Once is enough, twice is too much, and the third time? Maybe this is the charm that you might be looking for if you’re escaping a Nazi regime.

This is what happened in the case of the joint forces of the two families who did not give up until they got their freedom when they crossed the Berlin Wall even after two failed attempts.

For Peter Strelzyk and Gunter Wetzel, the time, effort, and dangers they had to face were all worth it if it meant the freedom of their families. So in 1979, they made their attempts to leave East Germany.


After World War II ended, Germany was divided into two completely different sides: West Germany, which flourished and became modernized with the help of the United States and Britain, and East Germany, which was under the control of the Soviet Union and stumbled down.

Life was harsh in East Germany. That was why it was no surprise that some 3.6 million people left the Soviet sector of Germany and Berlin between 1945 and 1961. The Soviet Union was becoming increasingly alarmed by the number of people fleeing the German Democratic Republic (GDR). So in August 1961, Premier Nikita Khrushchev decided that the best way to stop the people from leaving was to build a wall and close the border of the East German government for good.

He ordered the construction of what would be famously called the Berlin Wall. The dividing wall was completed in as quickly as two weeks, reminding East Germans that they were not allowed to leave.

But the thing about the mighty Berlin Wall was that it wasn’t that mighty at all. Some of its spots were barbed wires that should be easy to breach if not for the machine guns and landmines arranged to set off if anyone attempted to climb over. But even with the heavy military on the posts, this did not stop families from fleeing the region.

From 1961 to 1988, 40,000 of the 150,000 East Germans who attempted to cross the border succeeded. There were quite different ways on how the people did it, like the Bethke brothers, who escaped one by one using a mattress, a zip tie, and planes. Eight of the others who succeeded used hot air balloons, which would also be the choice of the two families desperate to escape communism.