Berlin, Sandkrugbrücke Bridge
Border crossing between East and West Berlin · Invalidenstraße 50-51, 10557 Berlin-Tiergarten, Germany
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Arrested while he was helping fugitives to escape across the border

Available in: English | Deutsch

Since the construction of the Wall in 1961, Manfred Matthies had helped countless East Germans to flee to the West. However, he was himself a refugee from Magdeburg and as such wasn’t allowed to enter East Berlin until 1971. In 1971, all previous offenses were repealed and Matthies could finally travel to East Berlin. At the turn of 1972/73, one of the escape attempts that he was assisting proved to be fatal to him. The escape involved a woman with her child that he was supposed to smuggle out of East Berlin in a car specifically modified so that they could hide in it. Her fiancé, who was already in the West at that time, was originally supposed to be the driver. However, he called it off the day before the escape, and so Matthies had to make the trip himself. When they reached the checkpoint at the Invalidenstraße on the Sandkrugbrücke Bridge, the border guards behaved differently than usually. The official walked away with Matthies’ papers and came back with four armed men. They forced him to drive into a garage. He denied to be smuggling somebody in the car but the officials only responded: “Don’t even try to talk yourself out of it – we know that you have somebody in there.” He had to give up, was arrested and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Manfred Matthies

Manfred Matthies

Manfred Matthies was born in 1941 in Magdeburg. In 1959, the nearly 18 -year-old Matthies fled with his mother and sister from Magdeburg to East Berlin and from there to West Berlin. It was only later that he learned that his mother had already been under the surveillance of the Stasi because of her contacts with the West. From West Berlin the family was sent to North Rhine-Westphalia, where Matthies worked for several years. In 1961, he went to study in West Berlin where he witnessed the construction of the Wall. Matthies and his brother then became members of a student group that assisted East-German fugitives to migrate across the border to the West. They made use of the complete repertoire of escape methods: forging passports, tunnel excavations, fleeing through the sewers, transportation in converted cars, escaping by car across the Hungarian- Austrian or Yugoslavian border or in a sailboat from Poland via the Baltic Sea. By the end of December 1972, however, Matthies was arrested at a checkpoint while assisting a fugitive and sentenced to 13 years in prison. He was imprisoned in Bautzen II for a number of years and released early in 1976. Matthies returned to West Berlin. When the Wall came down in 1989 it came as a complete surprise to him. The night when the wall collapsed, he was at the Brandenburg.

Berlin, Sandkrugbrücke Bridge

Available in: English | Deutsch

The Sandkrugbrücke Bridge spans the Berlin-Spandau Navigation Channel from the Invalidenstraße. The Channel represents the natural boundary between the city districts of Mitte and Tiergarten. In the era of the Cold War, the border between East and West Berlin was located right here. Between 1961 and 1990, a checkpoint was established on the eastern side of the Invalidenstraße right on the Sandkrugbrücke Bridge. This checkpoint was only passable for West-Berlin citizens or the GDR-accredited diplomats and the security personnel from the Soviet War Memorial in the Tiergarten.

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