Contemporary Witness Dr. Detlef Hachtmann

As a doctor in the GDR border villages

Dr. Detlef Hachtmann

born 17.08.1940 in Schwerin

As a doctor in the restricted area

German audio file – Please scroll down for the English text version

The border fence

Contacts with the Bleckede church community

The border opening

As a doctor in the restricted area

My boss at the time, Dr. Rindelin. when I introduced myself to him, welcomed me by saying that I hope you are a “non-swimmer”? Yes, I said, I am then….

Why “non-swimmers”?

Just a short time before, two colleagues from the office were here, a dentist and a veterinarian. After a night of drinking, they had gone through the Elbe, which was so shallow back then. One of them came back. The other stayed over there.

Good, so I wasn’t a non-swimmer and that’s why I was allowed to start here, in this restricted area.

As a curiosity, one day I had to go down to the Karsen area, I had a special permit, I came to the turnpike:

“Show ID? Access?” “Oh,” I say, “I don’t have it!”

“That’s a punishable offence!” “Yes,” I say, “I still don’t have it.

I had forgotten my on-call bag. And for a house call, I need the on-call bag.

“So I have to go back!” “No, you must not go back!”

“Yes, then I don’t know how I’m supposed to get the passing stone. Then the driver could drive?” “No, that won’t work either.” “Yes, then I don’t know either!”

I was then taken out of the car and put alongside someone from the armed border troops and guarded, we had a very nice chat, but he had a gun ready to shoot in his hand.

And the driver was then allowed to go back and get the bag. And there he was with that famous passport stone.

The border fence

I was still allowed to drive up to the border fence. There were certain driveways so that you could get to the cattle that were behind the border fence.

And then the driver was told, “I have to have a look.”

We had to turn around and then he drove up this driveway to the dyke and then you looked, you could look through this stretched steel,
and recognise something, that was hardly possible. It was a special Swedish steel that even if you stood in front of it, you couldn’t identify the other side.

It remained hidden, it became obvious to me when I did maternity counselling. All the children in the area were visited and they gathered in one village, in one room.

In the Café Rautenkranz, here at the ferry, there was also maternity counselling, on the upper floor, at that time there was no café, it was not allowed to be there.

And there I could look over the Elbe, really look over the Elbe,
so out to the first floor and said at that time:

“Strange, what’s going on down there on the shore, on the other side, there are so many people? Oh yes, for them it’s Easter Monday, a holiday – not for us!”

So there were glimpses every now and then, but you weren’t allowed to take advantage of them either. I didn’t do that either.

Contacts with the Bleckede church community.

We had a wonderful experience through this meeting with the Bleckede church congregation. It was a visit of the church choir Bleckede to the church congregation Neuhaus with the church choir Neuhaus.

The cantor at the time, Mr Kellermann, said – after lunch the people were all divided up – “Mrs so-and-so has to go to the Hachtmanns, they understand each other musically well”.

We then sat together in the afternoon and played music together. The woman who came to us played the piano beautifully and my wife with the flute and I with the cello joined in.

That was our meeting at a meeting between Bleckede and Neuhaus: That we made music together – music connected us!

This connection has remained until today.

The opening of the border

On 9 November, my wife was watching the news and heard these words from Schabowski at the time.

“Yes, I think anyone can go to the West now” and that’s when I banged my fist on the table and said “What nonsense! I don’t want to go to the West, I want to be able to come back!”

And then we turned off the radio and thought we would have to read the newspaper, because there are probably four pages of speeches by Egon Krenz or someone else in there and we still have to read all that, and then we went to bed shortly before midnight.

The next morning we were received in the practice and had no idea! Yes, that was the day the border was opened, we slept through the time, I would say (laughs).

I was on standby duty on 9 November and the following weekend and then I could never leave, I had to stay there. So it was only three or four days later that we drove across the border for the first time in our Trabbi.

Es war einfach sagenhaft! Auf dieser Straße von Boizenburg nach Horst stand Auto an Auto und lauter lachende, lustige und freudige Leute liefen neben dem PKW hinterher, so langsam ging das voran.

In Lauenburg wurden wir so empfangen, dass einfach das fast das Herz stehen geblieben wäre!

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