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Dirk Schlegel and Falko Götz: The East Berlin footballers who fled from the Stasi

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Dirk Schlegel and Falko Götz: The East Berlin footballers who fled from the Stasi

Götz (left) and Schlegel (right) pictured in 1984 – a year after what Schlegel calls their “great adventure”Dirk Schlegel and Falko Götz had been friends for years by the time they decided to risk everything.They had grown up together, two football-obsessed kids from the same side of a divided Berlin. They lived close to the…

Dirk Schlegel and Falko Götz: The East Berlin footballers who fled from the Stasi

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Götz (left) and Schlegel (right) picture in 1984 - a year after what Schlegel calls their "great adventure"

Götz (left) and Schlegel (correct) pictured in 1984 – a twelve months after what Schlegel calls their “big waddle”

Dirk Schlegel and Falko Götz had been chums for years by the point they decided to threat all the pieces.

They had grown up collectively, two soccer-obsessed children from the the same facet of a divided Berlin. They lived shut to the wall that had outlined their city because it turned into once in-built 1961. Their world as children turned into once divided into correct and defective, west and east, capitalist imperialism and communist utopia. They both knew to not impart the western TV they secretly watched at house.

Schlegel and Götz rose by the the same Dynamo Berlin early life teams. They had been allotment of a carrying organisation embraced tightly by the Stasi – East Germany’s brutal and invasive secret police. Erich Mielke, the horrible Stasi chief, turned into once Dynamo’s honorary president.

The 2 gamers had one thing else in frequent. Within the eyes of the negate, neither will be fully be trusted.

“We both had considerations with the authorities and with Dynamo because our historical past turned into once the the same,” Schlegel says.

“He had household in West Germany and I had an aunt in England. That form of thing turned into once not correct for our future. There turned into once suspicion. However it turned into once better for our friendship.”

Götz made his senior debut for Dynamo in 1979, at the age of 17. Schlegel made his two years later, dilapidated 20.

The 2 chums broke into their nation’s strongest team, despite refined years within the early life academy. They impart they had been continuously wilfully not noted, and their of us had been advised it might perhaps perhaps actually likely not be correct politically to inquire of them rewarded – not with their background.

However their skills turned into once not most likely to ignore. As they developed, both gamers also started to appear for East Germany’s nationwide early life teams. As athletes, they had been allotment of a extremely salvage number of electorate who travelled out of the nation – consistently below shut scrutiny.

The Stasi monitored every ingredient of East German day to day lifestyles, gathering intelligence by a community of informers – and informers who informed on the informers. Some estimates indicate it employed one in every 63 of us. The structure turned into once refined, daring, all-extremely efficient. The operate turned into once to retain articulate: to extra the Communist operate. Soccer also performed its feature.

Mielke believed Dynamo must change into essentially the most successful facet in East Germany. They won the league a epic 10 consecutive cases between 1979 and 1988. There dangle been continuously accusations of officials giving them preferential remedy, and – as Schlegel recollects – opposition fans vastly resented their victories.

While taking part in for East Germany’s Below-21s in Sweden, Götz started to noticeably dangle in ideas an different.

“As I started to play ceaselessly for Dynamo’s first team, and internationally too, I started to love extra about what a occupation in soccer might perhaps likely mean,” he says.

“I needed to then request myself the ask: The effect plot I need it to purchase me? Fabricate I are looking out to play the general time in East Germany with a club that does not provide the ideal remedy? That from in some unspecified time in the future to the next might perhaps likely impart, ‘thank you nonetheless now because of who you’re, soccer stops’?”

Schlegel turned into once having the same ideas, brought to a head by the skills of taking part in out of the nation in Also can 1982 at a early life competition in France.

By the summer season of 1983, the chums had decided. They needed to bring collectively out of East Germany. They generally’d a idea. However they’d must be careful.

You might perhaps likely not gorgeous talk any place, not about one thing bask in this. Schlegel and Götz did reasonably just a few walking – gorgeous the two of them. They would trek off for hours within the forest. It turned into once the particular safe distress.

“We mentioned it,” says Schlegel. “May perhaps we plot this big thing? It turned into once not in actuality easy.

“We needed to have in mind the Stasi and the just a few of us in our club. It turned into once a gigantic secret for me and Falko – no-one else.”

As champions of East Germany, Dynamo would qualify once a year for the European Cup. In those days, the competition featured a straight knockout structure – house and away in every spherical. The most easy Dynamo done turned into once reaching the quarter-finals in 1980, after they misplaced to eventual winners Nottingham Forest.

The first belief turned into once to take a look at out to bring collectively away wherever the competition might perhaps likely purchase them that season – 1983-84. The plot turned into once type.

Within the first spherical came Jeunesse Esch – champions of Luxembourg. It turned into once an effortless tie that might perhaps likely guarantee one more probability to bring collectively away if the different didn’t present itself. They generally’d a pal who they belief might perhaps likely moreover very effectively be in a position to motivate.

The first leg turned into once at house. Götz opened the scoring in a 4-1 victory. The 2d leg turned into once on 28 September 1983.

Their excellent friend had fair not too lengthy within the past been granted permission to trek to West Germany – there turned into once an legit project by which it turned into once refined, nonetheless not not most likely, to legally emigrate – and turned into once residing shut to the border with Luxembourg.

They had regarded as the different of getting him to fulfill them and shuffle them away in his car, nonetheless the timing turned into once off. The nice friend would not be in a position to motivate – he silent hadn’t got his elephantine identification papers and so might perhaps likely not waddle all over the border into Luxembourg from his original house in West Germany.

Peaceful, Götz and Schlegel belief there might perhaps likely moreover very effectively be a gamble.

Götz pictured in Dynamo Berlin equipment as a 17-twelve months-aged in 1979, the twelve months of his senior debut

In non-public, Götz advised his father about their intentions. All he mentioned turned into once there turned into once a possibility he will be leaving for correct – in some unspecified time in the future rapidly. He turned into once 21 at the time. Schlegel, then dilapidated 22, didn’t impart a word to anybody – not even his mom and dad.

The match turned into once performed in Esch-sur-Alzette, correct on the border with France. Belgium turned into once ideal one more 10km to the west and West Germany about half an hour’s pressure to the east. Götz and Schlegel had been looking out out for one thing else they’d likely moreover purchase excellent thing about. Any moment of silent or confusion that might perhaps likely allow them to trek away.

“It gorgeous wasn’t conceivable,” Schlegel says. “We had no different the least bit.

“In each effect we went – to the hotel, to lunch, to practicing, to the stadium – we had been all collectively, accompanied by reasonably just a few our ‘chums’ from the Stasi. We had even flown there in Erich Mielke’s non-public airplane. It wasn’t a authorized vacationer day out. It turned into once simply too dreadful for us.”

Dynamo won 2-0, and the gamers returned to Berlin. Exact days after discussing the different of not seeing him again, Götz’s father welcomed his son house.

They would dangle one more probability very rapidly.

Dynamo had been next drawn in opposition to Partizan Belgrade – the champions of what turned into once then Yugoslavia. This turned into once even better.

In Luxembourg safety turned into once tight, nonetheless this is also utterly different. Yugoslavia turned into once a fellow Communist nation, though not within the Jap Bloc of states officially allied with the Soviet Union, bask in East Germany. No doubt it’d be regarded as low threat?

Over again, Dynamo had been at house within the first leg. Over again, Götz scored the opener – within the first minute. It performed 2-0 to the East Germans. Follow it the return fixture – in Belgrade.

At about midday on the day of the match – 2 November 1983 – the team travelled collectively by bus into the centre of Yugoslavia’s capital city.

As they pulled up, a member of Dynamo’s staff rose out of his seat and advised the gamers: “You dangle gotten one hour free time. We meet succor right here at 13: 00.”

Schlegel and Götz had been sitting on reverse facets of the bus.

Schlegel (correct) made his Dynamo debut two years later than Götz, in 1981

“We didn’t talk; we ideal regarded every utterly different within the eyes,” says Schlegel. “We realised it turned into once the moment. And we knew how dreadful it turned into once going to be.”

As their team-mates filed off, Schlegel and Götz had silent not spoken. They mentioned nothing of the threat they had been taking, nothing of the gravity of this one pivotal moment in a lifestyles’s course.

“I be conscious we had been offended about the general moments we would already tried to bring collectively away nonetheless might perhaps likely not,” Götz says. “On the first day after practicing it turned into once too dreadful, the the same thing next morning after breakfast. There dangle been too many folk spherical.

“However now in these few seconds we had been fully certain on what needed to occur. We had all the pieces in our pockets. Papers, a little cash. One seek of it turned into once adequate – this turned into once our probability. Now or by no near.”

The clock turned into once ticking. The comfort of the Dynamo squad wished to employ the hour having a observe. Götz and Schlegel tagged alongside. Their first raze turned into once a epic retailer shut by.

Because the two went in, Götz spotted one thing to the facet of the building – a a little bit hidden entrance and exit, separate to the effect they’d attain in. He and Schlegel gave nothing away.

“We tried to shut very shut to every utterly different,” Götz says. “Your total guys spherical us had been looking out to rep frail recordsdata for their households.

“The one special moment turned into once when we noticed the door. We noticed there turned into once a manner you are going to bring collectively out of the shop with out anybody noticing. When the time turned into once correct, that’s when we mentioned: ‘Let’s trek.'”

They gradually peeled a long way from the elevated team. They made certain they weren’t being watched. They moved to the door, then went by it. And ran.

“After we would made it outdoors, you’re not in actuality one thing else,” Götz says. “We had been ideal operating. To rapid bring collectively as a long way a long way from our team as conceivable.

“We ran for approximately 5 minutes in a single course. Then we noticed a taxi. We acquired in nonetheless then there turned into once a misfortune because he didn’t are looking out to purchase us to the West German embassy.

“We needed to hail a 2d cab. As we acquired in I gave the driver 10 Deutschmarks. He must dangle driven us about one kilometre – it likely would dangle been more straightforward to trek by foot.

“We regarded succor to inquire of if anybody had adopted us. We might perhaps likely not inquire of anybody.”

Half an hour earlier, they’d been sitting with their team-mates. Now they had been interior the West German embassy, talking to staff about what they want to plot next.

“We had been extremely fearful,” says Schlegel. “It turned into once gorgeous very impossible what we would performed. Impulsively we had been discussing a idea to bring collectively us out of Yugoslavia and into West Germany. We had been setting up with a agenda for our lives.”

The idea started to purchase form. First they’ll be driven to Zagreb, about four hours away. The embassy staff belief it most effective to bring collectively them out of the building – and out of Belgrade – as rapid as conceivable. The embassy will be the first distress the authorities would attain having a observe.

As their car emerged from the underground car park, the gamers had been sitting within the succor seats.

“On the model, the deepest thinking turned into once ideal about surviving this distress,” says Götz.

“You are fearful one thing might perhaps likely occur because you made step one in a gigantic memoir. That’s the reason the biggest emotion is gorgeous to live by it. That that you can plot it, you can must plot it. Because in one thing bask in this, when the raze is just not correct you’ve got reasonably just a few distress. Diverse distress.”

In Zagreb, the thought turned into once finalised. At the West German consulate there, Götz and Schlegel got erroneous papers – two original West German identities to motivate bring collectively them out of Yugoslavia.

Workers advised them that utilizing out, all over the Yugoslav border with Austria, would most ceaselessly operate no disorders. However things had been a little utterly different that week, they mentioned, and it wasn’t fully safe. The pair by no near acquired a elephantine explanation nonetheless it turned into once decided it’d be most effective to trek by educate. They had been to converse they’d been on vacation, had misplaced their passports and needed to bring collectively original ones, and had been on their manner ‘house’ to Munich.

The recommendation turned into once to waddle on the evening educate from Ljubljana. It can likely trek away at hour of darkness, and they also want to near as shut to departure as conceivable. It turned into once now about 6pm – they’d been on the paddle for six hours.

They got some food. The staff appeared relaxed – this had been performed earlier than, and they also had been soundless and confident of the thought’s success. To some extent, this succeeded in soothing the pair’s worries. However silent, the stage of hazard they confronted turned into once not easy to ignore.

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The BBC reviews from the scene because the Berlin Wall goes up

Abet in Berlin, Götz’s father tuned in to see Partizan v Dynamo. The broadcast started at 7pm. Kick-off turned into once 8pm. His son wasn’t within the starting XI. Unusual – he turned into once one among their most effective gamers. Schlegel turned into once lacking too, and neither had been even on the bench. No explanation turned into once given, nonetheless he knew. It must dangle came about. Had they been successful? Or had they been caught?

There turned into once one last hurdle to certain.

Schlegel and Götz had been driven to Ljubljana. They arrived at the blueprint gorgeous earlier than their educate turned into once feature to trek away, tickets in hand, the householders of original identities. Schlegel’s identify turned into once Norman Meier. Götz can not purchase who he turned into once supposed to be.

The educate feature off. There dangle been about 30 kilometres to duvet earlier than it might perhaps perhaps actually likely near at the border and Yugoslav customs.

Then the educate halted.

Within the half mild, sitting up in their napping compartment, the pair might perhaps likely hear the faucets on doors.

They’ll moreover hear the drawing come sound of heavy boots, the guard canine panting and the jangle of their chains.

“We had been both so extremely fearful nonetheless the policeman regarded at our paperwork and mentioned ‘OK, comely’ and left. It turned into once likely 20 seconds,” Götz says.

“It turned into once in actuality easy. It turned into once nothing.

“For the general day, we had existed in this negate of excessive tension, the effect for your ideas you’re consistently apprehensive.

“We didn’t know what we had started. We didn’t know what form of dangers lets face. However when we acquired past the Austrian facet and the educate hadn’t been stopped to bring collectively the two footballers off, we knew we had been safe.

“I get we arrived in Munich at about 6am. I’m in a position to not judge it this day, nonetheless we even slept just a few hours.”

Within the newspaper stands spherical the blueprint that morning, their names had been already within the press. The headlines read: ‘East German gamers bring collectively away to West.’

However the memoir wasn’t reasonably over. There’ll be penalties.

The West German diplomatic staff who arranged their erroneous papers had given Schlegel and Götz instructions on what to plot. They had been to waddle to Giessen, the effect there turned into once a facility that processed refugees.

They arrived unhurried within the afternoon. It turned into once about 7pm by the point both might perhaps likely originate a cellular phone call house. Schlegel rang his mum.

“She turned into once a little bit apprehensive,” he says.

“It turned into once a gigantic shock. She knew nothing of our plans nonetheless she had heard about our bring collectively a long way from reviews on West German TV. I mentioned it turned into once all OK, that I turned into once safe and that turned into once it. We knew the Stasi will be listening.”

Götz also rang house.

“My of us instantly gave me word to converse they had been not on my own,” he says.

“It turned into once: ‘OK comely, you’re OK, correct, we talk later.’ Because when one thing bask in this happens, the authorities are in reaction mode.”

Both gamers realised they’d must be very careful.

“When a participant from Dynamo Berlin leaves the club, he isn’t an staunch boy,” Schlegel says.

“Falko and I had decided that in all interviews we mustn’t ever talk the least bit about politics, not about any criticisms of the East, to ideal focus on soccer. It can likely not dangle been safe – for us or our households.

“We knew that the Stasi even dangle reasonably just a few of us within the West too. That there dangle been of us observing us. Spies.”

Götz and Schlegel called upon Jorg Berger, a dilapidated East Germany early life coach who had fled to the west in 1979.

Berger helped put collectively contact with prospective original clubs. They chose to signal for Bayer Leverkusen, nonetheless would must motivate a twelve months to originate their debuts – Dynamo Berlin would not acknowledge the trek. Fifa’s 12-month taking part in ban turned into once considered as a compromise to gentle over their illegal switch.

At the time, Berger turned into once supervisor of KSV Hessen Kassel, then within the West German 2d tier. Earlier to he died in 2010 at the age of 65 after suffering from most cancers, he wrote an autobiography all the map in which by which he claimed he turned into once centered for assassination within the 1980s, that he turned into once poisoned by a Stasi agent.

Berger also spoke just a few cases about Lutz Eigendorf, a dilapidated Dynamo participant who defected to the west on the model succor from a match in Kaiserslautern in 1979. He had been especially vocal in his criticisms of East Germany after defection.

In March 1983, eight months earlier than Schlegel and Götz arrived secretly in Munich, Eigendorf died in a car break. Berger believed the accident confirmed the signs of a Stasi operation – the effect the driver of a automobile will be blinded by a involving mild whereas utilizing at excessive paddle. Assessments confirmed alcohol in Eigendorf’s blood, nonetheless his chums mentioned he had not been ingesting earlier than entering into his car.

Schlegel (a long way correct) and Götz (third from left) pictured in their debut season for Leverkusen, 1984-85

Götz and Schlegel had made it to the Bundesliga. They expert with Leverkusen, they settled into their original environment, nonetheless their aged lives had been by no near a long way within the succor of. They had been being watched very closely.

“That’s the reason the Stasi turned into once so infamous – for what they did,” says Götz.

“They watched us in Leverkusen, and they also adopted my of us all day lengthy. No longer in secret, they wished them to inquire of. There dangle been interviews, interrogations, tension. As soon as I turned into once in a position to bring collectively admission to my recordsdata at the Stasi archives, after they had been made on hand after German reunification, I discovered things that I’d now relatively not focus on.

“However for me at that time, it turned into once crucial to not converse that all the pieces in East Germany is defective, that communists are defective, not ideal because I knew what the reaction to this is also nonetheless also because it wasn’t.

“My time in Dynamo made a extremely correct participant of me. I had 12 years at the club. They helped me originate a expert occupation. Our motivation turned into once not politics.”

Because the Chilly Battle thawed in opposition to the raze of the 1980s, both gamers had been in a position to support extra traditional contact with their households, whereas also contributing on the pitch after their suspensions expired. That they’d seem every Saturday evening on the Bundesliga highlights programmes – silent watched secretly in so many East Berlin properties – turned into once a source of big pride for their of us.

Götz stayed at Leverkusen except 1988. After successful the Uefa Cup, he left to be a a part of Cologne.

Schlegel left Leverkusen in 1985 and had a season with Stuttgart earlier than signing for Blau-Weiss Berlin in 1986. He now lived on the west facet of the town the effect he turned into once born. However obviously, he might perhaps likely by no near tainted to the just a few facet.

He ideal managed to inquire of his mom and dad again in 1987, in Czechoslovakia. For Götz it turned into once the summer season of 1988, in Hungary.

Then came 9 November 1989.

Schlegel turned into once in a hotel with his team-mates when he heard the news. He’d gorgeous acquired succor from practicing when any person shouted over from the bar: “Hey Dirk, the wall has attain down.”

He belief it turned into once a joke – for at the very least 5 minutes he would not judge it, even after he’d considered the TV photos, the hundreds of smiling East Germans walking by checkpoints, past the barbed wire, past the spotlights, past the panicked border officials. What now exactly?

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“I mentioned: ‘Oh attain on! The wall came down and I turned into once not in Berlin!’ Shall we infrequently dangle been extra away in Germany too – we had been taking part in an away match in opposition to Schalke,” says Schlegel.

“That turned into once gorgeous a loopy skills for me; it turned into once unthinkable. Watching it, I belief likely it be a drama or a movie. It turned into once one thing unbelievable.

“On the weekend, I came succor from the game at Schalke and my household lastly came around to trek to me with two chums. We had dinner at house, talking, ingesting.”

It wasn’t except December that Götz returned to the East facet of Berlin for the first time since he and Schlegel had left with their Dynamo team-mates in 1983. He went succor house – “nothing had modified, it turned into once exactly the the same” – and spent time with his household for the interval of that season’s frigid climate atomize. His mother might perhaps likely lastly pass on the few property she had been in a position to hide and retain safe for him.

Thirty years on, Schlegel, 58, and Götz, 57 are silent shut chums.

They skills having a observe succor on their courageous feat and be in contact ceaselessly – most ceaselessly by cellular phone as Götz silent lives on the just a few facet of the nation.

“My son is amazingly proud,” says Schlegel as we talk at a cafe shut to his west Berlin house.

Now he has to trek. He and Götz are employed as scouts; work is calling.

I type not even must request the last ask.

“I even dangle been asked on many events,” Schlegel says. “Would I plot it again?

“Totally. With out ask. Whenever. I did it for my lifestyles. It turned into once about developing my future, shaping my lifestyles, picking my get course.”

Schlegel turned into once a early life coach with Hertha for just a few years – right here celebrating A-Juniors Club Cup victory in 2004
Götz (correct) turned into once Hertha’s supervisor from 2004 to 2007. Pictured right here in 2006, his assistant (left) is ex-Celtic participant Andreas Thom – who made his European debut for Dynamo on the evening Götz and Schlegel fled
Two females stroll alongside Sebastianstrasse, alongside which the Berlin Wall once ran, in October 2019. The represent under reveals the the same negate in 1963

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Archive: Brian Hanrahan reviews on the rapid tendencies that resulted in the crumple of the Berlin Wall

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