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Escape from East Berlin (1962) - Plot Summary Poster

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  • In January of 1962, 29 East Berliners escaped to West Berlin via a tunnel they had dug beneath the Berlin Wall, led by Erwin Becker, a chauffeur in the car pool of the East Germany Parliament, who served as technical adviser on this film. The film opens with Karl Schroeder (Don Murray), chauffeur to an East German Major, seeing a friend killed as he tried to drive his truck through the wall, He is persuaded by the friend's sister, Erika Jurgens (Christine Kaufmann), and his own family to engineer an attempt to make an escape to the Western sector of the city by digging a tunnel under the wall which is close to their home. Their efforts to evade the suspicions of the East German police, their fear of betrayal by inquisitive neighbors and the exhaustion of the digging are only a few of the difficulties faced by the group.

  • Shortly after the Berlin Wall is erected on August 13, 1961, many East Berliners dream about escaping to the west. One of those who has not even considered it is Kurt Schröder, a driver for Major Eckhardt and his vixen wife Heidi with who Kurt is having an affair. Kurt, who is on the most part satisfied with his life, has heard of many a funeral of those whose escape attempt has failed. Most recently, he saw his friend, Günther Jurgens, get killed while trying to crash his truck through the wall. Günther's sister Erika, thinking that her brother made it to freedom, makes her own attempt before she is saved from certain death by Kurt, who doesn't tell her the truth about Günther. But all the resulting talk about escaping by Erika, their desperate neighbor Marga whose husband is in the west, and his own family makes Kurt at least think about it. He believes the problem with most of the failed attempts is that they either tried to go over or through the wall. His plan is to go under the wall through a tunnel dug from their house which is adjacent to the wall. They will use his Uncle Albrecht's band practices as a noise distraction from the drilling. There is one part of the plan with which Kurt's family does not agree. Even if they do complete the tunnel, potential problems are others knowing about the tunnel and who either want to escape as well or are sympathetic to the Communists and will report the activity to the authorities.

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