Letenye
8868 Letenye, Szent Imre herceg Street 44, Hungary
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An escape attempt gone wrong results in imprisonment

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In 1981, Wilfried Elsner tried to cross the border to the West near Letenye. Elsner, a citizen of the GDR, got into conflict with the ruling regime because of his political views. His career as a teacher was hampered and as he saw no opportunity for himself to advance professionally in the GDR, Elsner tried to leave the country. Together with three other people from West Germany, he travelled in a West-German car to the border checkpoint near Letenye. His plan was to get out of the car shortly before the actual checkpoint and to enter Yugoslavia through a little river located on the border called Mur. However, the car was stopped five kilometers before the border crossing by soldiers and the occupants were checked. The West-German passports were uninteresting for the soldiers but as soon as they spotted Elsner’s East-German passport, it was clear to them that he wanted to flee across the border. Wilfried Elsner and the other occupants were immediately arrested and taken to a garrison near to Letenye. Wilfried Elsner was transferred to the GDR and sentenced to 18 months in prison. After serving 10 months, he was ransomed by the government of the FRG.

Paying for the release of GDR prisoners

Paying for the release of GDR prisoners

During the era when Germany was divided into East and West provinces, the two German states made a deal. As the East was in a difficult financial situation, it would allow the West to pay in hard currency for freeing East-German political prisoners from prison and allowing them to leave the country. This applied to those inmates who were not bearers of state secrets. After they had been paid for by the FRG, they were taken by bus across the border to West Germany.

Letenye

Available in: English | Deutsch

Letenye is a small Hungarian town located about 1 km away from the Croatian border. The city was first officially mentioned in 1347 and since 1923 it is an important border crossing. The town has about 4,500 inhabitants. Its name is derived from the Slavic word “leto,” meaning “summer.” Since the 1960s, Letenye has been a veritable festival town because of its great cultural and entertainment offerings.

Letenye

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An escape attempt gone wrong results in imprisonment

An escape attempt gone wrong results in imprisonment

Paying for the release of…
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