“I wanted to leave the problem behind” – Contemporary witness Christoph Becke about escaping the former GDR

For him it was the start of a new life. Leaving behind the state he could not live in anymore. For the German Democratic Republic (GDR) it was a way of earning money from West Germany. In July 1979 Christoph Becke was ransomed by West Germany after being imprisoned in East Berlin for a year.

A look back: One year earlier Becke decided to flee from the GDR – although his family lived there, he just finished his degree as an engineer and already had signed a job-contract. But he could not live there anymore, Christoph Becke says.

Today he tells his story to a wider audience. As one of the contemporary witnesses of German foundation Bundestiftung Aufarbeitung. Founded 20 years ago this year and ten years after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.

Christoph Becke at a Cologne school, where he talks about his life. On the right: Katharina Hochmuth of Bundesstiftung Aufarbeitung.

We want to make this part of Germany more and more history public,” says Katharina Hochmuth, head of educational work at schools. Another aim: Giving the victims of the second German dictatorship, the one of the SED-regime, recognition and valuation.

Victims like Christoph Becke. Born in Munich, West Germany, his parents moved to East Berlin in the 1950s where his father worked as a doctor. “He did not dig it at first. All the problems in the GDR,” Becke remembers. Later, life also got more and more difficult for him. But even Becke’s mother, who did not like living in the GDR, had not forseen the building of the Wall in 1961, says Becke.

You had to talk with a split tongue,” Becke remembers. “There was fear all the time about revealing too much criticism to someone wrong.”

“I always said that I wanted to leave the GDR.” – Becke about being questioned by GDR officials in prison.

After Becke had officially lost his GDR-citizenship in 1979 he did not think about the former years at all. “After 30 years my past had caught up with me,” Becke states. Today he lives with his second wife near Cologne and tells his story. “I am against any kind of dictatorship – whether it is red or brown,” he says. “I want to tell the people about all that.