Photo. Refugees waiting to be admitted to the Marienfelde Refugee Center, August 14, 1961
© DHM-Schirner

November 2012

Photo and newspaper article from Die Welt, November 3, 1958
(ENM press archives)

This newspaper article discusses the visit of West German President Theodor Heuss and the mayor of West Berlin, Willy Brandt, to a refugee home in Lichterfelde. The German Red Cross cared for refugees in a former barracks in Gardeschützenweg. In the photo, Theodor Heuss is speaking with Richard Schmitz and his wife Ilse, who is sitting next to him.

They had just put an adventurous flight behind them: dressed as wedding guests, they fled out of the GDR – Mr. Schmitz in a suit, with a potted plant under his arm, and Mrs. Schmitz in a gown, with a second dress underneath to keep her warm in the cold weather. Using the S-Bahn, they traveled undetected to West Berlin.

The intake of refugees in the GDR proved a challenge to the “island” of West Berlin: just in one week of November 1958, 3,783 refugees arrived. The refugee homes were constantly visited by high-ranking politicians hoping to gain an understanding of the situation and, at the same time, to demonstrate that the political sphere was willing to solve the refugee problem in a humanitarian way. Richard Schmitz often told his family about his flight and this meeting with Theodor Heuss.