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Twenty years after: the story of East German refugee

6. 10. 2009 10:15
Michael Fleischmann would like to meet the man that tried to stop him from fleeing the country

Prague/Berlin - It is one of the most notorious photographs that went around Germany as well as Europe, symbolizing the fall of the Berlin Wall and communism in the Old Continent.

It captures a citizen of former East Germany climbing over a fence of West Germany's embassy in Prague, while a Czechoslovak policeman is trying to take the man down.

The name of the man who succeeded in his escape is Michael Fleischmann and he was among the thousands of Germans that decided to flee the totalitarian regime by climbing over West Germany´s embassy fence in Prague.

Now twenty years later, Mr. Fleischmann returned to the same spot that had changed his life and set him free. He again climbed over the fence but only to pose for a photographer of a German daily broadsheet Bild.

Being tipped off by the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Aktuálně.cz tracked down the member of the Communist police force.

He is 47 years old and still works in the police force. "I do recall we used to be on patrol near the embassy all the time but could that be really me?" was his first response when he saw the picture.

No bad feelings

In an interview for Bild Michael Fleischmann said he would like to meet the policeman face to face.

Not only the policeman refused to do so but now he claims it is not him in the picture. Aktuálně.cz knows his identity but decided not to disclose it for the sake of his current job.

"When you say he is not interested, then there is no chance to meet him," Fleischmann told Aktuálně.cz. "I just wanted to shake his hand and ask him how he sees things after these twenty years," he added.

Mr. Fleischman is not angry with the Czech man that tried to stop him from emigration.
"I don't want to make him feel bad. We were both affected by the same kind of regime," Fleischmann said. "He was just doing his job."

Dramatic fifteen minutes

According to Bild, Fleischmann decided to flee his native country after he heard former foreign minister Hanse-Dietrich Genscher speaking on TV. Genscher said that refugees from East Germany would be allowed to enter the premises of West Germany's embassy in Prague.

"I didn't want to be the last man to be left behind in East Germany," Fleischmann told Bild. In October 1989 he and many other fellow citizens decided to try their luck in Prague. They found the embassy which was heavily "guarded" by Czechoslovak policemen, some in plaint clothers, some in uniforms.

The only way to enter the premises of the embassy was to climb over the fence. But Czechoslovak policemen were quick to stop them from doing that. The police used batons to beat them and one pulled his jean jacket very hard.

For Fleischmann the fight on the fence with the policeman took about 15 minutes.

"To let go it meant I could end up in prison. So I tried to hold on as long as I could," Fleischmann described his quest to begin new life. He spent three days at the embassy.

"Then we finally could leave for West Germany by train via East Germany. When we reached Bavaria, the joy was just so overwhelming," he said.

autor: CzechNews | 6. 10. 2009 10:15

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