Professor, Dr. Thomas Wieske

* 1958  

  • “Then I received the certificate and he said: ‘In an hour a lawyer will pick you up.’ And so, it was clear to me that they released me, in that moment I was released from the GDR citizenship. I moreover received a dismissal certificate and then a lawyer from Vogel office transported me with a walking pace and no stopping across the Invalidenstraße crossing into the West Germany. By a car. He picked me up with his car and we drove in a row of cars. They did not check the documents at all, they did not investigate whether it is me, the people on the borders obviously knew the car and the lawyer. And he slowly drove through. I do not know whether they saluted to him. And then I was in the West. The crossing from one system to the other could have really been this quick. It was interesting that it dismissed me even to the West Berlin although it contradicted the whole ideology of the GDR. It was truly in the last minute. They did not grant me even an hour of punishment. Otherwise on 8 February I would be standing on the station in Cottbus and would be on my way home.”

  • “I never got anything in my hand. My files passed on and the information that I was detained, was communicated to state security service of the GDR by the Czechoslovak side. My data were handed over and in the same way the plane and the transport were handed over. Altogether they told us only a little. A question suggests itself – what actually did Czechoslovakia, just as Hungary, obtain from detaining the GDR citizens. After all, it meant considerable expenses for the Czechoslovak side. They paid ten or fourteen days for meals and accommodation, all the bureaucratic expenses and all for the sake of foreign citizens. The Czechoslovak government could not bother about them. But it seems like they obviously bothered. We can see that the collapse of the Soviet empire and the Warsaw pact starts in the moment when Hungary turned off the common course that refugees from the GDR are to be detained but they let them pass through. Another crack was Czechoslovakia and the Prague ambassy when in one moment the Czechoslovak government decided that it will just let them pass through. And because of that the system in the GDR collapsed.”

  • “Later I heard that the GDR and its state secret service actually transported the refugees on planes from Sofia, Bucharest, Prague all those years. They gathered them and this way they transported them. In our case a bonus came. The windows were shielded and we were waiting for the departure but I was able to see through the shield that shortly after we had boarded, a huge functionary car arrived, Chaika or ZiL, with a GDR flag and a Czechoslovak flag as well, and that one Czechoslovak and one East German politician hugged each other while two or three people stood nearby. It means that a politician was seated in the front part, the plane was used basically for a government flight, and in the back part they transported the refugees back home. In about an hour and half we were at the Schönefeld airport.”

  • “They arrested me in Budějovice on 9th, it was on Saturday, then they seated us on a bus, that was on Wednesday but it could be perhaps on Tuesday. It was a prison transport, a completely normal bus, we could even look outside. And in the front and in the back, there were prison guards with machine guns and we, the prisoners, were tied to each other with handcuffs. The bus was relatively full, forty or fifty people, and about ten of them were from the GDR. Forty people, thirty of them were Czechoslovaks and such tensome of the GDR citizens. The bus went from Budějovice to Prague, to the Prague-Pankrác Prison. The famous prison, Egon Erwin Kisch wrote about it a lot. The Austria prison, later used by the Nazi etc. And the GDR citizens came to its one wing. There we about thirty of us who attempted to escape on that weekend. But those were from the surrounding of Bratislava as well and from all the places.”

  • “I took off by train in six or six thirty in the morning. It takes about an hour to get from Budějovice to Kaplice, it goes through different stations. I was still a little bit asleep. And two or three stations before Kaplice two Czech soldiers walked through the train stopping by every traveller, they were a little bit older than me and had machine guns. People took out their IDs, showed these to them and they went on to the next passenger. Completely discreetly. And then they came and stood in front of me. I knew – two men in uniforms and I am heading to the frontier zone! In the GDR I would count on it in any case that a control will come at some point and that there would be a trouble. But in Kaplice I did not count on it, it did not occur to me that it is going to happen. They stood in front of me and wanted to see my IDs. So, I showed them my East German ID. I assume that these border guards were instructed to examine thoroughly those dubious young people from the GDR. It was something completely common. Most of those people who travelled there were from Kaplice, they had their IDs and knew each other. Then they wanted to know what I am doing in Kaplice and initially I pretended that I do not understand them at all. But one kind passenger started to translate immediately and she asked me what I am planning to do in Kaplice. So, I said I wanted to visit someone. I had no idea whom, I could have prepared it in advance. I made up a name Josef Špirtl. They told me no one knows him. And so, the translating lady told me that one of those soldiers will sit next to me and will verify it all and then everything will be just fine. In this moment I was of course sure that it would be a huge surprise if some Josef Špirtl lived in Kaplice. I was sure that it is going to be a big trouble.”

  • “I started to sense that relatively soon, actually already as a young child. Because my parents taught me: ‘There are things you hear and see at home, but as soon as you leave the house you must not mention those.’ Like watching the West television. I think it was possible to watch West TV stations in ninety per cent of the GDR area. Three quarters of the GDR citizens also watched the West television broadcasting, so every evening in seven or eight they all basically mentally left for the West. But this was not talked about. And even at home they told me I must not mention that I watch the West news. Such double morals. In the school as well. Not only me, but also others said things they did not believe. There were phrases a man could use as a verbal complement, verbal filling or just as foundation stones of a sentence and then he presented them and lived in peace. So, when I said for instance ‘The companionship with the Soviet Union is the foundation of our victory’, it was clear that I was on ‘the right side’. No one could say anything against it and it somehow always came in handy.”

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    Praha, 05.05.2021

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Czechoslovakia detained East German refugees and returned them to the GDR, this way it protected the Soviet empire against collapsing

Thomas Wieske, Prague, 2021
Thomas Wieske, Prague, 2021
photo: Natáčení

Thomas Wieske was born on 24 February 1958 in Dessau in the then German Democratic Republic. The omnipresent militarization of East German society led the adolescent Thomas to doubt the established socialistic course of his homeland. When he was only thirteen years old, he and the rest of his schoolmates had to sign to three years long military service which was designated for future officers. Before entering the military service, he decided to escape to the West in October 1976. His route led through Czechoslovakia and Austria. The Czechoslovak border guards detained him already in a train before South Bohemian town Kaplice, therefore he was not able to carry out his attempt to escape. After a short stay in the prison in České Budějovice and in the Pankrác Prison in Prague, he was transported by East German government flight to Berlin from which he was brought to the remand prison in Halle. After he was sentenced to a year and half in prison, he was sent to Cottbus. After the passing of his whole sentence, he was similarly as many of political prisoners “purchased” by the West Germany in return for foreign currency. He studied in the West and today is a recognized expert on the logistics law. In May 2021 he participated in his rehabilitation in Český Krumlov because of his arrest in 1976.