Monday, January 9, 1984

Rump-rump, rattle-rattle, lock-lock. The door bangs open. A big old prison guard with a cute fistula voice and a nicely delicate face barks “Get out!”.

He steps back so I can bend down through the door. “Stop!”, “Face the wall!” so that he can close the door. This goes on for many meters, stairs, corridors and bars.

In front of a door to the outside, the guard demonstratively puts a gag chain on me harder than necessary and almost breaks my wrist. Then he leads me across another courtyard into an outbuilding. A magistrate is waiting for me there.

Strong suspicion of attempted unlawful border crossing. The attempt is punishable. Risk of absconding. In custody until the investigation is complete. Stamp. Signature. “Take away!”. The fistula voice looks at me with a dazed expression. Probably because it’s a bit far from Greifswald to the border. On the way back to the cell building he loosens the gag chain. Thanks.

As soon as I’m back in my cell, the flap bangs open. Writing paper and a pen are passed through. Writing a letter. “Dear parents! I would like to inform you that I have been taken into custody. I am fine. Do not worry. I will soon be applying to leave the country. Give my regards to Werner, Erika, Karin & Co. Best regards, TJ”. Let’s see if they get the message and do the right thing.

Even though my stepfather is a stone-cold asshole who bit my older brother out of the house and sees me as nothing more than a useful idiot, there’s one thing we fucking agree on: that the zone is at an end and the future starts in the West. At best case, he’ll realize that the word “departure request” in a censored letter from custody is a clear message: there’s only one direction. Inform my relatives in Wuppertal. Worst case, I’ll have to find another way.

Rump-rump, rattle-rattle, lock-lock. The door bangs open. A small prison guard with an inverted officer’s behavior barks “Get out!”. He steps back so I can bend down through the door. “Stop!” “Face the wall!” so that he can close the door. We walk a few meters and up a few stairs into another cell, which is a poor office.

There he tries to engage me in conversation and makes fun of my intention to apply to leave the country. Anyone could come. What he doesn’t know is that I wrote my first one in November, which I only need to confirm, as it should already be part of the investigation.

Then he instructs me on the house rules and hands me a piece of paper. “Learn by heart!”. For the rest of the day, I memorize the ranks, which I recognize by the shoulder flaps of the guards according to the note and that I have to address them correctly. The next time the door bangs open, I have to take a step back, stand at attention and report “Mr. Constable, a prisoner and/or a convict lined up in the custody room”. 𝓣𝓸 𝓑𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓷𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓾𝓮𝓭

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