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In 1978 in East Germany two families, the Strelzyks and the Wetzels,make plans to escape the Communist East and flee to the West. Peter Strelzyk comes up with a daring idea to construct a homemade air balloon big enough to carry the two families across the East-West militarized border. The border between East and West Germany is heavily militarized, complete with watch towers, guard dogs, barbed-wire, alarms, sensors, search lights and patrols. Rumors have it that some areas of the militarized border are mined. The only chance of crossing the border is by air. The Strelzyks and the Wetzels commence their risky venture by purchasing lots of taffeta fabric and sewing it together with a sewing machine in the attic. Peter Strelzyk builds an experimental homemade hot air balloon burner. In 1979 when the balloon is ready Peter and his son test it but the Wetzel family becomes hesitant. The Strelzyks decide to go alone but bad weather causes the balloon to crash inside the Communist zone. ... Written by
The start of the film features archive footage of Conrad Schumann's jump over barbed wire in Berlin. See more »
I know the S.S.D. was on its way. We still haven't got the material. Yesterday five yards, today nothing.
Could you make the balloon smaller?
Yes we could. But, it wouldn't carry eight people.
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The movie Night Crossing captures the feelings experienced by the vast majority of East Germans during the period 1961-89. I lived in West Berlin during most of 1967 and travelled through The Wall into East Berlin on a weekly basis. Why? Excitement, crossing a border into a Soviet governed country, experiencing the smells and the feel of East Germany, which is why Night Crossing is excellent, it captures that very feeling, and it is exciting. I was arrested by the Vopos in Checkpoint Charlie and accosted by a man in his leather coat and dark glasses I am led to believe was Stasi. When I watch the movie I can smell cheap diesel and cooking oil, I can see the outdated vehicles, the drab clothing the public wore and the lacklustre produce in shop windows. It brings back memories of realising just how lucky I was to live in a free country. In 1988, I toured the DDR from East to West, North to South. East Germany had changed little since 1967. The Trabants, constantly breaking down, were still the main mode of private motorised transport, the shops still featured nothing much to tempt me, uniforms were still commonplace, but the people, the ordinary people were open and nice once you had gained their trust. Watch Night Crossing, it's as close to the truth as any movie you will see on divided Germany, even closer than two other favourites The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and Funeral In Berlin.
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