Contemporary witness Karl-Heinz Hoppe

The Bleckede Mayor of Unity

Karl-Heinz Hoppe

born on 29.06.1938 in Zirchow

The border river Elbe

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

For the first time across the small border traffic into the GDR

The days of the opening of the border

The border river Elbe

Yes, the Elbe was always the border, you were hardly allowed to go swimming or bathing on the Elbe, it was all presented as dangerous,
because the GDR customs boats patrolled the opposite side at the time.

But I really noticed it after my time as mayor, when we had a visit from the customs and were invited to sail on the Elbe, because we had the customs dog school here in Bleckede, a federal station, and therefore we had a new contact.

And then we went on the Elbe with the boats to Hitzacker and experienced how difficult it was with the GDR boats that only took pictures of us. They said they didn’t have any film, they didn’t have that much.

But it was unpleasant and very frightening to go on this tour on the Elbe, so it was not a nice situation.

But I know that when I was a little boy of 13 or 14, I had to go herd cows on the meadowland in front of the Elbe, and then I was told: “But you shouldn’t go to the Elbe, who knows what could happen over there!

For the first time across the small border traffic into the GDR

In 1974 or 1975, as the Bleckede town council, we once organised an excursion to the then border area in small border traffic and then also met with citizens via various towns in the GDR.

The first time was when we stopped in Boizenburg (I can’t say the year exactly, it could have been 1976 or 1978 when we did this tour) and we had contact with citizens in Boizenburg and then met in the Ratskeller for a small breakfast and then we noticed that the atmosphere was a bit depressed, because there were people sitting there who had to observe us officially.

The waitress said, “If you want something special from us, then come to the kitchen”. In the kitchen we got an extra coffee and gave a small tip, which came out great with West Marks, and then she said, “Be careful, there are some from the Stasi.

And those were the first contacts I had with Stasi people at that time, which was very unpleasant.

The days of the opening of the border

In Neu Darchau and other places, people had already reached the point where the border almost opened there and Klaus Burmester said, “You have to do this and that, you have to demonstrate from here, over there they don’t let anyone to the border!”

Then we chartered a boat here in Bleckede, from Büchel, that was the name of the ferryman from behind Hohnstorf, and Büchel came with his ferry and together with Klaus Burmester we mobilised the people who now also wanted to open the border here.

We took Büchel’s ferry on demo trips on the Elbe and shouted, because on the other side at the gate, there were people who wanted the gate to be opened.

We shouted “Open the gate, open the gate!” from the ferry and the others from the other side. It was an exciting time at that moment.

The first day nothing happens and Klaus Burmester came back in the evening. The next day he was back here from over there and said that tomorrow a lot of people would come here who would also shout “Open the gate!

We had contact here via the customs station, via the dog school and customs, and they had a telephone with which they could communicate with those over there in case of emergency.

And then they called again from here and demanded:
The people want to cross over, we’ll come and we’ll demonstrate on the Elbe.

And suddenly the next day they said the gate would be opened tomorrow
and then and then and then there were hundreds of people here on the Elbe who wanted to cross by ferry.

It was a warm and grateful meeting from both sides.

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