Arrested while he was helping fugitives to escape across the border
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 In 1971, all previous offenses were repealed and Matthies could finally travel to East Berlin.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.