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Escaping East Germany: Swimming Across the Spree into West Berlin in Video

  • Berlin
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It was a warm Sunday in August 1988 when a group of tourists visiting Berlin caught something unexpected across the Spree River. People were escaping East Germany; everything can be seen in the video below.

It was August 21, 1988, and four people decided to risk their lives crossing the Spree River in an attempt to escape East Germany in the hope of freedom in West Berlin. Three men and a woman risked their lives, and watching it today made everything look like a distant event in the past, but that was Berlin at the time.

As the first swimmer reaches the shores in the west, a speedboat appears with East Germany border patrol members. Some people come to help them come out of the water, and the guards cannot shoot the people escaping since they might hit some of the people in West Berlin.

Swimming across the Spree and fleeing East Germany wasn’t so simple for the woman. She can be seen exhausted from the swim in the video below as she gathers strength to pull herself out of the water.

It was August 21, 1988, and four people decided to risk their lives crossing the Spree River in an attempt of escaping East Germany in hope for freedom in West Berlin. Three men and a woman risked their lives and watching it today make everything look like a distant event in the past, but that was Berlin at the time.
A screenshot of the video where four people escaped East Berlin

Her name is Maiga Adryan. She was three months pregnant when she swam across the Spree River. She also broke her foot during the escape, making the flee even more epic.

The Berlin Wall split Berlin between 1961 and 1989, and more than 5.000 people escaped East Berlin. Some swam, some dug tunnels, others rammed the wall and managed to go to the other side.

For us, everything sounds so foreign and far away that, sometimes, a video like this can bring us back in time and see how the German capital used to be just a few years ago. This was filmed less than 30 years ago, but everything is different.

The footage you see here of these people escaping East Berlin was shot by foreign tourists and later used in a TV report in September 1988. The show was called Nichts wie raus: Flucht unter Lebensgefahr, which could be translated as Got to Get Out: Life Treating Escapes and can be seen fully on the link at the end of this article.

Escaping East Germany: Swimming Across the Spree into West Berlin in a Video from 1988

Felipe Tofani

Felipe Tofani

Felipe Tofani is a passionate designer with a penchant for crafting unique experiences and a mixed taste in music. As the curator behind this blog's explorations, he takes pride in discovering fascinating destinations. Whether unearthing hidden gems or sharing captivating historical narratives, Felipe is the creative force driving the stories you find here. Join him on a journey of design, discovery, and the delightful rhythm of unconventional tunes.View Author posts