Make the Jump.

Fifteenth of August, 1961.
One Conrad Schumann guards the Berlin Wall on the third day of its construction.


1. Make the Jump.


Fifteenth of August, 1961.


Conrad Schumann stood with a cigarette in one hand, in the other,  a semiautomatic rifle. His blond hair was partially held down by an uncomfortable army issue hat, his uniform was perfect, and thick leather boots protected his feet.

Construction workers heaved heavy blocks into place two hundred meters down the road, but here, there was no real wall. Just rolls of barbed wire.  On the other side of the barbed wire, he could see West Berlin police officers arguing, occasionally gesturing in his direction. They had done that yesterday too. And the day before.


Suddenly he found himself wishing he was with them. Arguing, gesturing. They had no idea what the East was like. Suddenly he realised they were not just gesturing at him. They had turned to face him, and were gesturing to him.  

"Komm ruber!" They shouted desperately at him. Come over.  

"Schumann! If you step one more foot forward, I swear I will put a bullet in your back." 

He thought. He thought of freedom. He thought of the better life in the West that was whispered of. He thought of the hero's welcome he would surely receive in there. He thought of leaving everything he knew, of risking death for a dream. He thought of betraying everyone behind the wall, abandoning them to death and suffering. He took a step back.

"Good. Now take another one." And he did. And another. "Good. You will never betray us Schumann. Because we will never forget." Conrad shook his head, the wind ruffling his blond hair, as if it was praising him for remaining, for turning down what could quite possibly be his last chance of escape. He dropped his smouldering cigarette stub on the pavement.  His rifle was heavy, the strap cut into his shoulder. He pulled it over his head slowly. It was still heavy. Too heavy. 

Before anyone realised what was happening, he dropped it and sprinted, towards the barbed wire, five steps away, four, three, two - he leapt. His thick boots hit the pavement, and he stumbled. But it did not matter. Because he landed in west Berlin. He was free.

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