not everything, in particular not the real estate, as they say today. The houses and the roads were intact. We didn’t know that. Well, in Berlin, of course, it was better than in some other places outside or far away from Berlin. Dresden also was a center, at that time, so it looked halfway good. But if you drove a little bit outside of the cities, to the countryside, in the GDR era, it all looked indeed terrible. Cities such as Bautzen were in ruins. So the first impressions when I got to the West were [...]. I then worked together with a troupe of 15 engineers who had grown up in the West and I actually became their boss. It was a very pleasant cooperation. Of course, there were always some questions, a lot of conversations, especially in the beginning, let's say. But for me, it was a very pleasant experience. I then went to work to Bingen and that’s why we are here now, in Bingen. In 1991, I got an apartment here that had been newly built. So it was sort of a jump from zero to a hundred percent in terms of comfort of life. In this respect, I’ve actually been a very lucky man.”

  • “Well, in August 1961, I was six years old and perceived it all as a child. This was certainly a very different point of view than an adult would have had. But there were, let's say, a couple of serious intrusions to my life. Or rather changes I’d say. I didn’t perceive it as intrusions back then. It was mainly because my parents’ house stood right on the border, directly at the border crossing in the Sonnenallee Avenue. And the whole story started with the fact that on August 13, 1961, I was woken up by the noises of heavy equipment, tanks, rolling on the road in front of our house. Curiously, one of the tank-crew members – he had a helmet on his head – looked inside my room and saw me. He was probably as surprised as I was to when he looked into my face. This is how the whole story began for me. Previously, it hadn’t been an issue for, I hadn’t been aware of it.”

  • “At the time of the fall of the Wall, my son, Hannes, was sick. My wife took him home from the hospital on November 7 or 8, I’m not quite sure anymore, but it was shortly before the fall of the Wall. When you have a little kid, you’ve got other problems to take care of, so I didn’t pay that much attention to the events surrounding the fall of the Wall. He was sick and cried all the time. I remember exactly that the Wall came down in the evening, after I woke up at 10 or 11 o’clock. Me and my wife, we looked out of the window and we saw people running across. I think that in the Sonnenallee Avenue, these events happened later, around 1 o’clock in the night. But I can’t really tell you what we did at that time. Basically, we had a little kid and we were dead tired, so we slept whenever we could. The next day, I drove my son to the Kindergarten. I was the proud owner of a Trabant and I had to drive down that Baumschulenstraße Street. It was a procession, a column of cars was lined up in the street. They were all waiting to cross the border. I didn’t want to cross the border but nonetheless, I had to make my way through the traffic jam to get to West Berlin with my kid. We didn’t know if it was only a short-term affair or something to last. In the beginning, people just rushed across the border. The border guards were powerless, they couldn’t do a thing. They just looked at the crowds emigrating en masse. And amidst of it all, I was passing the border in my Trabant with my kid. I had to go to work and I had to take my little son to the kindergarten. After we had crossed the border, I turned around and drove back.”

  • “At some point they started the construction using concrete. That was at the time when I studied in the Baumschulenweg Street. Later on, I was transferred to a different school in Treptow. Treptow is a city district of Berlin that before was well accessible from the Baumschulenweg Street via Kiefholzstraße Street. But after the border was put in place, it was no longer accessible from there, since the Kiefholzstraße Street belonged partly to West Berlin. Therefore, we had to take the bus in order to – so to speak – leave the enclave where we lived and bypass it. The new school that I went to was interesting as well since it stood directly next to the Wall. If you had had a paraglider, you would have easily been able to fly from that window to the West. In this period, we actually witnessed two escape attempts across the border. They were both caught, however. That was at a time when I was in the eight or maybe ninth grade and back then, the incidents made us very curious.”

  • “There were a lot of things in the pipeline. It just was not really planned but rather regulated. I finished high school and at school, I had always wanted to become an engineer, an electrical engineer - basically what I am today. But that was just a time when as a young man, one was supposed to study – when you had certain results – medicine. They tried to talk me into it for a long, long time but I just wouldn’t go for it. There was a sort of a tradition in the GDR that the high-school graduates, before leaving the school, were expected to express their subject of choice for further studies at the university. I wanted to study at the Dresden University of Technology, electrical engineering, but my application was turned down. I was told that I should study medicine at the Humboldt University, at the Charité, which would actually have been a dream for many, but I didn’t want to and left the school without enrolling anywhere. I then passed this, let’s say, basic military service which was compulsory. It was 1.5 years, 18 months. There was no way around this for somebody who intended to study. Of course you had the option to refuse the military service, or there was furthermore the option to serve as a ‘Spartensoldat’, a soldier without a weapon. I don’t know what it was officially called but we always called it Spartensoldaten. But of course, the consequence was that you didn’t get a place at the university later on. Well, I passed this military service, those 1.5 years, and then I got to the university in Dresden.”

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    Bingen, 18.07.2013

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Life on the inner German border

Lutz Porombka
Lutz Porombka
photo: Pamět Národa - Archiv

Lutz Porombka was born on October 24, 1955, in Berlin and spent his entire childhood up until his graduation from high school with his party-affiliated parents in East Berlin. During this time, he witnessed the construction and the expansion of the Berlin Wall first hand because he lived with his parents in an apartment that was located right at the Wall near the Sonnenallee Avenue. Porombka completed his very straightforward education and studies by receiving a degree in engineering from the university in Dresden. However, the Porombka spouses then returned to East Berlin where their two children were born. Despite living directly at the border in East Berlin, they didn’t pay too much attention to the fall of the Wall and in 1991, they moved to Bingen am Rhein for professional reasons of Lutz Porombka. They still live in Bingen today.