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
I think that this film has become an important record of the most horrifying aspect of the East German regime - the imprisonment of its people by what the regime called its anti-fascist protective wall. It is a document of desperation and courage not to be missed. I would however like to comment on the actual location of this escape. It did not happen in or around Berlin as supposed by some respondents and was nothing to do directly with the Berlin Wall. The escape balloon was flown over the Iron Curtain which not only divided Germany but it divided the whole of Europe at that time. The balloon took off from Pössneck, 170 miles south-west of Berlin in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and flew 14 miles to Naila in Bavaria and freedom in West Germany. The opening of the Iron Curtain in Hungary in 1989 preceded the fall of the Berlin Wall later that year. Whilst the balloon flight created entertaining suspense cinema, it should remain as a monument to those who lost their lives whilst attempting to escape from East Berlin, other parts of the GDR or other Soviet-controlled states.
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